First snow of season to christen Columbia this week

Sunday, December 6, 2009 | 6:47 p.m. CST

After a balmy November this year, mid-Missouri may finally see its first winter snow this month.

A weak winter storm is expected to move through the Columbia area Sunday night, according to the National Weather Service in St. Louis. This system may result in a light snow, but many areas will not receive any accumulation due to the storm's light strength and moisture.

"This isn’t supposed to be a big deal at all," said Ben Miller, meteorologist at the National Weather Service.

Meteorologists are looking to a stronger storm predicted for Tuesday for the first major accumulation of the season. Up to 6 inches of snow are possible in northeastern Missouri; 1 inch is expected for Columbia.

But Miller notes Columbia is currently on the line between precipitation that will result in rain or snow. If the storm shifts, the amount of precipitation in the area could change.

“Things don’t have to change a whole lot to get nothing or several inches,” he said.

This storm is late in the season to be the first snowfall of the year. Columbia would usually have experienced approximately 3 inches of snow by this time, Miller said. An unusually warm November has attributed to this delay.

Miller hopes that in this longer stretch without snow, people have not forgotten to take safety precautions in winter weather when doing things like driving.

“This is the first true winter event we have,” he said. “People haven’t had to worry about that for quite a while.”

Regardless of the amount of snow, windy conditions Wednesday and Thursday will cause temperatures to be below 20 degrees. According to Miller, gusts of up to 40 mph are possible.

Miller said for areas with possible accumulation, this storm could be a “pretty high impact event.” But the system will not be as severe as winter and ice storms in the past.

“We’re not looking at anything close to that,” Miller said.

Predicting the first snowfall of a season is tricky. Miller said there are not any specific factors that determine when snow will begin falling.

“You could have a stretch of really warm weather with a system of snow behind it,” Miller said.  “I can’t say there’s anything that happens in a previous month that determines what happens in the next month.”

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