After one of the coldest starts to any winter in recent history, it now appears that the worst is behind us and the rest of winter should be rather meek and mild by comparison.
Barring a late-season winter storm, the winter of 2017-2018 will go down as rather snowless despite all the cold air we had in place. We've received less than five inches of snow this winter, and our single biggest snowfall was 2-3 inches.
When that arctic plunge began to end in mid January and Ol' Man Winter loosened his icy grip on our region, it appeared possible -- if not likely -- that we'd see a pattern reload and a repeat of sorts in early February. Once we got into late January, it became pretty obvious that early February wasn't going to be too cold, but it appeared that mid-to-late February might be. But, at this point, I think we can safely say that the kind of cold weather we saw in early January is not going to repeat itself before winter's end.
That isn't to say that we won't see sub-freezing temperatures and chances of snow as we go through the rest of winter. After all, the start of meteorological spring is still six weeks away. But the story for the next couple of weeks is probably going to be rain -- not snow.
That's one thing we saw in January, besides the cold. The month saw only 1.25 inches of precipitation in Oneida -- only a little more than one-fourth of what we see in a normal January. In fact, the northern Cumberland Plateau was officially placed into a drought status by the U.S. Drought Monitor last week.
It looks like we'll see Mother Nature correct herself over the next couple of weeks. We saw big rain early this week, we'll see more rain this weekend, and the next 15 days look very wet. In fact, if it pans out as it could, it wouldn't be a surprise to see flooding become an issue.
The latest run of the GFS forecast model shows more than nine inches of rain falling in Oneida over the next 15 days (a significant portion of that will fall Saturday and Sunday, and the National Weather Service is already contemplating the possibilities of flood watches being issued for the weekend). During that time span, temperatures will probably prove to be above-average. We'll be below freezing tonight, and after that, we may very well not drop below freezing again for almost two weeks! That's a remarkable shift from what we thought the middle of February would bring to the table. In fact, depending on how much rain we see next week, we could see temps in the 60s more than once. It could very well be a taste of spring for the region.
Again, there's no guarantee that we won't see a return of colder air before winter is through. Some meteorologists point to 2015, when we were relatively mild before the bottom fell out in late February. We experienced an ice storm in Scott County, followed by the coldest temperature (-11) we had seen in 30 years. But once we get through the next 15 days, we're going to be only about five days removed from the arrival of March. And while big snows are certainly possible in March, severe thunderstorms are more likely than snow once the calendar flips from February.
Eye to the Sky is a weather blog by Independent Herald editor Ben Garrett. Garrett is a weather enthusiast who has long blogged about interesting weather on his personal website. He is not a professional forecaster or a meteorologist and information on this blog should not be considered a substitute for forecasts, advisories or other products from the National Weather Service.