November 30th - December 1st - 2006
Winter Stor
m Chase

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Historic Winter Storm Event


Eastern United States Composite Radar
WeatherTap Image

Heavy Ice Accumulation
Central Illinois

Chase Target:  Peoria, Illinois
Arrival Date:  November 30th at 2:30 a.m.
Driving Time: 5 1/2 Hours
Miles Traveled: 600+
Chase Rating 
Chase Forecast:
The winter storm of late November and Early December of 2006 will not soon be forgotten.  Record or near record snow accumulations were reported across portions of Oklahoma, Missouri, Illinois, and Wisconsin.  Many areas witnessed a long duration precipitation event.  Thunderstorms were reported with snow, sleet, and freezing rain across portions of Oklahoma, Missouri, and Illinois.

I made the decision to chase this snowstorm at the last minute.  Driving to this event would be exciting, but I should also point out the challenges involved:  heavy rain, thunderstorms, temperatures falling to freezing, 18-wheelers trying to get ahead of the frozen precipitation, and it was night.  Nevertheless, I felt it would be worth the effort.

I started watching the potential winter storm two weeks before the event.  My first call map (additional forecast map on day 3) was issued on Friday, November 24th. There was a time, during the evolution of model forecasts, that it appeared my region might even see some appreciable snowfall.  In the end that would not happen.  On Wednesday, November 29th, I made the decision to chase this storm. I guess my snow-deprivation had reached a critical point.

After reviewing the 00z model data suite, I decided that the heaviest snow band would likely be from Southwest Missouri to Northeast Illinois.    There would also be a band of heavy ice/freezing rain on the southern portion of the forecast area.  Computer models indicated that snow totals could exceed 18 inches in some locations.  I expected a general 8-12" area across portions of Central Illinois.  This seemed a bit more reasonable than what the models were forecasting.  I also made a note that ground temperatures were in the 40s across much of the above mentioned areas.  My experience though has been that ground temperatures will not matter in a heavy snow event. 

Although models showed the heaviest snow band a tad to the northwest of the Peoria area, I felt like the storm might track a bit further to the east and south.  I knew there would be a sharp cutoff area where little or no snow would fall.  RH values at 700mb indicated that a sharp dry slot would be cutting up through Southern Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana on Friday Morning.  I was a bit concerned about this reaching into Central Illinois.  I was looking for an area that would have easy access to the interstate.  I had decided on six potential chase cities, however, only one could be chosen.  In the end I would decide on Peoria, Illinois.

I believed three things: that this situation, no matter what the ground temperature, would produce heavy snow accumulations; that the chase target city would likely receive enough snow to approach their record one day snowfall; and that Peoria, which is centrally located, would provide a nice location to photograph the storm. The effort put into this storm system was ultimately worth it: the chase (this time around) was a success!


Forecast Surface Map
Thursday Night

Forecast Surface Map
Thursday Night

Forecast Surface Map
Friday Morning

Forecast Surface Map
Friday Afternoon


Wednesday, November 29th.  Departure Day.

We left for Peoria between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. on Wednesday Night.  We had a five to six hour drive ahead of us.  It was already dark and rain was expected north of Mt Vernon.  I wondered just how long the drive might take because of worsening weather conditions further north.  Ice was already being reported across portions of Northeast Missouri.  Temperatures were also starting to fall in the Illinois Counties bordering Missouri. 

A strong cold front was positioned just to the west/northwest of the Paducah, Kentucky (KPAH) Region.  At 8 p.m. the front was entering Western and Central Illinois and then extended back into Central Missouri.  Radar indicated that this storm system was producing heavy rain/thunderstorms across a large portion of Oklahoma, Missouri, and Illinois.  Rainfall totals exceeded three inches in some locations.  Flash flood warnings were issued for a number of counties because of rapid runoff.  Thankfully we only had to drive through 30 minutes of heavy rain and that was near Mattoon, Illinois.  I observed thunderstorms near Mattoon around 1 a.m.  There were four flashes of lightning to the northeast of the city.  We encountered a brief period of heavy rainfall as we crossed behind the cold front.  Winds gusted to around 30 mph as the front passed.  Temperatures then fell rapidly behind the arctic front.  From Mattoon to Peoria (approximately 100 miles) the temperature fell 30-35 degrees.  Temperatures fell 15 degrees within just a few minutes of frontal passage (see temperature gradient map below).

