Thursday is Winter Weather Awareness Day in Nebraska.
After last winter’s weather, the best preparedness advice could be “anything can happen.” That catchphrase is from the National Weather Service in Hastings as it has a slew of useful information on its website — www.weather.gov — to help prepare for winter’s onslaught.
“The NWS does our best to forecast the weather, water and climate impacts for the area, but the winter of 2018-19 showed us all how extreme and unprecedented those impacts can be,” the weather service says on its fact-packed winter-preparedness page. “We will continue to deal with last winter’s onslaught for years to come. That’s why it’s a good time to take stock of the hazards of winter, plan ahead to mitigate those hazards, and make all Nebraskans as ‘weather-ready’ as we can be.”
Last winter, Grand Island received 35.3 inches of snow, compared to the average annual snowfall for the previous 20 years of 26.5 inches. Last winter’s weather problems can be focused on February and March.
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February through mid-March was extremely cold. The average daily temperature during February was about 10 degrees lower than the 30-year average. For nearly the first two weeks of March, that cold weather continued as the daily temperatures averaged out 25 degrees below the 30-year average. The snowfall for February and March was 18 inches — about half of that winter’s total snow.
In and of itself, the cold and snow were not that much of a deviation when you consider the more than 120 years of weather records for Grand Island. The weather anomaly that did occur, though, was March 13 when the temperature climbed to 62 degrees — 20 degrees above the daily norm for that time of year. Also, nearly 2 inches of rain was fell from March 13 to March 14.
With the ground frozen from the cold weather and not able to absorb the combination of melting snow and rainfall, area creeks and streams became the recipient of all that water. That caused widespread flooding. Top it off with the cold, snowy and blizzardy weather of the previous months, and the toll on both the crop and livestock industry was tremendous. Many of the state’s producers are still coping with a myriad of problems the freakish weather caused.
In areas of the Sandhills and the Panhandle, where there is a considerable cow/calf industry, the NWS said, there were areas that received more than 60 inches of snow. Other areas, such as Omaha and Lincoln, received double their average snowfall last winter.
The current winter outlook by the Climate Prediction Center (CPC) favors above-normal precipitation with a tendency of near to above-average temperatures across portions of the state for December through February. But this year’s winter outlook is based on models, and as last winter proves, all it takes is an odd winter weather occurrence and its impact can be felt for months and years to come.
At least through Veterans Day, winter nearness will not have a significant impact on the local weather.
After Tuesday’s chance of rain, Wednesday will have a high of 43, with winds from the north to northwest at 15 to 20 mph and gusts as high as 25 mph. It will remain windy Wednesday, night with a low of 18.
Thursday will be sunny but cold, with a high near 35 and a low of about 22. Friday warms up with a high near 52 and a low of about 30. Saturday’s even better, with a high of 62 and a low of 26. There is a 20% chance of snow on Sunday, with a high of 36 and a low of 16. Veterans Day’s high on Monday will be near 33.