Weather! (Finally) welcoming Spring – with a tornado drill?

Spring began at 1:14 this morning, and today is Tornado Preparedness Day in Virginia. Are you ready for this morning’s tornado drill?

Spring began at 1:14 am this morning, as winter finally, ever so quietly, sneaks out the back door. When I think about a season trying to depart in the middle of the night, it makes me think about the Baltimore Colts football team, and how their owner packed up the team in a semi and moved it to Indianapolis overnight. We got a late-February snowstorm, a fleeting but unfulfilled promise to stick around for at least a few more weeks, and a phone call that never came before sneaking out in the middle of the night. The scars from winter’s departure may not last as long nor burn as deep as those Robert Irsay left in Baltimore, but I think the comparison is just.

Of course, this really isn’t how it works, but I couldn’t resist the opportunity to compare winter to the Irsay family.

We are starting spring with a bit of a bang, however. March 20 also marks Tornado Preparedness Day in Virginia. At 9:45 Tuesday morning, a special test tornado warning will be issued and EAS and NOAA Weather Radio will be activated as part of the 2012 statewide tornado drill. If your family or business has plans to participate in the drill, great! If not, pay attention to the test message, and think about what you would do in the event of a tornado. The Virginia Department of Emergency Management has some great tips on how to plan and stay safe during a tornado. Review them with your household and come up with a plan.

Last year, 51 tornadoes touched down in Virginia, causing 6 fatalities, dozens of injuries, and incredible amounts of damage across the state. No portion of the state was immune – tornadoes were confirmed on the Eastern Shore, the Middle Peninsula, the Richmond metro, the Shenandoah Valley, and even all the way down in the far southwestern portion of the state. This year we’ve already seen tornadoes confirmed in Lee and Mathews Counties. Tornadoes don’t discriminate based on where you live or who you are.

As I alluded to, spring is definitely here. Temperatures have been in the 70s and 80s for the last week, and have been above the climatological average for most of the month. Only four days this month have seen a high temperature lower than the average high temperature, and there have only been five days where the overall mean temperature (the average of the high and low temperature for a day) has been lower than or equal to the climatological mean.

Tuesday: The warm weather continues this week, thanks to an area of high pressure hanging out off the Atlantic coast. It’s not going anywhere, but it’s going to lose some of its influence as we move into the weekend. In the meantime, though, we’re going to stick with our current mild pattern. Highs will climb back into the mid 70s today as some fog burns off this morning, leaving partly cloudy skies in its wake. The first of several weak disturbances will slide through later this afternoon and evening, serving as the focal point for the chance of an isolated rain shower or thunderstorm through tonight. Fog returns overnight as temperatures dip into the mid 50s.

Wednesday: Lather, rinse, repeat, but without the tornado drill. Mid 70s for the high, mid 50s overnight with areas of fog. Chance for an isolated shower or thunderstorm in the afternoon and evening.

Thursday: A little bit more of the same. Mid 70s with isolated shower/thunderstorm chances in the second half of the day, fog developing overnight, low in the mid 50s.

The biggest concern for the weekend right now is going to be a dreaded cut-off upper level low meandering towards the Virginias Friday and into the weekend. Systems like this tend to keep weather unsettled for all involved, and a bit of a headache for forecasters. Right now I’m leaning toward some cooler temps this weekend, with highs likely back in the 60s and far more abundant showers – and some thunderstorms – across most of eastern Virginia. With any luck, we’ll see some improvement in the forecast before then. I will leave you this excerpt from a great writeup that the National Weather Service office in Sterling, VA has done about past notable events in DC winters, and caution you not to let down your guard for cooler temperatures just yet.

March 29, 1921: In Washington, an early spring abruptly ended when a cold front passed through. On March 28, it was 82° F at noon in Washington. The temperature fell to 26° F by the morning of the 29th: a fall of 56° F in less than 24 hours. In College Park, the temperature fell from 83° F to 25° F and reached a minimum of 20° F on the 30th. The warm temperatures early in the year caused an early bloom on the fruit trees in the state. The sudden downfall of temperatures in early April caused great damage to the crop for the year.

Thanks to Brian Crumpler for the link!

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Weather Dan

Dan Goff is now a two-time former Richmonder, having departed the River City yet again in favor of southwest Virginia, where he is working on degrees in geography and meteorology at Virginia Tech. Have a question about the weather or weather-related phenomena?

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