Storm Highway by Dan Robinson
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                   Friday, March 14, 2008 - 9:44AM

Could we be done with winter weather?

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Perusing the long-range forecast models and Climate Prediction Center's outlooks today shows few signs of any significant Canadian or Arctic cold air making its way southward across the eastern USA in the next two weeks, keeping temperatures outside of the mountains generally above the freezing mark. The only exception is a brief cold spell showing up for late next week on the GFS, which is notorious for being too cold on its long range temperature progs. By the end of the two week period, we're close to April 1st, when climatology says that the probabilities for snowfall outside of the mountains are getting slimmer. While it's not unusual to get an April snow or two in West Virginia (particularly above 2000 feet), the chances for it to be anything more than a brief grass-duster are much lower. By early April, rising daily temperatures are keeping the ground too warm for lasting accumulations, and making it harder for surface temps to drop below freezing for any appreciable length of time.

So can we say with any certainty that we've made it through winter? Not quite yet, as the atmosphere is known for throwing curveballs despite our best forecasting efforts. All it would take is a strong cold front to make overnight temps dip below 32°F with an upslope flow pattern to give us another round of road headaches. If the GFS is right about next week, that may happen. And there's always the chance for a rogue mega-low pressure to create a spring 'superstorm'. Last year, we had a notable snow event on April 7 during a rather unusual cold spell (although road impacts around Charleston were minimal due to the warm ground).

Long-range models do botch their forecasts more frequently than their short-term counterparts, resulting in flip-flopping outlooks that we can't rely on 100% - particularly during the volatile and dynamic spring season transition. But judging from the last few runs of the 14-day model temperature progs, it looks like we might be safe from snow and ice for a least two weeks. Definately not much longer to go before I can close the book on this season's winter weather coverage - something I have been looking forward to for a long time! I would rather be standing outside in the warm spring air watching lightning than shivering in ice and snow.

From ice to flooding and storms
With the egress of one weather hazard comes the arrival of another. While we could be saying goodbye to icy roads for the season, flash flooding looks to be taking its place by this weekend and into next week. It's too early to nail down the degree and duration of the heavy rain expected, but it is something to watch. Setups for severe storms are also possible to our south, which may result in us receiving a round or two of good thunderstorms here. I'll be keeping an eye on these potential events and posting more in the coming days.

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