By DENISE GRANT
Thousands of Midwesterners with cabin fever were watching. Did all that pressure cause Pennsylvania’s Punxsutawney Phil to ignore his shadow on Groundhog Day, Feb. 2, and give everyone the false hope of an early spring?
To be fair, Punxsutawney’s less-celebrated Ohio counterpart, Buckeye Chuck, did the same thing.
Regardless of what groundhogs predict, spring officially arrives each year at the vernal equinox, which was at 5:58 p.m. Wednesday.
As for early spring-like temperatures, large rodents may be overrated for their forecasting skills, especially this year. There was no early spring, and in fact, weathermen say it may not warm up until mid-April.
There’s a chance of snow in the forecast next week.
According to AccuWeather’s seasonal forecast, once temperatures do begin to warm up in late April and May, temperature swings will bring a threat of severe weather. AccuWeather is one of the weather services used by The Courier.
Bob Smerbeck, a senior meteorologist with AccuWeather, said rainfall for the month of March will be near normal for northwest Ohio, and near normal in April. May may actually be drier than normal, he said.
Smerbeck said it’s clear the groundhogs got it wrong on Feb. 2.
“Yeah, we called Phil on that one,” Smerbeck said. “We thought he was lying and sure enough, he was.”
AccuWeather is predicting a spring with dry stretches, but the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s outlook for the United States shows an elevated flood threat this spring. NOAA says nearly two-thirds of the lower 48 states face an elevated risk of flooding through May. However, only minor flooding is predicted for Ohio.
The Old Farmer’s Almanac, which has been in the business of long-range forecasts since 1792 (during George Washington’s first presidential term) agrees with AccuWeather: a cool, drier-than-normal spring.
The almanac, which claims 80 percent accuracy in its long-range forecasts, uses a formula based on solar activity, prevailing weather patterns and atmospheric conditions.
Smerbeck said even with today’s technology, long-range forecasting is still in its infancy, and Mother Nature sometimes deals unexpected wild cards, like warm sea or upper stratospheric temperatures.
He said a severe thunderstorm in the Indian Ocean has the potential to affect weather around the globe.
“We’re learning new stuff all the time,” he said. “It really does impress upon you how interconnected everything is.”
The winter past will go down in Findlay’s weather history as “near normal.” Temperatures were slightly below average, while snowfall amounts were very close to average.
These are the statistics for the 2018-19 winter season, provided to The Courier by Findlay’s Water Pollution Control Center. The center has maintained weather records for Findlay since 1894.
• November 2018 — average temperature was 35.6 degrees, below the annual average of 40.9 degrees.
• December 2018 — average temperature was 24.2 degrees, below the annual average of 29.8 degrees.
• January 2019 — average temperature was 24.9 degrees, below the annual average of 26.1 degrees.
• February 2019 — average temperature was 30.6 degrees, above the annual average of 27.8 degrees.
• March 2019 — through March 19, average temperature has been 31.7 degrees, below the annual average temperature for March of 37.8 degrees.
The warmest day of the winter season (November through March 19) was March 14, when temperatures reached 66 degrees. The coldest day was Jan. 30, with a temperature of minus 12.
There was one Findlay temperature record set over the winter. A low of minus 8 degrees on Jan. 31 broke an 1899 record for the date of minus 6 degrees.
There were four days in January when the low temperature was below zero.
Two temperatures over the winter season tied record highs. On Dec. 31, a high of 60 degrees tied a record set in 2010. Then on Feb. 4, a high of 56 degrees tied the record for that date, set in 1962, 1986 and 2008.
The first measurable snowfall of the winter season, from November 2018 through March 19, came on Nov. 9, with 0.8 inch.
The biggest snowfall, 6.6 inches, was recorded Jan. 19.
Snowfall for the season, to date, totals 25.6 inches. The average for November through March is 25.5 inches.
• November 2018 — total snowfall was 3.2 inches, above the average snowfall of 1.6 inches for the month.
• December 2018 — total snowfall was a trace below the average of 6 inches for the month.
• January 2019 — total snowfall was 10.6 inches, above the average snowfall of 7.7 inches for the month.
• February 2019 — total snowfall was 4.6 inches, below the average snowfall of 6.4 inches for the month.
• March 1-19, 2019 — 1.2 inches of snowfall has been recorded. The annual average for all of March is 3.8 inches.