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Officially, winter's over

| Wednesday, March 20, 2013, 1:01 a.m.
Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch
The Alle-Kiski Valley awoke to its heaviest snowfall of the year on March 6. Seen here, Julie Graczyk-Heister works to clear the sidewalk along Carlisle Street in Harrison.
Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch
Two weeks after a heavy snowfall hit the Alle-Kiski Valley, people enjoy the start of spring with a walk on Carlisle Street in Harrison on Wednesday, March 20, 2013.

For some people, the winter of 2012-13 may seem like one of those long, dreary versions that Mother Nature delivers occasionally.

But, according to meteorologists at the National Weather Service in Pittsburgh and AccuWeather in State College, that's really not the case.

Brad Rehak of the National Weather Service said that December, when winter technically begins with the winter solstice, and January were actually warmer than usual. But February and March evened things out.

“Since February, we've had a low pressure system sitting over the northeastern U.S.,” Rehak said. “It hasn't been there solid. It kind of moves out for a while, and then it settles back in.”

He said it's the low pressure system in the upper level of the atmosphere that steers the jet streams and blocks warmer air from coming in.

“It's chilly, but we really haven't broken any record lows,” Rehak said. “We haven't broken a record low since July of 2009.”

“It's just a cold March,” he continued. “I think people think Marches are generally better than they are. But around here, spring usually doesn't start until April.”

Steve Travis of AccuWeather said the company's meteorologists were certain the winter would be cooler than last year's. But that wasn't how it went in early through mid-December.

“As it got to the end of December, near Christmas, things started to turn more chilly,” Travis said. “If you throw out three or four days near the end of January, January was colder than last year. January had far more days that were below average than above average.”

Travis said forecasters expected March's weather to be normal, but it hasn't worked out that way.

“The way March is going in terms of departure from average, March may turn out to be the coldest month of the winter.”

Rehak said March is frequently cold, but people may be looking back at last March and expecting a reprise of that balmy weather.

“We had an 11-day span from the 13th to the 23rd where the temperature was 70 degrees or higher,” Rehak said. “So when you compare it to this year, its about 40 degrees colder.”

As for snowfall, Rehak and Travis said the region is more or less around normal for the winter, which is around 40 inches.

Travis said snowfall in the Pittsburgh region has turned out to be what his colleagues expected.

“It looked like what we were going to see further west around Pittsburgh and the Great Lakes was a series of clipper systems that were going to come in and dump a few inches here and there,” he said.

”We got nickeled and dimed a lot,” Rehak agreed. “We got to 50 inches one or two inches at a time rather than in big chunks.”

According to National Weather Service readings, there was at least a trace of snow on all but 13 days combined in February and March so far. He said the additional snowfall was “no big deal.” And although he believes it will remain cold for the rest of the month, he doesn't think there will be much more snow.

Travis was more cautious.

“The pattern that we're in certainly would caution us from closing the book on winter,” Travis said, “at least for the next 10 days or so.”

Tom Yerace is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4675 or tyerace@tribweb.com.

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