Saturday, March 11, 2006

Forecast for Second Half of March

by John Ruggiano

The second half of March will be winter’s last chance to say goodbye and to say I tricked you fools. This has been a winter of ups and downs for much of the East. We started Cold and snowy in December, then went to a dominate Pacific Jet and blowtorch in January with record breaking warmth for much of the nation. Then February had its up and down temperature extremes, along with a whopper of a snowstorm for the Mid-Atlantic and New England. Now we have March to contend with and so far the beginning of the first half of the month has been below normal. Now we’ll be ending with much above normal temps from the 9th – the 13th.

As we now begin the second half of March, Old Man Winter wants to flex his muscles once again. A strong cold front and low pressure system will track their way across the Midwest and Great Lakes this weekend, then sweep through the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states Monday and Tuesday. This will usher in much colder weather and the beginning of a pattern change over the next couple of weeks. I don’t see any extreme cold but below normal temperatures along with a couple snow chances mainly from the Mason-Dixon line northward.

The first snow threat will be from a Shortwave Clipper system, that will be associated with the northern branch of the Jet Stream. This will help to carve a nice trough over the Midwest and into much of the Northeast. The Pacific Jet will be somewhat zonal across the country and some phasing is possible with the two branches between the 16th and 18th near the Northern Mid-Atlantic and New England. This clipper system will likely track through the Ohio Valley to near the New Jersey coast, then intensify and move Northeast just off the New England coast as some blocking develops.

It now appears it will be cold enough to produce snow from Northern Ohio into much of PA and portions of NJ on northward on the 16th and 17th. The best chance for accumulating snow from this system, will be from Central PA northeast into much of New England. Coastal sections of Southern New England, NYC, and PHL will be mainly rain, but some snow is possible if it’s a nighttime event which will bring some light accumulations. A storm track of 100 miles or so further south could change things for PHL and NYC. Stay turned as this system approaches later in the week for more details.

Another snow threat is possible between the 22nd and 24th mainly for New England, but could possibly also affect the Interior Northern Mid-Atlantic region (Poconos back into Central PA) also.

Temperatures overall from March 15th – 31st will average:

New England: -1 to -3
Northern Mid-Atlantic (including Philadelphia): Normal to -2

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Happy Anniversary March 2001 'Blizzard'

Five years ago this week the infamous March 2001 'Blizzard' impacted the Philadelphia area. Computer models that generated snow measured in feet soon backpedaled and took the snow further north, past Philadelphia, into New England. What looked like a potential paralyzing snow for the Delaware Valley was soon replaced by a small dumping of slush, frayed nerves, death threats, and perhaps what went down as one of the most colassal forecast busts in Mid-Atlantic history.

Some places did quite well in the storm. New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and other parts of New England got a nice storm. However, this did not play out for the Mid-Atlantic and ended up leading to the eventual departure of a TV meteorologist from Philadelphia TV a couple of years later.

Many computer models predicted a large storm coming up the East Coast of the US and the common perception was that over one foot of snowfall would occur that Monday. This storm has gone down in local legend as the ‘John Bolaris Storm’ because former NBC 10 meteorologist John Bolaris, according to many who wrote me and many others in conversation over the time I have lived here, was leading the charge calling for big snow. Text crawls ran on the bottom of the television screen during the prime time lineup on NBC in the days before the storm because NBC 10 wanted to grab the viewers and tie them into the coverage. Bolaris received significant amounts of hate mail and even received death threats about the inch of slush that fell in Philadelphia. “You disgust me. People like you should not be on the planet” and “If I owned a gun, there would be one less person I'd need to worry about” were two such death threats sent to him.

  • Great Link (maps, discussion, etc.) on March 5th 2001 snowstorm: Ray Martin's New Jersey Storm Archive

  • Central Pennsylvania Perspective on the Storm from National Weather Service in State College

  • CNN: Storm Threatens East Coast