I made the decision to stay near the Illinois River at the Holiday Inn City Center.  It was already almost 3 a.m. in the morning when we pulled into Peoria. By the time we arrived at the hotel the outside temperature had fallen to 32 degrees. I did a final check, before going to bed, on area forecast discussions and model forecasts.  My final forecast appeared to be on target.  Heavy snow would likely begin, after a period of ice, on Thursday Night and continue into Friday Morning.  Eight to twelve inches of snow appeared likely for the City of Peoria.  Sometimes, though, warm air gets pulled into these storm systems a bit more than expected.  So my only concern was how much ice would fall on the front end of the precipitation shield.

On a side note I discovered that the main weather forum, that I post in, had a number of posters from the Peoria, Illinois area.  It was nice to be able to hear their reports and compare notes as the storm approached.


Wednesday Evening Temperature Map.

7:30 p.m. Weather Radar

Wednesday Evening Lightning Data.

Wednesday Evening IR3 Satellite


Thursday, November 30th.

I don't know how many of you have tried to sleep the night before a big snowstorm but it isn't easy.  I guess I am worse than a kid wanting to get out of school.  Nonetheless, I did get a few hours of sleep.  Most of the 30th was cloudy and dry.  Precipitation would remain to our southwest and south until late afternoon. The main surface low was still located over Southern Arkansas at mid-day.  A strong trough was approaching the Illinois River Valley from the Plains.  This coupled with strong low level cold air advection and elevated warm air advection (as the low strengthened and was pulling northeast) and a frontal system to our east and southeast was setting the stage for a wintry afternoon and evening.  There was a rapid expansion of radar returns after 4 p.m.  Sleet and freezing rain began to fall in Peoria soon after dusk.  Soundings at KILX indicated that temperatures near the surface were at or below freezing while temperatures were much warmer aloft (see KILX sounding).  For most of the evening the precipitation would remain in the form of sleet with some occasion flakes of snow.  There was also a brief period of freezing rain.  Thundersleet was observed in Peoria on several occasions between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m.  KILX radar showed several bands of high dbz levels moving over Peoria.  These bands produced heavy sleet and occasional lightning.   

The 500mb low at 00z on Thursday Evening was over Eastern Oklahoma.  National Composite radar showed a rapidly expanding area of precipitation over most of the Missouri Valley.  The 500mb low would strengthen and track from Southern Missouri into East Central Illinois and West Central Indiana (see maps below).  Strong wind fields were noted across much of the TN and Ohio Valley Region.  This would help fuel severe thunderstorm development overnight on Thursday and into Friday Morning.  A number of severe weather events were reported across the Ohio Valley (this would eventually spread into the Northeast United States).

I spent much of my time going back and fourth from the hotel room to the streets below.  Although the sleet wasn't providing the most exciting photo opportunities there were a few shots of city workers clearing streets.  The sound of the sleet against the hotel room window was fairly impressive.  Occasionally the wind would gust and cause a roaring noise.  Moderate to heavy sleet fell for more than five hours.  It appeared that we had received around 3 inches of ice/sleet.   I knew that once we didn't hear the sleet on the window that the sounding had grown cold enough for snow.  This wouldn't happen until the wee hours of the morning. 

Exhausted, I finally decided to get a couple of hours of sleep from 3 a.m. until 4:30 a.m.  I awoke several times and was able to see heavy snow falling outside the window.  Sleep would not last long!


6 p.m. Temperature Map for Missouri and Illinois

6 p.m. Mississippi Valley Surface Pressure Map

6 p.m. 3 Hour Pressure
Tendency Map

6:15 Central Illinois Radar showing Precip moving in


Peoria Radar Animation
Thursday 6:15 p.m.

Peoria Radar - 8:20 p.m. Thursday Evening.

Peoria Radar - 9 p.m. Radar Thursday Evening

9:15 p.m. Bright Banding over Central Illinois


9:15 p.m. Bright Banding over Peoria

RUC Evening Surface Forecast Map

10:15 Central Illinois NWS Radar

G.R. Storm Reports Map Missouri and Illinois

November 30, 2006 - Upper Air Analysis
925mb: 12Z  00Z

850mb: 12Z  00Z

700mb: 12Z  00Z

500mb: 12Z  00Z


300mb: 12Z  00Z

250mb: 12Z  00Z


Friday, December 1st (the main event)

The significant part of this winter storm began in earnest during the early morning hours of December 1st.  As mentioned above, Peoria had moderate to heavy sleet during most of the early to middle portion of the night. Eventually enough cold air filtered in aloft to change all the precipitation in Peoria to snow (see morning soundings).  This was after 2-3 inches of sleet had already fallen. Once the precipitation changed to snow it remained snow through the mid-morning hours.
During the early morning hours thundersnow was reported across portions of Central Illinois (also portions of Oklahoma and Missouri).  Strong Vertical Lift was noted on the model forecasts prior to this event.  Thundersnow was placed in my forecast as early as Monday/Tuesday.

