Winter Forecast, TC Style

Tony let the cat out of the bag at Portsmouth Rotary on Monday. His winter forecast is now official.

Rotary Gets First Dibs on Winter Forecast

It was back to work this Monday after a relaxing weekend of football, parades and feasting. You see I watched my Nittany Lions earn Joe Paterno his 400th, rode the CK Vets Day parade in honor of my dad and other doughboys and helped cook and serve noodles and sausage before indulging at my church’s (Our Lady of Fatima) annual spaghetti dinner.

So after a busy weekend, I was ready for a new challenge and a trip to Portsmouth to visit the Rotary and give my first official forecast for the winter.

The drive along Routes 52 and 23 reminded me how winter storms behave in this fickle stretch of the mid-Ohio Valley. You see many times rain in the River Cities of Huntington-Ashland-Ironton turns into snow and sleet as one drives west thru Scioto and Northern Greenup Counties.

The browning and barren trees along the mighty Ohio provided a dead give away that winter would be early in arriving this year. This past weekend’s first flurries of the season beat the long term average by two full weeks.

Arriving in town early, I passed Tracy Park and marveled at how the squirrels were gathering nuts. Was this a sign of a snowy and cold winter ahead?

No sooner had I made it to Shawnee State for the lunch, that a Rotarian cornered me. “The wooly worms are all black this year Tony, you know what that means”, chimed Mountaineer Lenzie Hendrick? My mind was thrown into a jumble.

I quickly caught my wits when my eyes feasted on the spread at the lunch buffet. Roast beef, broccoli and mashers to start! “Are you going for the pecan pie or NY Cheese Cake with fresh strawberries for dessert”, my host Susan McComas asked? “Yes” I eagerly replied!

During lunch, I was saddened to hear of the passing of legendary radio newsman Chuck Maillet. Chuck would open the Rotary lunch by reading the news of the day. John Clark, local publisher, has taken over in Chuck’s honor and did a nice job in telling those gathered that “President Obama and his family were safe and sound in India”.

Chuck also collected a dollar from everyone who was willing to say why they were happy. I bucked up and gave a plug for “Joe Pa and my Nits”.

As I set up the Internet for my projection presentation, I went to one of my favorite weather sites, the College of Dupage (Illinois) Weather Page to show the fast jet stream pattern that has set up this fall. Clearly I was thinking about a wild winter ahead!

Here’s the link to that blog for your viewing pleasure.

Scroll down to the ECMWF link and concentrate on the 850T/SLP link as you march in time day 1 thru day 7. The warm colors are in orange and yellow and green. The colder colors are the blues, purples and pinks.

Now in concocting a winter forecast, one must choose one’s words carefully. So after chiding the Buckeye fans in attendance and singing the Penn State fight song to begin my talk (it’s OSU vs PSU at the ‘Shoe this Saturday), I gave my disclaimer on the winter forecast. “Ladies and gentlemen, if I knew what the weather was going to be like this winter with surety, I would be able to make millions on Wall Street.”

With that as a backdrop, here are the key points to my winter forecast.

1. This is a La Nina year with the Pacific Ocean cooler than normal. La Ninas tend to be stormy in the Northern US and in our region favor above normal precipitation. Hence, I think the talk of drought in Kentucky will be long forgotten by planting time on the farm as we have a wet winter ahead.

2. The wet pattern will lend itself to a possible flooding event along the mighty Ohio. I referenced the 1937 as occurring in a La Nina, but of course said it was foolhardy to predict a similar massive event. I expect the Scioto to be out of its banks more than once this winter.

3. While cold shots are unavoidable, the phrase “the sharper the blast, the quicker it’s past” will hold true. In other words I expect cold shots to be short lived and have little staying power.

4. The snows will be of the “wet” variety this winter and will melt away almost as quickly as they came. People with bad backs and or heart conditions will be best served hiring kids in the neighborhood to shovel the walk. If you dare, you can wait for the snow to melt on its own.

5. The famous Southern Ohio snow belt, including Scioto County, will have a major ice storm.

So there you have it. My winter forecast for 2010-11. One thing I neglected to say was how much snow would fall. 15-20 inches is normal in Huntington, 25 in Charleston and the Coalfields, and 25-30 in Southern Ohio. By winter’s end we will be on the low end of those ranges so 20 inches will be a good round number with Southern Ohio getting more and the Coalfields less.

How about your neck of the woods? Well, service clubs and safety boards, invite me to lunch and I will tailor my forecast, and it is just a FORECAST, to your neighborhood.

The WSAZ weather team will have a special on the winter of 2010-11 on Thanksgiving night at 5:30. Josh will be looking back at one of the greatest storms in winter history and Chris will have his own detailed version of the winter ahead.

Here’s thinking snow!
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