Wrapping up winter weather this season

Published: Mar. 2, 2021 at 9:28 PM EST
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - Now that’s it’s March we can wrap up the official winter stats. In Meteorology we classify winter as being December, January and February using full months instead of partial as dictated by the solstice and equinox.

Overall winter was rather tame that is, until February started.

For Staunton and Dale Enterprise (Harrisonburg)
For Staunton and Dale Enterprise (Harrisonburg)(whsv)

If you think back to our winter forecast, a few driving factors were a La Nina pattern and a positive Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation, both of which would lead to a milder winter with snowfall below average. Remember a milder winter doesn’t mean most days in the 60s. You can still have snow and cold air outbreaks in an overall milder winter. In fact here’s a snip of part of the winter forecast we put out on our website.

Part of our winter forecast of 2020-2021
Part of our winter forecast of 2020-2021(whsv)

Ah the catch. Yes the end of winter. Although it wasn’t from a weakening in La Nina.

Overall, didn’t have extended periods of extreme cold. We did not set any records and honestly never came close. While February was the coldest month it wasn’t an extreme cold month.

Here’s a look at the months for both Staunton and Harrisonburg. This is the mean temperature which is the average of the high and low. While December and January were slightly above average, February was below. This in turn led to a winter mean temperature as a whole right on average.

(AVG. 34.3°)
(AVG. 14)
STAUNTON35.4° (+0.4°)34.5° (+1.9°)32.9° (-2.7)34.2°10 DAYS10.55″ (+2.8″)20.3″ (+0.3″)
HARRISONBURG36.3° (+0.7°)33.7° (+1.4°)32.8° (-2.1°)34.3°7 DAYS14.83″ (+7″)18.6″ (-4.4″)

Our forecast for snow this winter: We expected “below average snowfall for the Shenandoah Valley and the Potomac Highlands. Near or just slightly below average for the Allegheny mountains.”

Honestly I was a bit surprised that snowfall ended up being really close to our average. The reason why we had been so active for the month of February was an active storm track.

When the cold temperatures plunged into the Great Plains and as far south as Texas in early February, it was looking like that was going to be our shot at very cold air and some storms as that moved east.

So what happened? A blocking pattern kept the extremely cold polar air over the center of the country but also set up an active storm track drawing in moisture from the Gulf and sending several storms right across the Appalachian mountains.

An active storm track led to numerous winter storms from late January through February
An active storm track led to numerous winter storms from late January through February(whsv)

Now as we head into March, it’s almost an anything can happen month. We can get big snow storms in March although the more you get into the month, the harder it becomes for a daytime event. With a rising sun angle and warming temperatures you really need a night time event for a heavy March snow.

With the temperature outlook heading into week two of March, a snow event becomes very unlikely at least until mid-month.

After mid-March, the odds of 1″ of snow or more really start to drop. So with the patterns in place, I would say a big March snow storm is unlikely. This doesn’t mean we can’t turn cool again at the end of the month and have snow but I would say a big March snow is very unlikely.

Odds of an inch of snow or more
Odds of an inch of snow or more(whsv)

We can get snow in April but again, odds of a big snow are extremely slim. Although we did pick up on April snow last year, it only accumulated on the higher ridges.

Here are the latest snowfall dates across our region

Latest snow across the region
Latest snow across the region(whsv)

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