Kokomo — Weather forecasting never becomes as important, or as difficult, as when a severe storm is bearing down.
Tuesday, forecasters had their hands full trying to determine where, exactly, to draw the line on the fast-moving winter storm.
Originally slated to be north of where the sleet turned to snow, Kokomo residents might have been surprised when the onslaught Tuesday afternoon took the form of sleet and freezing rain, rather than snow.
Earlier in the day, the National Weather Service was predicting Kokomo would get 13 to 15 inches of snow accumulation by the time the storm abated today.
By 5 p.m., that forecast had changed radically, with meteorologists predicting instead that Kokomo would see sleet Tuesday until 7 p.m., and then freezing rain through the overnight hours.
The snow now looks likely for this morning, although that could always change.
To the north of Kokomo, snowfall totals are expected to top 18 inches. And to the south, Indianapolis residents were worried about ice accumulation causing power outages.
“Having over a foot of snow is actually a better condition than having an inch of ice,” said Adam Baker, National Weather Service meteorologist in Indianapolis.
“Ice sticks to everything it touches as it falls. All it has to do is make contact with something below freezing and it sticks,” Baker said. “It’s going to continue to weigh down power lines and trees, and it’s not going to go anywhere fast.”
The gradient line, where freezing rain turns to sleet, and then to snow, is “fairly tight” for this storm, meaning that one or two counties’ difference to the north or south can make a world of difference, Baker added.
By Tuesday afternoon, the ice line seemed to have expanded north and south beyond what forecasters had originally predicted.
Precipitation was due to begin shortly after noon Tuesday, and continue to get worse as the evening progressed.