Monday, 11:35 a.m.
I am back from a few days away to visit one of AccuWeather.com's radio affiliates, WCOA in Pensacola, Fl. I spent time on air with Jim Sanborn and Don Parker Thursday and Friday mornings, chatting about all things weather, and a few things not weather. in the course of the few days I was traveling, I got to experience spring, summer, and winter. Those stark contrasts are still readily on display across the nation today.
Some of the down time Thursday and Friday I spent riding along the Gulf Coast from Pensacola Beach to Navarre Beach and back, as well as out to Fort Pickens and back. On Thursday it was a sunny, breezy cool day, with temperatures starting the day at 40, and rising to the lower 60s in the afternoon. As I rode, in shorts, and, eventually, with just a short-sleeved shell and regular cycling jersey, I was amazed at how all the other cyclists were wearing full covering head-to-toe. That weather was the warmest I had experienced in five months, and it felt great! Then, over in Charleston, S.C., on Saturday, it felt like summer as temperatures soared into the lower 80s in the city, though stiff winds at Folly Beach did make for a chilly and somewhat challenging run in the late afternoon.
The other thing I noticed was brush fires. Plenty of them. After a relatively moist (in some cases, exceptionally so) February, it dried out pretty quickly. As I flew in Wednesday evening, I noticed a brush fire east of Pensacola. Riding along the beach Thursday I could see one or two of them inland, and saw several more on Friday afternoon and evening as I drove eastward on I-10, and up U.S. 231 toward my in-laws in Dothan, Ala. And in Charleston on Saturday, there were a couple more the scorched about 80 acres overall. I was amazed at how fast it dried out. Then again, when you look at Charleston as an example, the relative humidity in the afternoon was about 23 percent with winds gusting to nearly 30 mph. No wonder I felt parched! And no wonder wildfires were sparked in such arid conditions!
Then, of course, I flew from those conditions back home to central Pennsylvania, where it snowed a few inches Saturday. And it has started to snow a bit again today. Yet on Sunday, there was plenty of warmth to the south. Look at the highs from Saturday:
Some of that 90-degree warmth will surge a little deeper into Texas this afternoon, and it will remain warm across the Gulf Coast into the Southeast ahead of a weakening cold front. Farther north, though, I think you could safely call it spring, as a severe thunderstorm watch is now in effect for portions of Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Kentucky through the afternoon hours. Here's the setup:
One area of low pressure is now clearly in southern Indiana, and it is drawing some of that warmth and a pretty decent amount of moisture northward from the Gulf of Mexico to fuel these strong thunderstorms. They'll linger into the early night time hours before the low jumps the Appalachians and redevelops along the mid-Atlantic coast by tomorrow morning. That will help yank a cold front over the mountains and to the East Coast, quickly drying out the Southeast and the Deep South.
Farther north, though, there's plenty of arctic air around, and it's not giving ground very easily. That will lead to two areas of wintery precipitation. One is across the Midwest into the Great Lakes, associated with a second area of low pressure in northern Minnesota. The snow isn't necessarily all that heavy, but as the storm moves by, a cold front swings through, and the wind picks up behind it, the snow is blowing around quite a bit over western Minnesota and the eastern Dakotas.
The second area of snow with some ice will be over the Northeast. Here's what the latest AccuWeather.com forecast of snow amounts from the eastern storm:
There will be a transition area from snow to ice and even rain across portions of Pennsylvania, upstate New York and southern New England. Otherwise, the snow totals in those areas would be higher.
Once this storm departs, the cold air comes again in waves, and over the course of time, it will expand farther south and west. The cool down for the South will be toward normal in the coming days, but it is likely to be below normal later this weekend and early next week. In fact, look at the GFS ensemble seven-day means for next week:
While the worst of the cold will be from now through the beginning of this weekend from northeastern Montana to the Midwest, the largest anomalies will next week farther south and east. Spring may be on the calendar for Wednesday morning, but there won't be too many places feeling spring warmth from the northern and eastern Rockies to the East Coast for the rest of the month.
Despite a downturn in temperatures in the Northeast, most of the country will remain milder than normal for at least the next week.
Even though there's some snow on the ground over the interior Northeast today, the pattern going forward shows little sign of the winter season to come in most of the nation.
The record warmth of recent days will be replaced by a much colder air mass following a cold front moving from the Ohio Valley to the East. Rain will change to snow in the higher ground of upstate New York and northern New England.
Matthew is a dangerous hurricane bearing down on the east coast of Florida. While it ravages Florida and parts of the Southeast into the weekend, it will spare the Northeast of its fury.