published Thursday, March 20th, 2014

Winter wasn't one for the record books in Chattanooga

Snow blanketed the ground all over the city on Jan. 28.
Snow blanketed the ground all over the city on Jan. 28.
Photo by Erin O. Smith.
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CHATTANOOGA WEATHER NUMBERS

Average temperature 1981-2010

Nov. 51.2 Dec. 42.7 Jan. 40.5 Feb. 44.4 March 52.1

Average temperature during winter of 2013-2014

Nov. 48 Dec. 44.9 Jan. 33.7 Feb. 43.8 March 50.6

Average winter snowfall between 1981-2010: 4.3 inches

Snowfall this winter: 8.4 inches

Source: National Weather Service, Morristown, Tenn.

The winter that seemed as if it would never end officially does today, the first day of spring.

While the winter broke records around the country -- Chicago had one of its coldest and drought-threatened California had its warmest ever -- Chattanooga's winter wasn't one for the record books.

The average temperature at Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport was 41.6 degrees from Dec. 21 through Wednesday and 8.4 inches of snow fell, according to Derek Eisentrout, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service's Morristown, Tenn., office.

"That's the 37th coldest since 1879," Eisentrout said.

Chattanooga's winter snowfall -- while twice the average over the past 30 years -- ranked just 28th in historical terms, he said.

A total of 1.2 inches fell in Chattanooga during the Jan. 28 storm that turned to ice on roads, paralyzing traffic here and around the Southeast -- most notably in Atlanta. That was followed by 7.2 inches of snowfall on the night of Feb. 12-13. The heavy snow weighed down tree branches that knocked out power for thousands of people, but melted quickly.

Average temperatures don't tell the whole story. Chattanooga's winter felt like a roller-coaster at times. For example, temperatures dipped to 5 degrees on Jan. 7 and Jan. 30 -- and soared to 64 degrees on Jan. 20.

"It was a very dynamic winter," Eisentrout said.

WRCB-TV Channel 3 Chief Meteorologist Paul Barys said, "Let me put it this way, it was a nasty winter."

January was about 7 degrees colder than average.

"It was a cold, cold winter," Barys said. "We're not used to it, because the last few [winters] were fairly mild."

Today is the first day of spring for the earth's northern hemisphere. The vernal equinox will occur at 12:57 p.m. Chattanooga time. That's the exact moment the sun shines directly on the equator. The length of the day and night is roughly the same today -- 12 hours -- all over the world. Equinox is a Latin word meaning "equal night."

While it's officially spring, the cold weather may not be over yet, Barys said, since a huge cold front is predicted to hit the Midwest and New England at the end of next week. The Chattanooga area won't feel the brunt of the cold, he said, but temperatures may dip below freezing.

"I would not plant your tomatoes yet," Barys said.

Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at tomarzu@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6651.

about Tim Omarzu...

Tim Omarzu covers Catoosa and Walker counties for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California. Stories he's covered include crime in blighted parts of metro Detroit and Reno, Nev.; environmental activists tree-sitting in California's Sierra Nevada foothills; attempts by the Michigan Militia to take over a township┬╣s government in northern Michigan. A native of Michigan, ...

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