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Blame for more snow -- 5 inches could be on way for Pittsburgh region -- placed on the groundhog

| Saturday, March 23, 2013, 12:16 a.m.

The National Weather Service refuses to take the blame for its prediction that the Pittsburgh region could get several inches of snow Sunday night through Monday afternoon.

“Blame it on the groundhog. Everybody wants to blame the groundhog,” National Weather Service meteorologist Rihaan Gangat said with a laugh, referring to Punxsutawney Phil's prediction of an early spring.

“Right now, we are calling for four or five inches in the Pittsburgh area, with higher amounts in the mountains,” Gangat said on Friday. “That could very well change if the track of the storm changes. We'll have a better understanding (on Saturday).”

Gangat said it's not unusual to get a significant snowfall in March.

The largest single-day snowfall on record in Pittsburgh is 23.6 inches on March 13, 1993, the so-called St. Patrick's Day parade blizzard. Actually, the third biggest snowstorm on record in Pittsburgh was March 12-14, 1993, when 25.3 inches fell.

Gangat said it's possible for the region to get significant snowfall even later in the spring.

National Weather Service records show 12.7 inches of snow fell on April 3, 1901, and 11.2 inches were on the ground on April 8, 1902. There was a trace of snow recorded on May 31, 1893, and 3.1 inches on May 9, 1966.

Gangat concedes the upcoming storm could break a couple of single-day snowfall records. The biggest snowfall on record for March 24 in Pittsburgh is 3.8 inches in 1966. The most snow ever recorded in Pittsburgh on March 25 was one inch in 1947.

“We got spoiled last year with one of the warmest Marches on record. Last year at this time it was 80 degrees,” Gangat said. “Winter does have a way of payback.”

He said 50.6 inches of snow has fallen at the National Weather Service station in Moon since Oct. 1, leading him to believe it could reach 60 inches by the time the current snow season ends. That is still far below the record of 82 inches that fell in Pittsburgh during the 1951-52 snow season. The least snowfall ever recorded in Pittsburgh was 8.8 inches in 1918-19.

No matter how much snow falls, it should melt pretty fast.

“It's cold enough to snow but not cold enough to stick around a week or two,” Gangat said.

Area hardware stores say they still have plenty of supplies on hand.

“We actually have a lot of salt, a lot of shovels and snow blowers,” said Bob Jay at the Ace Hardware on Perry Highway in Wexford, where an outside electrical promotional sign reads simply: “We have salt.”

Michael Hasch is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7820 or mhasch@tribweb.com.

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