White Winter? Each year raises questions about snowfall and ice

Published 5:54 pm Thursday, December 20, 2018

It’s winter. Nobody knows if it will be a mild winter or a much worse three months.

Plan, plan for the worst. Hope for the best. Mild winter weather one week could give way to extremely harsh winter weather the next week.

“Despite our location near the ocean, eastern North Carolina frequently has bouts of severe winter weather and cold. One such bout occurred in January 2018. A pro-longed period of Arctic air led to record-breaking low temperatures, with readings as cold as –2 degrees in Washington and –1 in Greenville,” said Chris Collins, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Newport. “Two significant snow events occurred during the first 18 days of January 2018, with each event producing up to eight to 10 inches of snow, accompanied by strong winds and bitter cold.”

Collins continued: “These type of winter events produce very hazardous conditions across eastern North Carolina. Before a winter storm strikes, you should make sure your home, office and vehicles have the supplies you need. Roads often become very treacherous and secondary roads are often untreated immediately after a storm. Always carefully plan your travel and check the latest weather reports. Make sure to winterize your vehicle.”

Last winter, the season started out rather mild with above-normal temperatures through late December. Then a dip in the jet stream over the eastern United States allowed much colder air to spread south into the region. With cold air in place, the area experienced a significant winter storm Jan. 3 through Jan. 4. As deepening low pressure approached from the south, widespread rain mixed with sleet and snow began early Jan. 3 and gradually changed to all snow before ending early on January 4th.

The heaviest snow fell inland and over northern areas, but even the coast had measurable snow. Because of very cold air in wake of the storm many roads remained snow and ice covered for days leading to major travel difficulties.

Following this snow, a record-breaking duration of extreme cold developed over the area with many spots remaining below freezing for several days. During the mornings of Jan. 6 and Jan. 7 extreme low temperatures were observed over the region with Greenville reaching 1 degree below zero, Washington 2 degrees below and Williamston 3 degrees below zero. The duration of the cold air led to many coastal sounds and rivers freezing over.

The winter conditions quickly departed in February with much above normal temperatures observed over the area. In March, a minor winter event occurred March 12-13th as low pressure moved offshore of the coast. Snowfall ranged from a trace to around 1 inch in spots, however impacts were minor as ground temperatures were above freezing.


About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

email author More by Mike