GLOBAL WEATHER HIGHLIGHTS
1st-2nd A far-reaching winter storm created travel nightmares across two-thirds of the nation from the Midwest to the Northeast Saturday afternoon through Monday (1-2). Two storms came together across the Southwest on Saturday, before meeting with an arctic press of air surging south from Canada. A swath of heavy snow spread across the Central states Saturday night into Sunday. Near blizzard conditions enveloped Chicago Sunday evening with severely limited visibility, heavy snowfall and blowing and drifting snow. The storm snowfall total climbed to 19.3 inches in Chicago, placing this storm as the fifth-largest snowstorm ever to impact the city, according to Chicago NWS office records. The city also shattered daily snowfall records.
12th For only the second time in 42 years, the famed Iditarod Sled Dog Race in Alaska has been forced to shift its route due to lack of snow. The start of the race, which begins March 7, has been moved from its traditional location in Willow to Fairbanks; this happened once before, in 2003. Members of the trail committee's board voted unanimously Tuesday to change the course "due to low snowfall in some of the most treacherous sections of the trail's roughly 1,000 miles". Over the past 50 years, wintertime temperatures across Alaska increased by an average of more than 6.F, due to man-made climate change, the Environmental Protection Agency reports. Overall, Alaska's temperatures are rising twice as fast as those in the lower 48 states. The Iditarod begins with a ceremonial start March 7 in Anchorage. Dog teams carrying passengers make a leisurely 11-mile run from downtown to an airstrip on the city's east side. Actual racing begins a day later and usually starts in Willow. The trail takes mushers and dogs through the Alaska Range, down the Yukon River and along the Bering Sea coast to the old gold rush town of Nome.
25th-26th As a snowstorm unraveled from Texas to North Carolina and Virginia, snow and ice left a trail of disruption on Wednesday into Thursday. In some of the hardest-hit areas, hundreds of thousands were without power as the accumulation of snow and ice weighed down power lines. A swath of 6-12 inches of snow fell from far northeastern Texas to western North Carolina. A record-breaking 8.1 inches of snow fell in Huntsville, Alabama, the second-highest daily snowfall to ever hit the city. In Starkville, Mississippi, more than 2 inches of snow blanketed the town, prompting Mississippi State University to cancel classes for the day. In-state rival University of Mississippi canceled classes and activities Wednesday and Thursday as the storm hit. Air travel was also inhibited by the hefty winter storm. At Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, one of the country's busiest airports, nearly 600 flights were cancelled on Wednesday with another 500 delays.
Spanish emergency services have rescued at least 220 people trapped by snow on roads in northern Spain. Hundreds of cars were stuck for up to 17 hours overnight on roads between Cantabria and the province of Palencia. Local media reported temperatures of -15C and up 40 cm of snow. Around 100 British expats and tourists were among those trapped. Spanish police rescued several stranded in their vehicles shortly after arrival in Santander by ferry from Portsmouth. Many had come to Spain hoping for a warm-weather holiday, but ended up having to spend the night in the sports hall of a local school and the dining room of a hotel. The country is in the middle of a cold spell that is expected to worsen over the next three days, with cold weather alerts issued for 20 provinces. Meanwhile, in Catalonia, winds of over 120km/h (75mph) have disrupted railway services. Snowfall has also closed roads as far south as in Andalucia.
Flooding quickly ensued Sunday night to Monday morning in Jakarta as persistent rain and thunderstorms unleashed 300-450 mm of rainfall 8-10. On Tuesday, nearly 6,000 people were evacuated from parts of Jakarta. Runoff from the rain flooded dozens of roads and severely affected public transport. The TransJakarta busway was forced to halt operations on half of its corridors Monday morning, while train services were disrupted. Flood waters reached up to 60 cm around the Presidential Palace and the National Monument and brought a rapid rise on the Ciliwung River. State utility firm Perusahaan Listrik Negera shut down power grids in several areas of northern, western and central Jakarta. The move was a precautionary measure to prevent electrocutions. Jakarta is amid its rainy season when showers and thunderstorms rumble on a daily basis.
Residents in far north Queensland are mopping up after the worst flooding in more than 30 years, and they have been warned to expect further heavy rain by the weekend on the 9th. Houses and businesses were inundated on Sunday after more than 300 mm of rain fell in parts of the region. Towns on the Atherton tableland, west of Cairns, were some of the worst affected when creeks around Malanda broke their banks. In the 24 hours to 9 am Sunday, about 334 mm of rain was recorded at the Johnstone river, southwest of Cairns, and 278 mm was recorded at Malanda. No tropical cyclones have been detected in Queensland this wet season.
