April Weather Roller Coaster "TOO TOUGH TO TAME"

April Problem Child in 2007

Perhaps we should have known it 3 weeks ago. Then, April arrived on the scene with a spring flair as Palm Sunday featured morning thundershowers for church services followed by an afternoon of warm and gusty winds. The high of 75 was perfect for the kids who sported their Easter outfits a week early. Little did we dream that after that initial surge of balmy air, spring attire would be out of fashion until almost May!

Like a classic Trojan horse, the first few days of April turned summery with highs cresting in the idyllic 80s for 3 more days. We all began to dream of cruising with the convertible roof down, a crisp cross court back hand and a double dip of ice cream at the malt shop (make mine Butter Pecan).

Of course the roof caved in metaphorically by the fifth (Maundy Thursday) as we endured one of the longest early season cold snaps in 40 years. By Good Friday, snow squalls coated the ground and NCAA golfers in town for the Marshall Invitational at Guyan Country Club endured a grueling 2 days of cold winds and snow flurries.

So cold was the air Easter, that temperatures hovering near 20 with a biting wind caused many churches to forgo outdoor sunrise services. Indeed, it felt more like Christmas (and a cold Christmas at that) than Easter. Only the kids knew for sure to expect the Easter Bunny and not Santa Claus!

The 6 consecutive sub-freezing nights took their icy toll on our Appalachian fruit crops. Pears, Peaches and Apples which had bloomed prematurely in the early warmth, were sitting ducks for the punishing freeze. Steve Richards from the Richards Orchards in Jackson Ohio told me that “the early apple crop was hit hard. “Our hope is the late bloomers will make for a good crop come September.” Talking to Steve’s wife Paulette tonight, she tells me “they did some spraying this week which is a good sign”

Now there is an old wives tale that if it rains on Easter, it will rain every Sunday for 8 weeks thereafter. Well, after a snow showery Easter, one wondered what that might mean? The answer came the first weekend after Easter when a miserably cold rain ruined all outdoor plans. In fact the rains fell in buckets and major river flooding resulted in much of Southern West Virginia and Southeastern Kentucky.

What exacerbated the high water was the same freeze of a week earlier. Since the trees had been stunted after their early season budding, they went dormant and flowers on trees even died. The dormancy resulted in an unusual slumber for the trees. Instead of being alive and vibrant and capable of soaking up excess rain water, our forests slept thru the weekend torrents and repelled rather than soaked up the water. This meant major runoff into small streams like the Pigeon Creek in Mingo County and Robinson creek near Pikeville.

All that rain water worked its way swiftly into our rivers with the Tug Fork going into Flood from Matewan to Williamson-Belfry to Kermit. Likewise, the Coal River proved the master of Southern West Virginia like Danville and Madison which succumbed to the rising tide. By the time the crest passed through Tornado in Kanawha County, the highest crest since the passage of Hurricane Camille in 1969 was realized.

Meanwhile, our reporters called Logan County “ground zero” for the high water. Here the Guyandotte Valley thru Logan County turned a normally ambling stream into a dangerous whirlpool. Governor Mansion declared much of Southern West Virginia a disaster area.

I spent 2 days reporting the crests while watching the mighty Ohio come up at Harris Riverfront Park. For out-of-town blog readers, the water on the Ohio reached the tippy top of the Amphitheatre steps where we are just a few weeks away from the start of the Picnic with the Pops series. In effect where the barge sits during the Pops was submerged in a silty tide of muck and debris 2 fathoms deep.

Since then, the flood cleanup has gone smoothly with virtually no rain and seasonable temperatures. Mild days with sunshine and cool nights with dew have been common.

Hard to believe after such a wet and wild first half of spring (when snow and cold dominated the headlines), but an outbreak of brush fires this past weekend helped serve notice that April can be among the most fickle of all months.

This week, Alan Sowards, district forester out of Milton, reminded me t
that the late April sun is a dynamo. “It only takes one or 2 windy, warm, sunny days to dry the forest beds. Please remind people we are not out of fire season yet”. Tom Eaches, the District forester over in the Wayne National Forest of Lawrence County, added. “Remember, Tony, the Easter cold snap really setback the greening of the trees. Without a canopy in the forest yet, these 80 degree days can cook the ground and set the stage for a fire with a misplaced match.”

This week a handful of fires have been reported in the growing dryness. But the buck, or should I say the dryness stops there, as soaking rains are due in town Wednesday and Thursday. No need to water your parched lawn as a healthy inch or even inch and a half of rain will fall by Friday.

Wednesday’s rains look to be drenchers as gray skies drape the Appalachian mountains. Fog will cling to the hilltops as the heavens weep upon us. By Thursday, trouble looks to be brewing. Then as the sun peaks out and temperatures soar toward 80, the winds will kick up a 25 mile per hour fuss. This may well lead to a storm line crossing the region by afternoon. So don’t be surprised if we fall under a storm watch then. Given the threat of tornadoes on-going in the Plains this Tuesday night, it is a good bet that our western readers (Scioto Valley of Ohio and Licking Valley of Kentucky) may have a round of high winds to contend with on Thursday. After what happened in Enterprise Alabama a month ago, I recommend all principals review tornado drill plans on Wednesday for Thursday.

Does that mean I expect a tornado to hit on Thursday. No, it means we are now a month removed from the state Tornado drills of March and practice does make perfect! Since this is the heart of the spring storm season, WE CAN NEVER BE TOO READY FOR THE WEATHER.

So with all due respect to the Darlington speedway, April's weather this year has been too tough to tame for our region!

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