1-7: In early February, warmth returned to the Plains Erratic weather across the nation’s mid-section continued a recent pattern of temperature extremes that also featured record-setting warmth in late January followed by frigid conditions, with widespread, sub-zero readings reported on February 2 and 5 as far south as northern Missouri. Warmth exploded across the West in advance of the late-week storminess. From February 2-5, Sandberg, CA, notched four consecutive daily-record highs (71, 71, 74, and 73F). Highs soared to monthly record levels in a few locations, including Tribune, KS (81F on February 7). Salt Lake City, UT, posted three consecutive daily record highs (65, 68, and 68F) from February 5-7, narrowly missing its monthly standard of 69F set on February 28, 1972. On February 7, Salt Lake City also tied a monthly record for its highest minimum temperature—51F. With a low of 59F on February 7, Las Vegas, NV, also tied a monthly standard. On February 6-7, the week ended with a slew of consecutive daily record highs. Locations included: Dalhart, TX (84 and 83F); Colby, KS (81 and 78F); Pueblo, CO (78F both days); Sheridan, WY (68 and 72°F); and Walla Walla, WA (70 and 67F). On February 6, daily-record highs were especially impressive in California locations such as Death Valley (89F) and Bakersfield (85°F). By February 7, daily record warmth spread as far east as Missouri, where highs surged to 74F in Springfield and 71F in St. Louis. In stark contrast, frigid weather in the Northeast persisted and even intensified. On February 6, several unofficial stations in northern New England reported lows below - 30F. On the same date, daily-record lows dipped to -22F in Watertown, NY, and -7F in Hartford, CT.

8-14: Very warm, dry conditions developed across the northern Rockies and the Pacific Northwest, while weekly temperatures averaged more than 20F above normal in parts of the northern Intermountain West. Farther east, dry weather covered the nation’s mid-section, including the Plains, Midwest, and mid-South. Temperatures varied considerably, however, ranging from chilly conditions in the Mississippi Valley to record setting warmth in the Plains. Near to below normal temperatures dominated areas east of the Mississippi River, with Northeastern readings averaging at least 10F below normal in some locations. Sub-zero temperatures were reported after mid-week from the northern Plains into the Northeast. Meanwhile, freezes were noted as far as northern Florida. Record-setting warmth was nearly continuous across the West, while the Plains experienced above-normal temperatures early in the week and again at week’s end. From February 5-8, Salt Lake City, UT, registered four consecutive daily-record highs (65, 68, 68, and 64F). Other record-setting highs for February 8 included 82F in Bakersfield, CA; 80°F in Hobart, OK; 74F in Wichita, KS; and 65F in Boise, ID. Warmth even made a brief appearance in the East, where daily-record highs on the 8th reached 73F in Danville, VA, and 68F in Washington, DC. The following day, record-setting highs for February 9 surged to 90F in Yuma, AZ; 71F in Scottsbluff, NE; and 70F in Gateway, CO. By February 11, daily record highs in southern California rose to 87F in El Cajon and 86F in Chula Vista. El Cajon posted additional records of 87°F on February 12 and 13. Other California records included 92F (on February 13) in Santa Ana and 74F (on February 14) in Sacramento. In fact, Sacramento closed the week with a trio of daily-record highs (73, 73, and 74°F) from February 12-14. Cedar City, UT (61, 66, and 70F); Ely, NV (65, 66, and 66F); and Pocatello, ID (57, 60, and 56F), also achieved three records in a row during the same period. In Helena, MT, February 13-14 featured consecutive daily-record highs (61F both days). In dramatic contrast, Northeastern daily-record lows plunged to -32F (on February 13) in Watertown, NY, and -23F (on February 14) in Bangor, ME. Mild weather in southern Alaska contrasted with lingering cold across most interior locations. Daily-record highs were set during the second half of the week in a few places, including Sitka (53F on February 12). On February 12-13, Cold Bay posted consecutive daily record-tying highs of 42 and 41°F, respectively.

