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Local News

February 4, 2014

January weather was a story of big ups and downs

(Continued)

Most New Englanders think of February as the month for big snowstorms. It can be. Our average snowfall for February is about a foot. However, we had 44 inches in 1994. In contrast, there was no snow here at Salem during February 1984.

In February, conditions often become ideal for our infamous nor’easters to develop. This happens when decidedly strong cold, dry air masses to our north slide southeastward toward New England at the same time that warm, moisture-laden air masses to our south move northward. It is when they meet precisely in the right place, under the right conditions, that strong coastal storms can develop explosively.

Of course, most of us remember the infamous Blizzard of 1978. This storm brought the whole state to a standstill traffic-wise. It was not only the blizzard snow conditions of that memorable storm that paralyzed us. The near hurricane-force winds were incessant and of long duration. There was a series of many extreme astronomical high tides that resulted in catastrophic coastal damage from the pounding surf.

As recently as 2003, we had the remarkable two-day Presidents Day storm. This storm gave us 21 inches. The total snow for that month was 38.3 inches.

Looking at the bright side, we may not have any severe storms this month. Only the passing of time will reveal what is in store for us this year.

Arthur A. Francis is a Salem meteorologist.

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