ROCKFORD (WREX) — Mother Nature can throw quite a few curveballs toward the Stateline during the winter months. Winter storms tend to originate in five source areas and each one can bring slightly different impacts.
The first type of winter storm is nicknamed an 'Alberta Clipper'. This system develops as a low pressure on the leeside of the Rocky Mountains, typically near the U.S.-Canada border. It pushes through the Upper Great Lakes region and generally brings lighter snow totals due to its quick speed.
Since Alberta clippers have their origins in colder climates, snow is more common than any other winter precipitation type.
The 'Panhandle Hook' is usually a powerful low that develops near the Panhandle of Texas or Oklahoma before eventually 'hooking' toward the Midwest. Research done in the late-1960s by the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana suggests that over 50-percent of severe winter storms in Illinois are Panhandle Hooks.
This type is notorious for producing freezing rain, especially on its northeastward track.
The third storm type develops in the region adjacent to the Rocky Mountains, usually near the junction of Colorado, Nebraska, and Wyoming. This storm tends to bring more snow than freezing rain.
The fourth winter storm type typically forms on the leeside of the Rocky Mountains near Colorado. Because of this systems tendency to remain south of the Ohio River, precipitation tends to be snow thanks to a favorable track to allow for cold weather to remain in place.
The fifth and final winter storm type has origins in either in Texas or the Western Gulf. It tends to bring a mixture of snow, sleet, and freezing rain with its northeastward trek into the Upper Midwest and accounts for nearly a quarter of all severe winter storms in Illinois.
Much like Panhandle hooks, this winter storm type can bring all forms of winter weather to the Stateline.