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February precipitation kept Alle-Kiski Valley damp

| Friday, March 1, 2013, 1:51 a.m.
Valley News Dispatch
A shopper braces herself against wind-whipped snow as she makes her way into the Pittsburgh Mills mall in Frazer on Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013. Jason Bridge | Valley News Dispatch

Finding a patch of dry ground in the Alle-Kiski Valley during February was a challenging proposition.

According to the National Weather Service in Pittsburgh, there were just three days when neither rain, nor sleet nor hail fell in the region.

Those days were Feb. 7, 18 and 25, according to data recorded by the weather service.

“We're definitely above (average) in terms of snow for (February),” said John Darnley, a meterologist for the weather service. The weather service recorded 15.4 inches of snow; the average is 10.65 inches.

Oddly, however, precipitation in the form of rain was below its normal level for February.

There was just a drip over 2 inches of rain, which is slightly less than the average of 2.3 inches, he said.

The story for precipitation this year is different than last year, when there were concerns about the region's water table being replenished, he said.

Total precipitation for February 2012 amounted to just 14.54 inches while last March came in at 9.29 inches. Darnley said a 6-inch snowfall early last March alleviated some of that concern but the remainder of the month showed only trace amounts of snow on two other days while rainfall didn't surpass one inch at any time.

For this season, through Wednesday, there has been 30.81 inches of precipitation and normal is 28.09, so the region is about 2.7 inches over normal, Darnley said. Last year at the same time, it was 27.31 — a bit under normal.

He pointed out that March can be something of a wild card in regard to precipitation.

“In 1993, on March 13, we had the record,” Darnley said. “We got 23.6 inches of snow, and that is our highest 24-hour snowfall on record.'

“All it needs is a very nicely stacked low just off the coast the Carolinas and then riding up the Jersey shore,” he said. “We do get those occasionally.”

Overall, Darnley said it has been an active season for precipitation, and the key has been movement of low pressure systems through the area. “We haven't had any blocking patterns from high pressure systems this year,” he said.

Such blocking patterns can keep low pressure fronts stationary for days, or even weeks, which results in greater rainfall and snowfalls with lower temperatures, Darnley said.

The good thing about the constant movement of weather patterns is that it doesn't result in a deep snow pack in the mountains that can cause flooding if there's a rapid spring thaw.

“This has been a warmer winter,” Darnley said. “March is going to be pretty normal. There are no strong indicators right now.”

He said if things stay as they are, there will be normal highs in March in the mid- to upper-40s, rising to highs in the mid-50s with lows in the mid-20s by month's end.

Tom Yerace is a staff writer with Trib Total Media.

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