NATIONAL WEATHER SUMMARY
5-11: Early-week wind and warmth covered the central and southern High Plains, combined with low humidity. Dry weather extended beyond the Plains into the Southwest, and also affected the southern Atlantic States. Although early-season warmth continued in many parts of the country, unusually cold air began to settle across the nation’s northern tier. Weekly temperatures ranged from as much as 10F below normal in northern sections of Montana and North Dakota to more than 10F above normal across portions of the south-central U.S. In the Southwest, a gradual warming trend led to an increase in the snow-melt rate. Although the Southeast escaped a freeze, concerns persisted regarding the potential impacts of a spring cold snap on blooming fruits and other sensitive vegetation. Numerous wildfires flared across the central and southern High Plains during the afternoon of Monday, March 6, and were not fully contained for several days. The Starbuck fire, which started in Beaver County, OK, and later burned into southwestern Kansas, consumed in excess of 715,000 acres of vegetation. The Perryton fire, in Ochiltree, Lipscomb and Hemphill Counties in Texas, burned at least 315,000 acres of grass and brush. In Gray County, TX, the Lefors East fire scorched some 135,000 acres and was responsible for three of the deaths—ranchers attempting to save livestock. The Selman and 283 fires collectively burned almost 120,000 acres in Oklahoma’s Harper and Woodward Counties. And, approximately four dozen smaller fires, ranging in size from 100 to 32,500 acres, charred more than 120,000 acres of grass, brush, and trees across Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. On March 6, warmth across the nation’s mid-section resulted in daily-record highs in locations such as Topeka, KS, and Sioux City, IA—both 80°F. Elsewhere on the 6th, La Crosse, WI, posted its earlier ever minimum temperature above the 50-degree mark (previously, March 7, 2000). During the second half of the week, warmth developed across the South and West and returned across the central U.S. Daily-record highs for March 9 included 84F in Borger, TX, and 80F in Dodge City, KS. In Florida, daily-record highs soared to 88°F (on March 10) in Vero Beach and 90F (on March 11) in Fort Myers. Sandberg, CA, which posted a high of 80°F on March 11, achieved its earliest 80-degree reading (previously, 82F on March 14, 2013). In stark contrast, very cold air swept into the Northeast, where Augusta, ME, collected a daily-record low (-4F on March 11). Elsewhere in Maine on the 11th, Caribou (high of -1F) noted its latest sub-zero maximum temperature, while Houlton (2F) set a monthly record for its lowest high temperature (previously, 3F on March 3, 1950).
12-18: A Cold spell threatened Southeastern fruit and nuts crops, winter wheat, and ornamentals. Weekly temperatures were at least 10 to 15F below normal in much of the eastern U.S., but averaged more than 10F above normal at numerous locations in the Rockies, Great Basin, Intermountain West, Southwest, and southern California. Late in the week, a new storm brought additional precipitation to the Midwestern and Mid-Atlantic States, as well as the mid-South. Farther west, however, dry weather dominated areas from central and southern California to the central and southern Plains, accompanied at times by record-setting warmth. In areas experiencing drought, such as portions of the central and southern High Plains, the warm, dry weather further reduced soil moisture and maintained stress on rangeland, pastures, and winter wheat. Elsewhere, showery weather persisted from the Pacific Northwest to the northern Plains. The latter region received some snow, but rain showers and melting snow in the Northwest contributed to local flooding. Even before the Southeastern freezes struck, cold weather dominated the Northeast. Portland, ME, posted a daily-record low of 1F on March 12. The following day, record-setting lows for March 13 included 6F in Binghamton, NY, and 14F in Reading, PA. By March 15, sub-zero temperatures were reported as far south as Iowa, where daily-record lows plunged to -6°F in Mason City and -5F in Waterloo. Memphis, TN, noted its lowest reading during the cold snap, a daily-record low of 25F, on March 15. For much of the Southeast, however, the lowest temperatures occurred on March 16, when record-setting lows dipped to 19F in Paducah, KY; 20F in Florence, SC; 22F in Anniston, AL; 23F in Augusta, GA; and 25F in Gainesville, FL. Very cold weather persisted in the Atlantic Coast States through March 17, when daily-record lows were also the outbreak’s lowest temperatures in locations such as Watertown, NY (- 5F); Danville, VA (19F); and Daytona Beach, FL (37F). In contrast, record-setting warmth covered the western half of the U.S. In southern California, Thermal opened the week with consecutive daily-record highs (97 and 100F, respectively) on March 12-13. Similarly, consecutive daily-record lows occurred on March 14-15 in Yuma, AZ (95 and 96F), and Palm Springs, CA (98 and 97F). Grand Junction, CO, reported five consecutive daily-record highs (73, 76, 75, 76, and 80°F) from March 14-18. Elsewhere, El Paso, TX, notched a trio of daily-record highs (85, 86, and 85F) from March 14- 16, while Salt Lake City, UT, logged four records in 6 days from March 15-20—including a high of 79F on the 18th. At week’s end, warmth intensified on the High Plains, where record-setting highs for March 18 reached 85°F in Pueblo, CO; 83F in Scottsbluff, NE; and 78F in Miles City, MT. In addition, Yuma, AZ, matched its earlier reading with a high of 96F on March 18, while Las Vegas, NV, attained the 90-degree mark for the first time this year.
