January 20, 2011 Winter Weather Event

A Brief Summary of the January 20, 2011 Winter Weather Event

A fast-moving, but potent storm system moved southeast over the southern Plains, producing a mixed bag of precipitation over Oklahoma and western north Texas during the morning hours of January 20th. Due to the quick moving nature of the storm, snowfall/ice totals were held in check. As you can see from Image 1, snowfall totals averaged one to three inches over the northern half of Oklahoma. A more complete list of snowfall totals can be found here. Glaze accumulations only averaged less than a tenth of an inch, but this was enough to significantly disrupt the morning commute.

Visible Satellite Showing Snow Cover With Snowfall Totals
Image 1


A series of weak disturbances rotated over Oklahoma and western north Texas prior to this event, but little in the way of precipitation had occurred due to very dry conditions near the surface. However, a stronger, but still fast-moving disturbance began to move toward the southern Plains late on the 19th. At the same time, an arctic cold front moved south, with very cold temperatures behind the boundary. (see Image 2 below).

 Image 2


Cloud cover thickened during the afternoon and evening hours of the 19th, keeping temperatures near freezing over northern Oklahoma for much of the day. Not much in the way of precipitation had developed until mid evening, when radar echoes began blossoming across northern Oklahoma. Snow, sleet, and freezing drizzle began affecting areas from Woodward, to Enid, and to Stillwater by around 10 pm, but transitioned to all snow shortly after (Image 3). Two bands of light to occasionally moderate snow developed during the overnight hours, both affecting the northern third of Oklahoma (Image 4 and Image 5). The two snow bands can also be seen clearly on the visible satellite image (Image 1). Under the more persistent bands, snowfall totals reached as high as 4 inches. Further south, the arctic front quickly moved into northern Texas. Light, but widespread precipitation developed over central and southwest Oklahoma, and across the Red River into western north Texas. For the first several hours, much of the precipitation fell as freezing drizzle, which occasionally mixed with light snow (Image 4). A thin coating of ice accumulated on area roadways, which significantly disrupted the morning commute. Hundreds of accidents occurred state-wide, three of which involved fatalities. The precipitation began to transition to all snow over all areas beginning around sunrise (Image 6), and quickly came to an end from west to east. The main affects of the storm system had moved east by late morning (Image 7), with much of the region seeing the sun by mid to late afternoon. Even with the sun, however, the temperatures generally remained in the 20s and lower 30s.

Another significant occurrence with this event was the very cold wind chills. North winds of 15 to 20 mph, with gusts of 30 to 35 mph were common for a good part of the day. With temperatures in the upper teens and 20s, minimum wind chills ranged from 5 to -5 degrees near and north of Interstate 40, to 5 to 15 degrees across the south. The wind also created areas of blowing/drifting snow over northern Oklahoma, which briefly reduced visibilities below one mile at times. The combination of snow/ice, temperatures, and gusty north winds made for an all-around nasty day over Oklahoma and western North Texas. For more information on the Wind Chill Index, you can click here.

Radar Images Referenced Above

Image 3
Image 4
Image 5
Image 6
Image 7

If you have any pictures or personal accounts of any weather phenomena or storm damage, please email them to us at sr-oun.webmaster@noaa.gov or sr-oun.spotter@noaa.gov and indicate whether or not we have permission to use that on our webpage.

For the most up-to-date weather information and forecasts for all seasons over central and western Oklahoma, as well as western north Texas, you can click here to go to the National Weather Service Norman, OK Homepage.

For a page of winter weather-specific web page links, you can click here.

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