From the Heartland to the Appalachians, many people were incredulous about the winter of 2016-2017, which should be winding down about right now. After all, it is the second week in March, and many have been enjoying temperatures that are often 20- to 30-degrees above normal highs for the past two months.
In confusion, the forsythia bushes and dogwood trees have been blooming in West Virginia, full flowerbeds of mature crocus have been spotted at houses along the Potomac river in Maryland, six to eight weeks before they normally are. Some people were even saying “We completely missed winter!” as the National Weather Service just confirmed that February, 2017, was the second warmest February in U.S. history, with a mean temperature of 41 degrees, and that this winter season in general is the sixth warmest in U.S. history, as reported by WTOP.
There were other strange happenings; an extremely rare tornado impacted Massachusetts in late February, which is considered an anomaly, and the winter season (defined as December, 2016, to February, 2017) gave no measurable snow to Chicago for only the third time in history. The only warmer February in the United States occurred 123 years ago.
Snow-lovers and ski bunnies were likely not thrilled, but all is not lost. Most weather computer models are reporting that Old Man Winter is going to deliver on the very last week of winter, according to the calendar, with a typical Nor’easter, that contains large quantities of snow, frigid temperatures, and high winds, and is taking shape now in the upper plains. It is set to hit major northeast cities such as Washington, D.C., Baltimore, and Pittsburgh by Monday night into Tuesday morning. Accuweather meteorologist Brett Anderson said that areas could receive upwards of a foot of snow.
“A widespread snowfall of 6 inches is likely with localized amounts over 12 inches in the Northeast.”
That could mean major cities in the northeast may have major travel and safety hazards, including possible electrical outages and people stranded in airports. Coastal flooding is expected in areas of the northeast, where winds are supposed to exceed 40 miles per hour. While it is historically the case with March snowstorms, that temperatures rebound quickly, snow does not remain a travel issue for as long. This may not be the case with the coming Nor’easter. For thousands of miles of this snowstorm’s projected trek, it will be extraordinarily cold for mid-March and cold air building behind the storm may cause the snow to stick around for a while. A clipper system is forecast for next weekend as well, but that is further out and looks far less intense at the moment.
While winter storm watches and warnings begin to be announced, it’s helpful to remember the differences between the two. A watch means that conditions are favorable for a snow event (barometric pressure dropping, cold air and moisture are forecast) while a winter storm warning means that a winter storm is imminent, usually with a snowfall accumulation prediction of five inches or more. Less accumulation of snow is generally considered a Winter Weather Advisory. A Blizzard Warning means that not only will heavy snow fall be occurring, but high winds, which may make for poor visibility, are likely. This is especially true for those who live in outlying areas who may find themselves on the road, as snow can accumulate quickly and the lack of visibility may make driving impossible, even in an all-terrain vehicle. For these reasons, individuals are urged to stay home and not travel unless it is an emergency during these type of weather conditions.
The old adage “March comes in like a lion and out like a lamb” may not be true in this case, as winter seems to have finally decided to show up for the 2017 season. Stay tuned to local radio and television stations for warnings and snow accumulations predictions.
[Featured Image by John Normile/Getty Images]