19-25: The Plains’ rain, while limited in coverage and mostly confined to parts of Colorado, Kansas, and Nebraska, was highly beneficial for rangeland, pastures, and winter grains. In contrast, significant rain has not fallen in at least 5 weeks across western and central Oklahoma and parts of neighboring states. Consistent warmth accompanied the dry weather across southern portions of the Rockies and Plains, pushing weekly temperatures at least 10 to 15F above normal. In addition, early-week temperatures topped 95F in the Desert Southwest and on the Plains as far north as southwestern Oklahoma. Elsewhere, generally dry weather prevailed in the East. Much of the Northeast continued to recover from the previous week’s winter storm amid chilly conditions, while producers in the Southeast monitored fruits and other temperature-sensitive crops in the wake of a mid-March cold snap. Furthermore, freezes on March 20 and 23 as far south as North Carolina posed an additional threat to some mid-Atlantic fruit crops and ornamentals. Early-week heat was especially pronounced across the southwestern and south-central U.S. From March 13-21, Tucson, AZ, posted highs above the 90-degree mark on 9 consecutive days, with the temperature peaking at 94F on the 18th, 19th, and 20th. Elsewhere in Arizona, Phoenix notched three consecutive daily record highs (95, 96, and 96F) from March 18-20. Death Valley, CA, registered consecutive highs of 99F (on March 18 and 19), setting daily records on both dates. Farther east, Borger, TX, opened the week with consecutive daily-record highs (94 and 91F, respectively) on March 19-20. Similarly, Midland, TX, logged a trio of daily records (90, 94, and 96F) from March 19-21. Meanwhile, Pueblo, CO, tied a monthly record with a high of 86F on March 19. In Chanute, KS, consecutive daily-record highs (87F both days) were established on March 19-20. Daily-record highs for March 19 soared to 93F in Garden City, KS, and 91F in McCook, NE. On March 20, daily-record highs climbed to 92°F in Tulsa, OK, and Wichita Falls, TX. By March 21, daily-record heat moved into Southeastern locations such as Augusta, GA (91F); Charleston, SC (90F); and Fort Smith, AR (90F). On March 22, monthly record highs reached 90F in Apalachicola and Pensacola, FL. The previous record in both locations had been 88F—on March 17, 2015, in Apalachicola and on March 30, 1946, in Pensacola. Toward week’s end, warmth spread to other areas, including the Midwestern and Mid-Atlantic States. In Illinois, daily-record highs for March 24 reached 82F in Chicago and 81F in Moline. Atlantic City, NJ, collected a daily-record high of 81F on March 25.
26-31: Temperatures fell from the previous week’s record-setting levels in the south-central and southwestern U.S. Cold weather lingered in the Northeast, while periods of unusual warmth covered the South. Temperatures ranged from sub-zero values in parts of northern New England to some readings above 90F in the Desert Southwest. Elsewhere, showery weather largely bypassed a few regions, including Florida’s peninsula, portions of the northcentral U.S., and areas across the nation’s southern tier from southern California to the lower Rio Grande Valley. With temperatures for the most part staying in a narrow range, any daily-record highs were confined to the South. Galveston, TX, posted a daily-record high (80F) on March 26—and also set a monthly record 2 days later with a minimum temperature of 74F. Previously, Galveston had recorded a low of 73F in March on several occasions, most recently on March 31, 2012. Meanwhile, Southeastern daily record highs reached 88F in Charleston, SC, on March 28; Macon, GA, on March 29; and Alma, GA, on March 30.
Jim G. Munley, jr.
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