More than 400 residents of Goulburn Island, one of the most remote places in Australia, were moved to safety in Darwin as cyclone Lam continued its approach on terh 19th. Located off the north coast of the Top End, all residents of its Warruwi community were evacuated to Darwin. There was no forced evacuation because all residents opted to leave, said the acting NT police commissioner, Reece Kershaw. By late afternoon on Thursday, the cyclone remained a category three, with sustained winds near the center of 150 km/h and gusts reaching 205 km/h. Winds at the eye of the storm were expected to reach 230km/h overnight. As of 5pm CST, Lam was 30 km north north-east of Galiwinku, on Elcho Island, and destructive winds were due to start lashing the community by early evening.
Queenslanders are being warned to brace for wild and dangerous conditions brought on by a rapidly-intensifying cyclone Marcia on the 19th. The system, which is about 170 kilometres east-northeast of Mackay, is set to hit the Capricorn Coast as a category four storm. The cyclone was reclassified from a category one to category three system within four hours by the Bureau of Meteorology on Thursday afternoon. The bureau later predicted it would be upgraded again, bringing wind gusts of 260 km/h at its core early Friday morning just before it makes landfall north of Yeppoon.
An unusually cold storm is responsible for unusual snowfalls in Athens, Greece, and was causing snow to whiten Istanbul, Turkey 1th-12th. The unusual wet snow began flying in Athens on Tuesday morning with additional wet snow that continued on the 11th. Away from the mountains, the snow struggled to accumulate due to above-freezing temperatures. Snow also fell in Istanbul with the most substantial snow falling on the city's eastern half through Wednesday night. Substantial snow also fell across western and central Turkey, including in Ankara where 8-15 cm was reported. Hardest hit areas, particularly in mountainous terrain of western Turkey saw accumulating snow into Thursday.
Snowy weather conditions hit various provinces across Turkey, including Istanbul, leading to the closure of many schools and the cutting off of access to many village roads. One person died in Istanbul in a traffic accident caused by the heavy snowfall on Tuesday. Due to heavy snowfall that hit the northern province of Samsun on Tuesday morning, school was cancelled for two days in the area. Schools were also closed for one day in the provinces of Ordu, Kastamonu and Zonguldak due to the snowfall. A total of 96 village roads were blocked due to heavy snowfall in Zonguldak. Some parts of the Zonguldak-Istanbul highway were also blocked, but teams from the Zonguldak Municipality cleared the roads of snow in a short time. Seventeen people who were stuck in their vehicles on the Mus-Kulp highway due to the heavy snow were rescued by response teams from the municipality. Heavy snow also hit Istanbul, the largest and most populous city of Turkey, bringing daily life to standstill in the city on Tuesday. Turkish Airlines announced on Tuesday morning via its website that it had cancelled a total of 123 flights due to the heavy snowfall. Sixty-seven of these flights were domestic.
A second winter storm shifted southeast from Thursday into Friday, affecting the higher terrain of Syria, Lebanon, Israel and Jordan on the 20th. The heaviest snow fell overnight Thursday into Friday, leading to as much as 25 cm of snow around Jerusalem that closed roadways, businesses and schools. Flights were also cancelled due to the weather along with some airport closures during the worst of the storm. Snow blanketed the Israeli city of Be-er Sheva for the first time in years. Many desert areas also saw accumulating snowfall from this storm.
A slow-moving storm that brought historic snow to parts of Turkey before unleashing travel-disrupting snowfall in the higher elevations from Syria through Jordan and Israel last week brought deadly weather to Afghanistan and Pakistan. The combination of the slow movement of this storm and moisture from the Arabian Sea led to rain and snow for Afghanistan, Pakistan and far northwest India. This storm triggered numerous avalanches and areas of flooding across the region. Fears remain high that the death toll will continue to rise as rescue efforts continue. The threat for additional avalanches will remain high over the next several days as the storm departs and warm air leads to an unstable snow pack across the region.
It has been an unseasonably warm summer in Santiago, Chile on the 11th. Temperatures have averaged 1.5 C above normal since 1 November in Santiago with each month having above-normal warmth. The peak of the heat has been focused from January through Feb. 11 with temperature anomalies averaging 2.5C.
Tropical Cyclone Marcia developed over the Coral Sea earlier in the week and then rapidly intensified just prior to making landfall in eastern Queensland on Friday, local time. The storm reached peak intensity just prior to landfall near Shoalwater Bay, to the north of Rockhampton. The storm reached Category 5 status in Australia, which was the equivalent of a Category 4 hurricane in the Atlantic Ocean. Marcia is only the sixth cyclone to make landfall in Australia at Category 5 strength. Peak wind gusts up to 295 km/h were experienced as the cyclone came onshore, with damaging wind gusts expanding well inland as the storm moved inland across eastern Queensland.
Jim G. Munley, jr.
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