Warm winter: Snow totals lag behind average; temperature spikes continue

Sign up for one of our email newsletters.Updated 2 hours ago If you think it seems warmer than usual this winter with less snow to shovel, your instincts are correct, according to the National Weather Service in Pittsburgh. Even with this week's snowstorm,...

Warm winter: Snow totals lag behind average; temperature spikes continue

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Updated 2 hours ago

If you think it seems warmer than usual this winter with less snow to shovel, your instincts are correct, according to the National Weather Service in Pittsburgh.

Even with this week's snowstorm, the region has recorded 21.1 inches of snow since October — a 5.1-inch deficit from the normal 26 inches expected by Feb. 10, said John Darnley, a NWS meteorologist in the Moon Township office.

But the region is about 1.5 inches ahead of last winter, when 19.6 inches of snow fell as of Feb. 10, 2016.

Normal total winter snowfall for the region is 41.4 inches.

Even though the Laurel Highlands — with elevations topping 2,400 feet — receives more snow, Darnley said it is likely those heavier-snow regions also are experiencing similar snowfall deficits.

Chalk Hill, atop the Laurel Summit east of Uniontown, has been a good barometer of snowfall in the mountains. Before this week's snowfall, Chalk Hill had 17.7 inches, about normal, but significantly lower than its highest recorded accumulation as of Feb. 7 — 27.3 inches in the winter of 1985-86, according to data from the Northeast Regional Climate Center at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y.

Before this week's snowstorm, New Stanton had 16.2 inches, or about 5 inches above its typical snowfall accumulation as of Feb. 8.

Seven Springs Mountain Resort received about 68 inches of snow this year and typically gets about 135 inches of snow in a winter, according to Katie Buchan, a spokeswoman for the resort. Last winter, Seven Springs got about 86 inches of snow, she said.

While there has been less snowfall this season, local PennDOT crews have responded to as many “snow events” — including icy conditions and a light dusting of snow — as in previous winters, said Valerie Petersen, spokeswoman for PennDOT District 12 in Uniontown, which covers Fayette and Westmoreland counties.

“We have to put down the salt and anti-skid materials and pre-treat the roads” even if there is not enough snow to plow, Petersen said.

The amounts of salt and deicing materials used this winter are about the same as in previous years, she said.

Petersen said she didn't want to speculate whether PennDOT would have salt and deicing materials left over at the end of winter.

“It's way too early to say,” she said.The spikes in temperature that Western Pennsylvania has been experiencing — lows in single digits and highs in the 50s, as expected this weekend — is a result of how storm systems have blown through the region, Darnley said. Strong warm air has been followed by a storm front with cold air behind it.

Temperatures have spiked more often, however. Seven times this winter Western Pennsylvania has felt unusually warm breezes, but only twice has it been blasted by extreme cold, Darnley said.

Darnley said the warm winter is largely the result of warmer air being pulled north from the Gulf of Mexico instead of arctic air blowing across Western Pennsylvania.

Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-5252 or jnapsha@tribweb.com.

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