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> Record lake effect
post Jan 23 2024, 08:48 AM
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An extremely localized but intense band of lake-effect snow slammed northeast Illinois and northwest Indiana on Friday, dropping nearly three feet of snow in a narrow swath only a few miles wide. Travel was halted as roadways became buried, with near whiteout conditions. But there was something a little special with this particular snow band — it was made up of more than a dozen wintry whirlwinds.

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These whirlwinds are known as mesovortexes (spelled mesovortices in academic literature). They are small eddies about 10 or 20 miles wide and akin to tiny low pressure systems. Each one locally intensified snowfall and was separated by a small moat or cutoff.

On radar and satellite imagery, the conga line of snow showers traced repeated loop-de-loops. When they appeared, meteorologists and weather enthusiasts expressed their amazement on X, formerly Twitter:

“I have never seen such a great example of mesoscale vortices down Lake Michigan as this one here. WILD!!” wrote Tom Niziol, winter weather expert for FOX Weather.

“Lake-effect mesovortices are always fascinating, but I can’t remember another sequence of them as amazing as this one,” wrote Stu Ostro, a meteorologist for the Weather Channel.

“These LES [lake-effect snow] mesovortices can’t get any more sexy,” wrote Victor G., a storm chaser in northern Illinois.

They weren’t just impressive visually — they also dumped a lot of snow. Michigan City, Ind., picked up 35 inches of snow, which fell just 34 miles west of South Bend, Ind., which reported only 6 inches.
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