The pincers of a warm-west/cold-east pattern took hold of the nation once again this weekend, and the contrast should only intensify over the next few days. The most dangerous weather unfolded across the far West to Northwest--with high wind and heavy rain--and over New York and New England, where the latest in a procession of winter storms is adding to snowfall totals measured in feet, not inches. The atmospheric river that’s doused the Pacific Coast states since late last week is making one final swing through the region, with rains expected to wind down over California by Monday night and across Oregon and Washington on Tuesday. Flooding and a landslide struck the town of Brinnon, Washington on Friday after more than 4” of rain fell. For the entire period Wednesday through 6 AM PST Monday,
the towns of Petrolia, California, and Hoodsport, Washington reported 13.01” and 12.43", respectively. Rainfall amounts in major West Coast cities were healthy, if not overly impressive. For the month of February, San Francisco (airport)
has recorded 2.02”, with 2.92” at Portland, Oregon,
and 3.63” in Seattle, Washington
. All three cities are now refreshingly above average for the water year to date, although long-range models suggest another dry spell of at least a week may be in the offing.
More extreme than the precipitation totals in the Western storm were the high winds, with power outages affecting more than 300,000 people. A 134-mph gust was reported at Slide Mountain, west of Reno, Nevada, at about 9600 feet. Downslope winds along the east slopes of the Sierra triggered a wildfire that destroyed 40 homes in a drought-stricken area near Swall Meadows, California, southeast of Yosemite National Park. The fire reportedly climbed to the unusually high snow line
of around 8,000 feet. Powerful southerly winds that scoured the parched landscape of Nevada may explain
the odd milk-colored rain that fell across parts of eastern Washington and Oregon on Friday.Figure 1.
As drenching rains fell on the west side of the Sierra Nevada, this fire raged on the east side near Bishop, California, on Friday, February 6. Nearly 11 square miles burned, 40 homes were lost, and 150 people were forced to evacuate. Image credit: AP Photo/Jim Stimson via CalFire.Any relief for New England? The answer is snow
A relentless string of snowy storms is giving New England a midwinter of accumulations that could crush numerous records. Boston
set a new mark on Monday
for the most snow observed in a 30-day period. The city’s Logan International Airport recorded 61.6” from January 10 through 7 am EST on February 9, beating the previous 30-day record of 58.8” that fell from January 9 through February 7 during the infamous winter of 1978. The 2014-15 season needs to exceed 73.4” to make the city’s top-ten snowiest winters. As of 7 am EST Monday, Boston's seasonal total
stood at 66.3". With another 2.5" of snow from Sunday's storm, the snow depth at Bangor, Maine hit 53 inches at 7 am EST Monday morning, which ties their all-time snow depth record
set on Feb. 27 - Mar. 1, 1969. Bangor's average snow depth for February 9 is just 8.5 inches.
The latest storm is a long-duration event that’s depositing a foot or more across most of New England, but with small-scale bands expected to enhance the totals from the Boston area northward to New Hampshire. With 20” on the ground before this weekend’s storm, Boston could end up with an additional 18-24” by Tuesday. Yet another storm looms for Thursday, a powerful Nor’easter projected to intensify just offshore--but close enough that only a slight change in track could produce very heavy snow and high wind. Another Nor'easter could be in the offing on Sunday, though it is too early to assess the probabilities of this occurring. The city is already struggling to deal with the massive logistics of snow removal; schools will be closed Monday and Tuesday. In a press conference on Sunday,
Boston mayor Martin Walsh asked residents for patience and vigilance. “No other city, no other mayor, has to deal with this much snow,”
Walsh said. ”Maybe in Buffalo or Alaska."
The coldest temperatures so far this year could plague New England late this week into early next week, with much of the region dipping well below 0°F for lows and struggling to get out of the single digits (if even that) for highs.Figure 2.
It’s not the best weather for biking in Boston right now, as residents grapple with ever-growing roadside snowbanks. Photo credit: AP Photo/Charles Krupa.A February thaw for millions
The contrast between the Northeast and the rest of the contiguous U.S. was especially sharp on Sunday, as many states from the mid-Atlantic to the Rockies basked in unseasonable mildness. Record daily highs were set or tied from Washington D.C. (68°F) to Salt Lake City (64°, its fourth daily record in a row). Salt Lake City is running close to 20°F above average for the first eight days of February, and hit 68° on both Friday and Saturday--by far the their earliest-in-year 68-degree highs ever recorded, and just one degree shy of their all-time February record of 69°, set on February 28, 1972. However, another state capital--Augusta, Maine--is more than 12°F below average, at a frigid 8.5°F. On Saturday, temperatures soared to 73°F in Rapid City, SD; 80°F at McCook, NE; 82°F in Hill City, KS; and 83°F at Lamar, CO. Another large batch of records is likely on Monday before temperatures moderate somewhat.
While the temperatures above are far more pleasant than the brutal conditions in New England, they’re actually more extreme when set against local averages for early February. The latest statistics from NOAA bear out the fact that 2015 has been on the mild, dry side for the lower 48 as a whole. Last month was the 24th warmest and 18th driest January
in 121 years of record-keeping, according to NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center. Record highs and lows paint an even more stark picture. NCDC’s records page
showed on Sunday that for the year to date, the nation had seen 2040 daily record highs but just 360 daily record lows. The ratio is even more lopsided for monthly highs (198) vs. monthly lows (4).
Bob HensonFigure 3.
Temperatures have stayed above normal levels (green area in image) in Salt Lake City on every day since January 5. Even the lows have failed to dip below normal daytime highs for a solid week, from February 2 through February 8. Pink bars show records highs for the date, while light blue bars are record lows. Image credit: NWS/Salt Lake City.