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Martinsville, Virginia 24115
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Spring finally is here
But don’t put the shovel away yet
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A Martinsville street sign bodes well for the weather.
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Thursday, March 20, 2014

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

Spring officially arrives at 12:57 p.m. today, but don’t shout for joy yet.

Wintry conditions that brought about 21?2 feet of snow to Henry County and Martinsville in the past several months may not be over.

“The potential is there for the next couple of weeks to stay cooler than normal,” which could result in more frozen precipitation, said Will Perry, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Blacksburg.

And that precipitation likely would be snow, he said.

That’s right. More snow.

Patterns in the “jet stream” — upper level winds — are having a hard time restricting the flow of cold air over Canada southward, according to Perry.

Another shot of arctic air combined with another influx of moisture from the Gulf of Mexico is expected around next Tuesday, he said.

It is too early for forecasters to ascertain how much precipitation, or what type, the area will receive, he added.

The weather service’s Climate Prediction Center has indicated that April will be cooler than normal in the region “but not frigidly cold,” Perry said.

As sunlight gets stronger, he said, “we’re losing our edge on (the potential for) freezing rain and sleet,” but it is possible to receive snow in April.

Martinsville has received a total of 30.1 inches of snow this winter, based on amounts collected at the city water filtration plant. The regional average is 6-7 inches, Perry said.

Whenever moisture came to the area this winter, cold air has been in place to turn much of it into frozen precipitation, he said.

Although this winter’s snow has been considerable, it has not been record-breaking. Snowfall during the winter of 2009-10 was heavier locally, Perry said, but he was unable to recall the exact total. The record for the Martinsville area was 35.6 inches in 1996, weather service data shows.

About 14 inches of this winter’s snow occurred during one bout in mid-February.

Such snowstorms are neither common nor uncommon in the area, happening “at least one or twice in a decade,” Perry said.

Furthermore, he said, “all you need is one strong storm system to form in the Gulf of Mexico” to greatly increase any winter’s snow total.

Perry and Melanie Barrow, Virginia Cooperative Extension’s local horticulture agent, both indicated that this winter’s snow may have seemed more extreme than it actually was because the past couple of winters have been relatively mild, and while people remember big snows from the past, they tend not to remember exactly how much fell and when.

High temperatures are forecast to reach the low 60s today and the low 70s on Friday and Saturday before falling back into the 40s and 50s next week.

Weather service records show freezing temperatures, at 32 degrees and below, can occur in the Martinsville area in mid- to late April.

As a result, Barrow urges people to wait until after that point to plant vegetables that grow better in warm soil, such as tomatoes and peppers.

So-called “cold crops” that like cooler soil temperatures, such as cabbages, carrots and cauliflowers, can be planted now, she said.

Grass seed also can be planted — just go easy on the fertilizer at this time of the year, she advised.

Overall, the success of crops planted this year will depend on having enough moisture along with temperatures that are not too hot, according to Barrow.

As of Wednesday, 7 to 8 inches of rain had fallen across the area so far this year, weather service and Martinsville water plant data showed. The normal amount, according to the weather service, is about 81?2 inches.

Indications are that temperatures this spring will be at or below normal levels while precipitation will be at or above normal, Perry said.

As the weather gets warmer, the potential for severe storms, such as damaging thunderstorms and tornadoes, increases. So does the risk of allergies due to pollens and mold.

Severe storms can happen at any time of the year but in southern Virginia, they are more likely to occur from late April through June, said Perry.

AccuWeather, a private meteorological service, stated on its website that weather conditions in the eastern United States are allowing tree pollen and mold spores to be “especially prolific.”

This year’s peak for spring allergies in southern Virginia is expected to be April 9, AccuWeather reported.


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