Winter, Where Did You Go?
The big story this week has been the return of winter temperatures to Central Alabama. February was a warm month by historical standards, with average daily temperatures running almost eight degrees above normal, with our highest temperature reached during the month at 81°. Conversely, we only hit the freezing mark or below four times! But, it’s March in Alabama; anything can happen. This cold snap features the coldest air we’ve felt since the beginning of February, with morning lows on Wednesday in the 20s, and wind chill numbers well below that. Another sub-freezing morning is expected for Thursday as well. This got the weather research department digging up the average date for the last freeze in Central Alabama. Since 2000, the earliest date was February 13 (2011) and the latest was April 16 (2014). All the data combined gives us an average last-freeze date of March 20…which just so happens to be the first day of Spring most of the time (some years it’s the 19th or 21st. We can also see the last frost as late as the middle of April. So, don’t go planting in your garden just yet.
Big Winter Storm in the Northeast
The author of the Weekly Weather Fix recently visited Washington, D.C. for a wedding. I know our nation’s capital has seen a milder than average winter too, but what I saw was shocking. The famed Cherry Blossoms were already starting to bloom. Some areas of the National Mall actually had green grass growing. And for the first time in a long time, locals told me there wasn’t a flake of snow to be seen around the city. Well, that all changed this week, as a huge winter storm slammed the Midwest and East Coast of the U.S. Snow totals weren’t as big in the big cities as was forecast. NYC got about seven inches, while Boston got almost a foot. However, forecasts were calling for anywhere from a foot to a foot and a half of snow in these spots. The real snow fell away from the coast, with Upstate NY getting 2-3 feet. D.C. saw some, but not a lot. They got about half a foot of snow.
This Week in Weather History (March 13-19)
March 13, 1989 – Residents of the southern U.S. viewed a once in a life-time display of the Northern Lights. In the U.S., the aurora borealis can usually only be seen in the northern states, and sometimes the Midwest.
March 14, 1870 – The term blizzard was first applied to a storm which produced heavy snow and high winds in Minnesota and Iowa.
March 15, 1941 – The most severe blizzard in modern history struck North Dakota and Minnesota. The blizzard hit on a Saturday night while many are traveling, and thus claimed 71 lives. Winds gusted to 75 mph at Duluth MN, and reached 85 mph at Grand Forks ND. Snow drifts twelve feet high were reported in north central Minnesota. A cold front traveling 30 mph crossed Minnesota in just seven hours.
March 17, 1892 – A winter storm in southwestern and central Tennessee produced 26 inches of snow at Riddleton, and 18.5 inches at Memphis. It was the deepest snow of record for those areas.
March 18, 1925 – The great Tri-State Tornado occurred, the most deadly tornado in U.S. history. The tornado claimed 695 lives (including 234 at Murphysboro, IL and 148 at West Frankfort, IL), and caused seventeen million dollars in property damage. It cut a swath of destruction 219 miles long and as much as a mile wide from east central Missouri to southern Indiana between 1 PM and 4 PM. The tornado leveled a school in West Frankfort, IL, and picked up sixteen students setting them down unharmed 150 yards away. Seven other tornadoes claimed an additional 97 lives that day.