Wednesday, March 4, 2015

One More Huge Winter Storm, Then (Minor) Relief

The bad news: Another huge winter storm is coming later today and tomorrow in a huge stretch of the nation extending from Texas to New Jersey.

 Downtown  Charlottesville, Prince Edward Island,
Canada last month. Even there, the deep snow
will soon start to melt.   
The good news: Especially in the southern end of this winter storm zone, this will likely be the last major snowstorm of the winter.

After this week, the cold will relax some, and won't reach the intensity we saw in February until at least next winter.

First we have to get through today's mess.

New England is cleaning up from the first wave of storminess last night. A few inches of unneeded snow fell on much of the region

In Vermont's Champlain Valley last evening, the snow, and powdery snow already on the ground was whipped up by winds gusting over 40 mph. That lead to local whiteouts, road closures and vehicle crashes last night.

All that has pretty much moved out of New England as of this morning, and the region will enjoy at least a few hours of calm, mild weather today.

A cold front is moving south into an area that is, or will extend from Texas to the Mid-Atlantic coast. It's confronting a lot of moisture heading north from the Gulf of Mexico.

The cold air hitting the moisture is going to set up a remarkably large area of ice and snow, especially for this late in the season, from around Dallas to Washington DC up to southern New Jersey.

For areas like Arkansas, Texas, Tennessee, Kentucky, northern Louisiana and northern Mississippi, this is awfully late in the season to find a winter storm warning, but there you go. This isn't unheard of, though, and spring will return to those areas soon.

First, this is going to be a real trouble maker. Rain will change to freezing rain and sleet from Texas to West Virginia, then snow. In eastern Arkanasas to West Virginia, when the snow does hit, it could come down really hard, at a rate of up to two inches an hour.

Nobody will be able to keep roads clear amid snow that heavy, so travel will basically be impossible in the region tonight and tomorrow morning.

As I noted yesterday, it seems Kentucky and areas immediately adjacent to that state are  getting the worst of it. A variety of flash flood and flood warnings and advisories were up this morning for parts of southeastern Illinois, southern Indiana and much of Kentucky.

Once the cold front goes through today, the rain causing the flooding will go to ice, then snow. Areas near Louisville, Kentucky expect up to a foot of snow, which is near record territory for a Kentucky snowstorm.

Following the storm there, forecasters still think temperatures will plunge to levels lower than any currently on record for the month of March. Talk about winter hanging on!

The storm will move into the East Coast Thursday, hitting areas from around Washington DC to New York City hardest. Those areas are in for six to 10 inches of new snow, at least. There's a good chance this could be Washington DC's biggest snowstorm of the winter.

Luckily, fingers crossed, this storm will mostly miss New England. Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard will get it good, where there is a winter storm warning. And the south coast of New England might pick up a few inches.

But the snow will mostly miss central and northern New England. After a brief thaw today, just partly cloudy and very cold for this time of year up through northern New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine to close out the week.

After this storm and this next Arctic blast, things are going to improve somewhat for the eastern half of the nation. It is March after all, not January.

It's not going to get warm, per se, but it will be reasonable for this time of year.

Over the weekend, from Texas through Kentucky and Tennessee, temperatures will get into the 40s and 50s. Again, not super warm for this time of year, but enough to start melting away the snow and ice.

In Washington DC, it's time to start thinking about cherry blossom time toward April. Early next week, temperatures will get into the 50s there, so the ice and snow will melt, and nature can start slowly working on greening things up.

In northern New England, places like Vermont will see temperatures get into the 30s starting Saturday and continuing into early next week. That will start some slow maple sap runs. Nothing major, it won't be warm enough to produce a lot of sap to be boiled down to the state's signature maple syrup, but it will be a start.

(Vermont is also due for a brief thaw for a few hours today before the next cold wave hits, so there might be a bit of a sap run today, too.)

I'm sure there will be more snowstorms and more nasty cold waves over the coming month in the northern United States. We can at least take heart that we no longer have to endure temperatures in the teens and 20s below after this week in most places after this week.

And if another snowstorm does come through, it's late enough in the season that the new snow will start to melt within a couple days of falling.

As I said yesterday, we'll take what we can get.

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