As I was listening to the two TV news anchors this morning talk about the first day of spring (“I thought today is the first day of spring.” “No, yesterday was the vernal equinox — so spring arrived yesterday — but today is the first full day of spring.”) I couldn’t help but think of all the craziness that’s been happening the last few weeks. By the way, the vernal equinox arrived yesterday morning at 6:02 CDT, making yesterday the first day of spring, but today the first full day of spring.
First, you’re aware there’s been a hit issued on Punxsutawney Phil, right? It’s no secret that the Pennsylvania celebrity rodent prognosticator blew his forecast of an early spring big time. With one late season snow storm after the next, one might assume the ground hog actually doesn’t know what he’s doing. The good folks at The Onion have finally had enough and you can read their coverage of the nearing end of Phil here.
Second, it’s snowing in Arkansas right now. Most of the snow is falling in Missouri, but the northwest corner of the state near Fayetteville is experiencing snowfall on this first day of spring. Winter Weather Advisories are in effect from northern Arkansas up into southwestern Missouri and over into southeastern Kansas. In addition to the prospect of up to eight inches of snow in some isolated areas (4-6 inches will be common) there is the risk of ice. The ice shouldn’t be a surprise as there’s a lot of warm air moving up from the Gulf, but the good news is the ice accumulation shouldn’t be too bad — if it happens at all.
Next, the National Weather Service is warning North Dakota and Minnesota residents along the Red River to prepare for one of the top 5 floods of recorded history. It’s turning out that the combination of the late season cold has postponed the seasonal snow melt which means the snow melt will coincide with springtime thunderstorms and heavy rain. Not good. The river crested at 41 feet in 2009 — the all-time record. But significant flooding occurred again in 2010 (36.99 feet) and in 2011 (38.75 feet). The National Weather Service flood outlook includes a 50% chance of a crest above 38 feet.
Additionally, Nova Scotia’s getting hammered with yet another snow storm. This is happening right now and will continue tomorrow. Some areas could see as much as 12-18 inches of snow. With winds of 35 mph with higher gusts, a full-on blizzard is underway. OK, so maybe eastern Canada is used to late season snow storms and maybe this isn’t even a “late season snow storm” for them, but everybody wants the sun to shine and the temperatures to warm on the first day of spring!
But it’s the so-far unending progression of snow storm after snow storm moving across the mid-section of the U.S. that is gathering the headlines and with the next one penciled-in for this weekend there will be many more headlines to come.
When I last wrote for YourWeatherBlog on Monday, I described the high latitude block that would shove storm systems farther south across the U.S. than usual. I also mentioned the possibility of the block lingering for another 7-10 days which would mean we’d see more winter storms being driven much farther south than usual and it’s this scenario that will direct the next snow system that’s expected to drop perhaps as much as 10+ inches to the higher elevations of Virginia and Pennsylvania and widespread swaths of 3-5 and 4-6 inches from the Plains to the Midwest and the Mid-Atlantic. At this time of year, any snowfall can be significant but the Appalachian Mountains will keep accumulations in the range of “only” 2-4 inches east of the mountains.
Here’s the situation: An upper-level storm system will move through a trough in the jet stream over the Rocky Mountains. As this disturbance continues to ride the jet stream eastward it will clash with the warm and unstable air mass already in place over many areas of the south and cold air being pulled southward across the Plains and Great Lakes. It’s a classic severe weather scenario that is not uncommon in the spring time but because the high latitude block is shoving the cold air so much farther south, we have to be concerned with late-season snowfall. And, it would appear, quite a bit of it. Heavy, wet snow, too. So be forewarned of the potential for not only difficult travel conditions but downed trees and tree limbs along with power outages.
And let’s not forget the severe weather potential across the Deep South. Though the coming snow will be the headliner, let’s not loose sight of the fact that we are now in the traditional springtime severe weather season. We had a record high of 90 degrees on Monday in Houston and though a weak cold front has passed across the South since then, by the time this next storm system arrives the heat and humidity will have returned…setting the stage for severe weather outbreaks across the southern states this weekend. At this time, widespread outbreaks are not expected.
So, there’s a hit on Punxsutawney Phil. With all the real craziness going on, who’s got time?