15-21: Persistent western warmth boosted weekly temperatures at least 10F above normal in several locations. In stark contrast, a severe cold wave gripped areas from the Mississippi Valley to the East Coast. As a result, temperatures averaged at least 20F below normal in the Ohio Valley and were more than 10F below normal in most areas from the Mississippi Valley eastward. The coldest air of the season reached into Florida’s winter agricultural areas, with light freezes noted as far south as Lake Okeechobee. The cold weather necessitated freeze protection for several crops, including strawberries, blueberries, and vegetables. The Plains largely escaped the cold wave, with sub-zero temperatures primarily confined to the Dakotas and parts of Montana and Nebraska. Bishop’s warm spell peaked with a high of 80F on February 16. Other Western daily record highs included 82F (on February 16) in Lancaster, CA; 79F (on February 15) in Las Vegas, NV; 66F (on February 16) in Salem, OR; 65F (on February 19) in Eureka, NV; and 62F (on February 17) in Olympia, WA. Ely, NV, posted consecutive daily record highs (66 and 65F, respectively) on February 18-19. Farther east, however, sustained cold weather led to several impressive records. In Virginia, Dulles Airport reported seven consecutive sub-10F lows from February 15-21, the longest such February streak in that location on record and the longest in any month since December 1989. From February 16-20, Cape Girardeau, MO, logged five consecutive daily-record lows (-2, -11, -7, -14, and 11F)—and achieved a monthly record (previously, -8F on February 2, 1965; February 3, 1985; and February 4, 1996). On February 20, monthly record lows were also established in Ohio locations such as Toledo (-19°F) and Cleveland (-17F). Paducah, KY (-10°F on February 19), and Pittsburgh, PA (-10F on February 20), reported their latest observance of a reading of -10°F or lower. Previously, records had been -14F on February 2, 1951, in Paducah, and -10°F on February 17, 1979, in Pittsburgh. A few locations, including Erie, PA (-18F on February 16), and Lynchburg, VA (- 11F on February 20), set or tied all-time record lows. Erie tied a record originally set on January 19, 1994, while Lynchburg edged by 1F a record set on January 21, 1985, and February 5, 1996. Cincinnati, OH, reported three sub-zero readings from February 17-20—including a low of -12F on the 20th—setting a daily record each time. Gaylord, MI, opened the week with consecutive daily-record lows (-24 and -22F, respectively) on February 15- 16. Elsewhere on the 16th, daily-record lows dipped to -36°F in Watertown, NY, and -27F in Alpena, MI. Even colder air arrived in Michigan by February 20, when lows plunged to -31F in Gaylord, -29F in Alpena, -25F in Flint, and -22F in Traverse City. Other daily record lows on the 20th dipped to -21F in Frankfort, KY; -16F in Huntington, WV; and 30F in Vero Beach, FL. By February 21, lingering cold in the Northeast led to a daily-record low of -17F in Concord, NH.

22-28:  Multiple winter weather events plagued the South, causing further travel and electrical disruptions in the wake of earlier storms. By February 28, a season high 60 percent of the contiguous U.S. was covered by snow—with some coverage reported in each of the Lower 48 States except Florida. The week’s most impressive event occurred on February 25-26, when snow fell from northeastern Texas into the southern Mid-Atlantic States. Snow also fell in the lower Midwest, but many other areas from the northern Plains into the Northeast experienced cold, dry weather. In fact, weekly temperatures averaged at least 20F below normal in parts of the Midwest and ranged from 10 to 20F below normal in most other locations from the Plains to the middle and northern Atlantic States. In contrast, cooler weather arrived in the West, although temperatures still averaged close to normal. Multiple days of below 0F readings were reported as south as the Ohio and middle Mississippi Valleys. In general, the coldest weather across the lower Midwest occurred on February 23-24 and 27. Very cold air also overspread the Plains, with sub-zero readings reported on February 23 and 27 as far south as northern Kansas. Minimum temperatures ranging from -10 to -30F were noted from the Dakotas to New England. Two more impressive cold outbreaks led to a continuing wave of record setting low temperatures. The week opened on February 22 with daily record lows of -29F in International Falls, MN, and -26F in Grand Forks, ND. The following day in Michigan, records for February 23 plunged to -28°F in Marquette and -23F in Houghton Lake. Farther south and east, consecutive daily record lows were noted on February 23-24 in locations such as Youngstown, OH (-4 and - 10°F); Binghamton, NY (-7 and -10F); and Springfield, IL (-5 and - 8F). By February 26, International Falls collected another daily record low (-32F). With a low of -14F on February 27, Springfield, IL, reported its lowest temperature since January 31, 2004. The month ended with consecutive daily record lows on February 27-28 in Moline, IL (-15 and -18°F); Rockford, IL (-15 and -1°F); and Dubuque, IA (- 21 and -17F). From Marquette, MI, to Bangor, ME, the frigid February finish capped the coldest month on record, with monthly temperatures averaging at least 10 to 15F below normal in a broad area across the Great Lakes and Northeastern States. Many of the previous all-time monthly records had been set in January 1977 or 1994, or February 1934. In addition, dozens of February cold records, some of which—including those for Cleveland, OH, and Chicago, IL—had been set as long ago as 1875, were tied or broken across the nation’s northeastern quadrant.

Jim G. Munley, jr.

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