By MARK TODD - firstname.lastname@example.org
Is any region more excited to see 12:57 p.m. on the clock than Ashtabula County and northeast Ohio?
At that precise moment today, spring officially arrives and we can officially kick Old Man Winter in the rump and say “good riddance.” The past three months have featured a daily onslaught of space heaters, parkas, school closings and higher heating bills. Things are getting better — but don’t break open the seed packets just yet.
The National Weather Service says cold temperatures, not snowfall, have been the story for the past winter.
“We’ve had much more persistent colder weather this winter,” said Robert LaPlante, a meteorologist at the NWS’ Cleveland office, which tracks weather in the state’s northeast corner. “Every month has been below normal in temperature.”
Traditionally, at least one month during the winter features temperatures at or above normal, LaPlante said Wednesday. That wasn’t the case this past season.
“Our breaks have been a few hours or maybe a day,” he said.
December, January, February and March all failed to match historic averages — some spectacularly so, according to NWS data. The trip to the freezer began in December and its average temperature of 32 degrees (compared to 37.8 degrees we normally see). Things just got worse: January brought a 21.7-degree average (compared to 28.1 degrees), followed by frigid February’s 22.5 degrees (30.7 degrees normally) and a 29.7-degree average so far in March (we normally bask in 38.4-degree temperatures this month).
Winter 2014 delivered 10 days of below-zero temperatures, six of them in January, according to the NWS’ Cleveland office. Last winter, the thermometer didn’t dip below zero once, says the NWS.
Cold, not snow, accounted for the number of calamity days local school districts will obliged to take this winter. Some districts hit double digits in the number of canceled days.
Snowfall this winter — while exceeding historic averages for each month — hasn’t been excessive, per NWS data. December snow totals at the Cleveland office hit 17.3 inches (14.1 inches is the normal average), while January brought 23.7 inches (compared to an 18.7-inch average) and 23.8 inches in February (14.9 inches). Some 7.3 inches have fallen so far in a month that usually sees almost 15 inches of snow, according to the NWS.
People can be excused if they mistake today’s first day of spring for just another day of winter. Temperatures will hit the mid 30s and an inch of snow is forecasted. Overall, the region can expect a slow slide into the new season, LaPlante said. Weather patterns predict below-normal conditions for the next couple weeks, he said.
But better days are ahead, LaPlante promises. “Spring is coming,” he said.