Wet Winter Ahead


Winter Preview, How Wet We Are!
I am slated to speak to the Southern Ohio Safety Council at Rio Grande University on Tuesday. My annual trip gives me a chance to rub elbows with the men and women in the trenches. You know the guys who spend all winter plowing and salting our roads in Vinton, Meigs, Gallia and Jackson Counties, the heart of the famous “snow and ice belt” of southern Ohio.
It is here that I normally unveil my winter forecast for the season ahead. But due to a quirk in the calendar, the Lawrence County Ohio Safety Board claimed first dibs on my forecast last Friday.
It was at the Chamber of Commerce Building in South Point that I predicted, for better or worse, that the winter ahead would feature a parade of western and southern storms. ‘More rain than snow, but our fair share of  wet snow and ice ’, I proclaimed thanks to La Nina (the cooling of the equatorial Pacific Ocean).
Given the lack of staying power of winter cold waves this season, I expect several ice storms to feed on the temperature contrast between cold arctic air to the north (hello Cleveland, Chicago and Detroit…get set for a very snowy winter) and warm air in Dixie (Herd, Buckeye and Mountaineer fans pack the sunscreen and Bermuda shorts for your bowl trips). That is the perfect set-up for several glaze ice storms in the Ohio Valley. 
In the short term, early this Tuesday morning, overnight soaking showers have brought the Ohio Valley, specifically the River Cities of Huntington-Ashland-Ironton to within a half inch of the record rain for an entire year. That record of just shy of 60” dates back to 1989.
With more rain in the forecast Tuesday (light amounts near one tenth of an inch) and Wednesday (another quarter of an inch), by the time rain turns to wet snow on Wednesday night we may be touting our first covering of snow and the record annual rainfall in the same shows. Stay tuned!
One final word of caution for the winter ahead! La Ninas tend to be wet, often very wet. Does 1937 ring a bell? Seventy-five years ago La Nina did a real number on the Ohio Valley with record flooding along the entire 981 miles of the mighty river.
That said, I would expect the river to be high much of the winter and likely to flood more than once. Time will tell on that!
If the flooding does occur, remember, in 1937 there were no flood control dams on Ohio River tributaries. Here in the 21st century, dams like Bluestone, Summersville, East Lynn, Beachfork and Grayson to name a few are designed to hold water back from the mighty Ohio. In that regard, our friends at the Army Corp are skilled at helping to prevent monumental flooding like the Ohio Valley braved in 1937.
Here’s hoping for a warm and dry spring in 2012!
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