At 6 a.m. Friday, December 1st a strong 500mb shortwave was located over Missouri and Illinois.  This shortwave was strengthening and moving east/northeast. (see charts below).  Heavy snow and thundersnow developed on the north side of this 500mb low during the overnight hours.  There was an abundance of jet stream energy available to pull up moisture, from the Gulf of Mexico, into the Arctic Air (See jet stream animation). Snow rapidly expanded and spread into Illinois during the overnight hours of the 30th.  By Friday Morning, December 1st, much of Central and Northern Illinois was covered in moderate to heavy snow.  The primary low was located near Champaign, Illinois at 6 a.m.  This put the deformation zone over the Peoria area. Snowfall rates of 1-2 inches per hour were reported in some locations. 
I observed heavy, wind driven, and fine size snowflakes from 5 a.m. through 10 a.m. (see 24 hour national radar animation) also (KILX Radar Animation from Friday 0000 through Friday 1800).  The following 2 day Satellite Animation shows the impressive storm system as it pulled into the Missouri and Ohio Valleys.  The snowflakes reminded me of sand blowing on a beach.  Extremely fine.  At times it appeared as if the snow was blowing horizontally down the street.  It was difficult to keep the snow out of the camera equipment and clothing.  The winds were gusting in excess of 35 miles per hour.  Sustained winds were between 20-25 miles per hour for several hours.  I took shelter in a seven story parking garage to protect my camera gear and to prevent myself getting too cold.  I was able to get a few photographs from that location.  Wind chill values were below zero at times.  This made for difficult photography (to say the least).  The wind seemed to funnel through the garage at times and caused a roaring noise that resembled a weak tropical storm. 
At 5 a.m. the streets of Peoria were snow and ice packed.  They were virtually clear of traffic with the exception of just a few motorists who "thought" it would be a good idea to venture out onto the streets.  I witnessed a number of cars that were stuck in the snow with drivers waiting for tow trucks.  I also observed a number of abandoned vehicles in the streets of the downtown area.  Snow was starting to drift up and over the bumpers of cars parked alongside the street.  Local officials were urging people not to travel.  It appeared that there would not be many businesses opening their doors.
Visibility was less than two blocks during the height of the snow event (see METAR data here and here).  Snowdrifts exceeded four feet in some locations in the downtown area of Peoria.  By 10 a.m. the snow had drifted up to the windshields of cars parked on several downtown streets. While walking  I noted a few people trying to get to their place of business on foot, having abandoned their vehicles.  It appeared that virtually everything was closed.  During a two hour period I counted less than twenty vehicles traveling the roadways.  Snowplows were just starting to get on top of the situation.
Snow ended around 11 a.m.  After all was said and done we had approximately 13-14 inches of snow in Downtown Peoria.  Area measurements revealed a range from 6-14 inches.  Amazingly there was a significant drop-off of snowfall amounts as you traveled just a few miles south and east of the downtown area.  That area experienced more ice than snow.

For the rest of the morning the skies remained mostly cloudy.  A bit of sun did try to break through towards mid-afternoon.  Blowing snow was a problem through 3 p.m.  The NWS issued blowing snow advisories because of this.  Temperatures did not recover through the day and fell into the single digits during the overnight period.  Peoria recorded a low of 4 degrees on the following morning!  The snow pack helped temperatures stay below normal for several days after the event.

 Although I was unable, regrettably, to experience the severe ice storm, in Central Illinois, I did drive through some of the hard hit areas, on my way back to Western Kentucky, on Saturday Morning.  Photographs that I took show heavy ice accumulation on trees and power lines.  I would estimate the thickness of the ice to have exceeded one inch in at least two counties.  Severe tree damage was noted.  Large areas were also without power for over one week following the ice storm.  At one point more than two million people were without power across the Central United States because of this powerful winter storm system.  I regret not spending more time photographing the ice event.
I kept two blogs on the event.  Both of these are posted on the  EasternUSwx forum.
| Blog 1 | Blog 2 |
Area Forecast Discussions
Lincoln, Illinois NWS - Area Forecast Discussions
St Louis, Missouri NWS - Area Forecast Discussions
Storm Prediction Center Mesoscale Discussions

