Weather Words: March 6

Double-digit snow totals yesterday, now it's on to the 70s.

I've never been a person to mince words, and I don't see a reason to do so here. I'll be the first to admit that we GREATLY underestimated the snow that fell across the region yesterday morning. While we did stress the importance of caution on roads with light snow cover, it became very clear that "light" snowfall wasn't defined by us as anything in excess of three inches. Most of the area received more than that. Others may not believe me when I say this, but I do take every forecast personally and work hard to be as accurate as possible. I do not sit and scheme an incorrect forecast because I'm getting paid under the table by a supermarket or a hardware store, nor am I the "bah-humbug" type who purposely enjoys inconveniencing people. I get paid to protect lives and property, and when any weather event turns into a bigger one than predicted it is incredibly frustrating.

So what happened yesterday? The type of storm that went through the area is known as an Alberta Clipper. It's a weak area of low pressure that forms near Alberta, Canada, and moves at a pretty good 'clip' into the eastern half of North America. They tend to be fast-moving storms, and with origins in Canada the moisture content is very low. In many cases, these clippers produce very low precipitation totals. That was the logic behind the forecast this weekend.

Several factors made this storm different. To visualize, imagine a three-layer cake. In the middle layer of this "cake" (or the atmosphere), there was a lot of air pushing together. This pushing eventually forced the air high up into the atmosphere where it cooled. A good amount of this air came blowing off the oceans and was loaded with moisture. This VERY moist air pushed upwards not only led to higher snowfall amounts overall, but a rather long-lived band of snow stretching from northern Albemarle and southern Greene County eastward through southern Orange and northern Louisa Counties. It was in this region where we had the highest snowfall totals.

So why the busted forecast? The incredible forcing of air upward was underestimated, as was the amount of moisture being pumped into the storm. These ingredients led to double-digit snowfall totals across western Orange County. We received several reports of ten inches of snow around Barboursville.

Even with the snowy morning, much of what fell melted as high temperatures reached the lower 40s. That melting trend will continue today under sunny skies; high temperatures will reach the 50-degree mark. Tomorrow we'll hit the mid 60s, and Thursday we'll have no problem reaching 70 degrees. I expect most of the snow that fell to melt by week's end.

With lessons learned from yesterday's forecasting mistakes, we move forward with what looks to be a very Spring-like forecast. There's no snow in the seven day forecast. While we have seen two doses of snow in the last month, our total for the season is still roughly half of our seasonal average. Humility, on the other hand, is at an all-time high.

3, 2, 1, fade out.

~Travis Koshko

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