Newcomerstown and the surrounding region has weathered two major snowstorms and frigid cold with in the past two weeks, with temperatures dipping below zero and wind chill reaching negative double digits.
Local weather expert Don Keating said the weather wasn’t necessarily a surprise.
"As early as January 22, there were long range weather forecast models predicting a massive outbreak of the coldest air of the 2018-2019 winter season," Keating said. "One weather model even had a low of -25°F predicted for Mansfield, Ohio. Well, forecast models that far in advance should be taken with a grain of salt, especially forecasts for precipitation.
Keating said that on Jan. 29, there was a daytime high of 40°F in Newcomerstown at his personal weather station.
"That was in advance of the brutal cold front about to pass through the state of Ohio," he said. "Temperatures fell steadily from midnight to midnight on Jan. 29."
But the coldest weather was yet to come.
During the early morning hours of Jan. 30, a reinforcing blast of Arctic air pushed through Ohio dropping a fresh coating of snow and introducing windy conditions ushering in the Arctic air mass, Keating said.
"The high temperature for Jan. 30 was at midnight at 15°F and by midnight, 24 hours later, the mercury had dipped to -4°F. On Jan. 30 the daytime high reading was 0°F at 9:49 a.m. By midnight the temperature had dropped to that -4°F reading. Wind chill at my Newcomerstown station dropped to -21°F but some locations in Ohio, in particular a small town called Wauseon, Ohio in the far northwest corner had wind chills to nearly -40°F."
Keating said the term "historic cold" was often used to announce the pending lows on the thermometer.
"But was it really ‘historic cold’ that moved into Ohio for a brief period, or just another cold spell during the winter?" Keating asked.
Keating offered some figures in Newcomerstown in January from 2014 through 2019.
The coldest reading was on January 29, 2014 when the mercury dipped to -17°F. In January 2016 and 2017 the coldest temperature in Newcomerstown was 3°F above zero. During January of 2014 the mercury dipped to at least zero or colder during eight days. In 2014 17.5" of snow fell, followed by 16.4" in 2019.
"As you can see, the recent ‘historic cold, spell certainly wasn't all it was advertised to be," Keating said." With nearly two full months of winter remaining one has to wonder what Mother Nature has up her sleeve next."
Two weeks earlier, on Sunday, Jan. 13, a major low pressure system battered the western coast of the United States producing heavy rains, very heavy snow in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and wind gusts of over 100 mph. The Sierra Nevada Mountains received over five feet of snow, 60 inches. Keating said the weather forecast models were "all over the board as to what was going to happen with this storm, but one thing was for certain, it was expected to affect the area in one form or another.
"By Tuesday, Jan. 15, weather computer models were putting out forecasts of over 20 inches of snow for portions of Ohio. A few even placed the estimate at 30 inches! With this information flowing freely, social media get into the act with several ‘amateur’ weather pages on Facebook putting out their own snowfall forecasts. Not a good idea as it turned out."
Keating said that eventually the low pressure re-developed over the eastern slopes of the Rockies in Colorado because as it crossed the mountains, it was weakened considerably, it dove southeastward towards the Oklahoma and Texas Panhandle, then moved northeastward towards the middle Ohio Valley.
On Saturday morning, Jan. 19, sleet began to fall in Newcomerstown at about 11:30 a.m. It quickly turned to rain and remained rain until around 11:30 p.m. Saturday night as the low pressure system moved northeast of Ohio and pulled a cold front through the Newcomerstown area. Rain soon changed to snow and by noon on Sunday, Jan. 2, six inches of the white fluffy stuff had accumulated with a good bit of blowing and drifting snow.
"Total liquid for the event was 1.21"," Keating said. "Had that all been snow we would have been digging out from at least 12 inches of snow. School was closed, wisely I might add, on Monday and Tuesday and placed on a two hour delay Wednesday.
"I've always told folks and apparently the ‘fear factor’ has more of an impact, but never ever trust a forecast of snowfall accumulation more than 36 hours in advance. As witnessed with this most recent major storm, nature has a way of changing its mind on the drop of a dime."
For current weather information and forecasts tune into Ohio Weather on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/OhioWeather/