Ask Josh Fitzpatrick: Why we usually miss the big snowstorms.

Is there really a bubble over the Tri-State that protects us from severe winter weather? Meteorologist Josh Fitzpatrick has the interesting answer.

Have you noticed we usually miss out on the big winter storms and blizzards here in the River Cities and Kanawha Valley?  We've not had a true blizzard since January of 1996 when 12"-24" inches shut down the region! 

Just this year we've seen snow over the southern United States and a massive Blizzard in the Midwest, up the Mid Atlantic and Northeast U.S. All of which totally missed us or they at least gave us rain to a little bit of snow.

I've been receiving questions on why we usually don't see severe winter weather here locally.  Some of you may think it's the Ohio and other local rivers that protect us.  That's not the case, as the rivers aren't large enough to have a big influence on our weather patterns.  For instance look at the Mississippi River.  It's a mighty big River and runs through Minneapolis, MN.  They have one of the harshest winters in the country. 

Another common thought is we have a bubble over the region that keeps the snows away.  Well the answer to that notion is actually yes we kind of have a bubble over us and I'll explain what that is.

When low pressure areas move our direction they often pull up milder air ahead of them.  Most of this mild air gets pushed up through the Coal Fields, the River Cities of Huntington, Ashland, Ironton and into the Kanawha Valley over Charleston.  I like to call this the "Appy Wedge" or Appalachian Wedge.  See the map blow. 

This push of milder air gets wedged between the Ohio River, Big Sandy River and the western slopes of the Appalachian Mountains.  Often we'll see snow to ice to rain then back to snow in that orange area on the map above.  In essence the Appalachian Wedge acts like a bubble, protecting us from major ice and snowfalls.  Also a southeast or east wind off the mountains is a warmer and direr wind and this too protects many of us sometimes. 

However if you look just to the northwest and east of Huntington and Charleston that wedge of milder air stops.  Over northern Kentucky (AA Highway) and interior Southern Ohio you'll see more snow and ice than others.  Likewise over the mountains of West Virginia.

This area of Ohio and Kentucky is often referred to as the "Snow and Ice Belt."

Some of you may think the many power and chemical plants protect us and that's not the case either.  Other parts of the country that have harsh winters have these plants as well.  In fact, due to strick E.P.A. regulations, power and chemical plants are much cleaner than they used to be.

Rarely do we get a snowfall in the Huntington and Charleston area that's greater than 6" inches at a time.  The largest snowfall we had last winter came in mid December when 4" to 6" inches accumulated.

Do you think we're over due for a big snowstorm or would you like to see a good old fashioned blizzard hit this year?  Post your comments below!

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