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12th-18th…Heavy rain across the Deep South provided drought relief but triggered lowland flooding. Weekly rainfall totaled at least 4 inches in many locations from Louisiana into southern Alabama and westernmost
Florida. Farther east, midweek rains soaked parts of the Gulf Coast region, where Alexandria, LA (2.45 inches), netted a daily-record sum for February 15. Three days later, daily-record totals for February 18 included 3.51 inches in Lake Charles, LA, and 3.85 inches in Galveston, TX. Weekly rainfall totals climbed to 4.87 inches in Alexandria, LA; 4.75 inches in McComb, MS; 4.62 inches in Mobile, AL; and 3.89 inches in Pensacola, FL. In Louisiana, the worst lowland flooding since 2008 developed in several basins, including Bayou Cocodrie near Clearwater (2.08 feet above flood stage on February 20) and the Calcasieu River near Glenmora (3.37 feet above flood stage on February 19). Meanwhile, widespread precipitation covered southern Alaska, where Kodiak’s 11.4-inch weekly snowfall was boosted by a daily-record total of 4.2 inches on February 15. Heavy snow also returned to Valdez, following a 4-week lull that had allowed the snow depth to settle from 84 to 68 inches between January 12 and February 12. Weekly snowfall totaled 27.4 inches in Valdez, increasing the snow depth back to 84 inches on February 18. Through February 18, the season-to-date snowfall in Valdez stood at 370.0 inches, 158 percent of normal.
19th-25th…Locally severe thunderstorms accompanied additional Southeastern rain—mainly on February 24. Periodic high winds raised dust across the southern High Plains, primarily on February 20, 23, and 25. High-elevation snow packs remained substantially below late-February averages across the majority of the West, including California, Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, western Colorado, and southern Idaho. Early in the week, heavy precipitation fell in parts of the Southeast. Charleston, SC (1.26 inches on February 19), received a daily rainfall in excess of an inch for the first time since August 13, 2011. Similarly, Savannah, GA (1.29 inches), netted more than an inch for the first time since October 10, 2011. Farther north, daily-record snowfall totals for February 19 included 3.1 inches in Jackson, KY, and 1.6 inches in Greensboro, NC. It was Greensboro’s first measurable snow of the season. In Richmond, VA, the season’s first measurable snowfall totaled 4.0 inches on February 19-20. Elsewhere, February 19-20 snowfall reached 6.9 inches in Bluefield, WV, and 7.7 inches in Lynchburg, VA. A few days later, significant precipitation spread across the Northwest, where Big Sky, MT (6.5 inches on February 21), received a daily-record snowfall. February 21-22 snowfall totals of 2 to 3 feet were common across western Wyoming and neighboring areas, while high-elevation wind gusts locally topped 100 mph. farther south, Lubbock, TX (63 mph on February 20), clocked its highest wind gust since October 17, 2011. Toward week’s end, precipitation shifted into the Midwest, South, and East. Waterloo, IA (4.1 inches), received a daily-record snowfall on February 23, followed the next day by record-setting amounts in locations such as Houghton Lake, MI (7.3 inches), and Rockford, IL (4.0 inches). On February 24, locally severe thunderstorms swept across the Southeast, where at least a half-dozen tornadoes were reported. On the same day, Augusta, GA, noted a squall line-induced wind gust to 70 mph. Farther north, locally heavy snow blanketed the Northeast, where February 25-26 snowfall reached 30 inches atop Vermont’s Jay Peak. Periods of heavy precipitation affected southeastern Alaska, where Pelican (2.38 inches) netted a daily-record total on February 20. Late in the week, storminess began to overspread Alaska from the southwest. As a result, February 24-26 snowfall reached 7.4 inches in McGrath and 6.8 inches in Bethel.
26th-29th…Twisters roared through the nation's heartland in the early morning darkness Wednesday, flattening entire blocks of homes in small-town Illinois and Kansas and killing at least 10 people. Winds also ripped through the country music mecca of Branson, MO, damaging some of the city's famous theaters just days before the start of the busy tourist season. The tornado that blasted Harrisburg in southern Illinois, killing six, was an EF4, the second-highest rating given to twisters based on damage. Scientists said it was 200 yards wide with winds up to 170 mph.
By midday, townspeople in the community of 9,000 were sorting through piles of debris and remembering their dead while the winds still howled around them. Not long after the storm, Darrell Osman raced to his mother's home, arriving just in time to speak to her before she was taken to a hospital with a head injury, a severe cut to her neck and a broken arm and leg. The twister that raked Branson seemed to hopscotch up the city's main roadway, moving from side to side. As sirens blared, Derrick Washington stepped out of his motel room just long enough to see a greenish-purple sky. Then he heard the twister roar. "Every time the tornado hit a building, you could see it exploding," he said. At least 37 people were reported hurt, but most suffered only cuts and bruises. After the start of Branson's peak season in mid-March, up to 60,000 visitors would have been in hotels on any given day. Just six guests were staying at J.R.'s Motor Inn, and all of them escaped injury by taking refuge in bathtubs. Engineers deemed the building a total loss after the second floor, the roof and all windows were destroyed. Manager Lori McGauley choked back tears thinking about what might have been. "We had 25 people booked for next week," McGauley said. "If this happened a week later, we would have lost some people.
Jim G. Munley, jr.
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