November 30 - 12:00 p.m.
Mesoscale Discussion

November 30 - 4:28 p.m
Mesoscale Discussion

November 30 - 5:27 p.m.
Mesoscale Discussion

November 30 - 11:50 p.m.
Mesoscale Discussion


December 01 - 6:42 a.m.
Mesoscale Discussion
November 30th/December 1st - All Mesoscale Discussions

12 a.m. 500mb Map
December 1

7 a.m. 500mb Map
December 1

Noon 500mb Map
December 1

6 p.m. 500mb Map
December 1

December 01, 2006 Upper Air Analysis

925mb: 12Z  00Z

850mb: 12Z  00Z

700mb: 12Z  00Z

500mb: 12Z  00Z


300mb: 12Z  00Z


250mb: 12Z  00Z



1 a.m. 850 - 500mb -ub/s mrhum and Thickness

1 a.m. 850mb Temperature
1000-850mb Thickness

3 a.m. National Radar Centered on Iowa

4:30 a.m. Thundersleet and
Snow across Central IL.


Friday Morning
Surface Winds

5 a.m. Ohio Valley
Surface Map

700mb Map showing the Dry Slot and Trowel

6 a.m. 850-500mb -ub/s RH and Thickness Chart.


Large Illinois, Indiana, Michigan
Radar Map - 6 a.m.


7 a.m. SPC Surface Map

7 a.m. SPC 850mb Map

7 a.m. SPC 700mb Map

7 a.m. SPC 500mb Map


4 Panel Midwest
Winter Maps

7 a.m. National 700mb
VV Chart

3 Hour Pressure Falls on Friday Morning.

24 Hour National Radar


7 a.m. Central IL Radar.  Banding over Peoria.

7 a.m.  Heavy snow falling in Peoria.

8 a.m. Power Outage
Map for MO/IL

Storm Pulling Away
from Illinois


Large Great Lakes Radar
Map - Noon


Nov. 28 MO/IL Precip Totals

Nov. 29 MO/IL Precip Totals

Nov. 30 MO/IL Precip Totals

Dec. 01 MO/IL Precip Totals


December 02 MO/IL
Precip Totals

Four Day Precipitation Totals

St Louis, Missouri - NWS Radar Animations

Nov. 29 MO/IL Precip Total Amounts

Nov. 30 MO/IL Precip Total Amounts

Dec. 01 MO/IL
Precip Total Amounts

Dec. 02 MO/IL
Precip Total Amounts

Maximum and Minimum Temperatures

Nov. 29 Max/Min Temperatures

Nov. 30 Max/Min Temperatures

Dec. 01 Max/Min Temperatures

Dec. 02 Max/Min Temperatures


Dec. 03 Max/Min

Dec. 04 Max/Min


verage Temp Departure
from Mean - 12/1 - 12/10

Total Precip Percent of
Mean 12/1 - 12/10

Total Precip Percent of
Mean 12/3 - 12/10


24 Hour Min Temperature
December 02, 2006

24 Hour Max Temperature
December 03, 2006

Snowfall Accumulation Maps -- NWS

Snowfall and Ice Map
Image provided by Wichita, NWS

Snowfall and Ice Map
Image provided by Tulsa, NWS


Snowfall and Ice Map
Image provided by St Louis, NWS

Snowfall and Ice Map
Image provided by Lincoln, NWS


Snowfall and Ice Map
Image provided by Quad City, NWS

Snowfall and Ice Map
Image provided by Chicago, NWS


Snowfall and Ice Map
Image provided by Milwaukee, NWS

Snowfall Totals
Regional Google Image


Milwaukee, NWS
Storm Track Map

KILX 3 Day Precip
Total Map



Satellite Images -- NOAA

Two Day Satellite Animation

Ohio Valley Enhanced

Color Enhanced


Large Northern Hemisphere
WaterVapor Image

Enhanced Water Vapor Image


Central U.S. Zoomed
Water Vapor

Illinois Water Vapor



Ohio Valley Water Vapor

Eastern U.S. Enhanced


Michigan Water Vapor

Northeast U.S. Thunderstorms


Eastern U.S. Morning Visible

NOAA Goes 12 Enhanced


Modis Image

Visible Image


Milwaukee NWS

Ohio Valley Image


Visible Image of Snowfall

Wichita, Kansas, NWS
Visible Imagery


Springfield, MO - NWS
Visible Image and Notes

Tulsa, OK - NWS
Visible Image with snow totals


Other Storm Analysis Pages
Lincoln, Illinois, NWS Analysis
St Louis, Missouri, NWS Analysis
Midwest Climate Watch
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