TURNING INTO AN EPIC WINTER...
I think we all have a good idea this winter has gotten out of control and every day there's more proof available. As of Tuesday morning, a record 73 percent of the lower 48 is covered in snow with an average depth of 6 inches. That's according to the National Operational Hydrologic Remote Sensing Center. The 27 percent not snow covered is found over the southwest and southeast.
You can see a lot of this came over the past 72 hours in the south-central US.
Below you can see the total accumulation for the season. I have not witnessed many years that looked like this, especially since the late 70s.
My weather observer in Lowden, Iowa...Steve Gottschalk who has kept meticulous records for 60 years and knows all things weather related in Iowa, says this February is currently the coldest on record. Even colder than the epic winter of 1936 which remains the benchmark for harsh conditions. His February average temperature so far is 4.1 degrees but the last 10 days have gone off the rails dropping to an average of minus 3.1 degrees. If you haven't heard of the winter of '36, here's a piece I put together a few years ago when I was working at KGAN-TV.
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (CBS2/FOX28) — It's called the "telephone wire winter" when knees, fenders, and fence posts no longer served as adequate comparisons to the mountains of snow that swallowed trains. In a 1936 Des Moines Register article, Jim Pollack wrote that the snow was so deep that Lloyd Keller walked from Clarksville to his job at the State Teachers College in Cedar Falls among drifts so high "he touched telephone wire". And the legend was born.
Officially, the winter of 1936 was the second coldest and fourth snowiest in Iowa history. But, the 36 day stretch from January 18th to February 22nd was the granddaddy of Iowa winters. The statewide average temperature was 2.4 degrees below zero with one blizzard after another. It was the worst stretch of weather since the state began keeping records in 1819.
Newspaper stories that winter said the snow was so extreme that caterpillar tractors couldn't plow the roads, so they were joined by groups of men with scoop shovels. In the midst of the Depression, 1600 men from the Works Progress Administration cleared streets in Des Moines.
As the snow piled higher and temperatures tanked, hardships began to mount. Mail delivery stopped and farmers couldn't transport milk and eggs. By February coal, the primary source of heat, was in short supply because rail lines were shut down, so schools and churches were closed and business hours shortened to conserve fuel.
Come mid-February, 1-3 feet of snow covered Iowa with 10-15 foot drifts a common thing. 100-ton locomotives with plows were no match. Farmers struggled to feed and water livestock which consumed twice as much feed as usual due to the severe cold. Nearly half of Iowa's wildlife died. At its worst, ice on the Iowa River near Iowa Falls was 42" thick.
In time, spring came and Iowans smiled knowing they'd endured the most severe winter in Iowa history. Little did they know, the summer of 1936 would be just as memorable -- and just as extreme-- as Iowa's worst winter.
Back to the winter 2020-21, temperatures are well below zero once again early Wednesday. However, winds are light minimizing wind chills. The addition of clouds has even caused temperatures to go up a few degrees after most of us bottomed out in the range of 10 to 15 below.
The NWS in the Quad Cities put this graphic out highlighting some of this February's cold to date. Notice the part stating that if no more snow falls in the next 6-8 weeks (which is highly unlikely) Dubuque, Cedar Rapids, and Moline have already exceeded their seasonal snowfall averages for the entire winter!
The late night water vapor image shows a series of disturbances bringing clouds and some meager moisture from the south. Eventually a bit of light snow or flurries might develop later today and tonight. This looks minimal and accumulations should not be much more than a dusting if anything at all.
Later in the week, the Arctic air that's plagued us for nearly 2 weeks begins to modify and lift out allowing temperatures to warm into the 20s this weekend. Next Tuesday we could approach or even crack the freezing mark. However, the warm air advection will generate a new disturbance bringing the potential of another snow chance Sunday or Sunday night. Models are not in sync on what to do with the energy and while the GFS has another moderate snow for much of the region, the EURO makes little of it.