By ARTHUR A. FRANCIS
---- — SALEM — Winter became much more established this February. After a few years with a decided absence of snow, we were rather overwhelmed to experience the blizzard conditions of the 8th and 9th. This nor’easter gave us 25 inches of snow here in Salem. Additionally, the persistent, howling northeast winds, gusting up to 53 miles per hour, swept the snow into drifts 3 to 4 feet high.
Other snow events occurred on 10 days, but were of light intensity, except for the 17th. On that day, only 4 inches of snow was observed here, but there were damaging winds that gusted up to 56 miles per hour, the highest for the month.
During our period of observations from 1977 to the present, this February was the third snowiest and fourth wettest for Salem. The February precipitation was far above normal, by nearly 4 inches, with a total of 7.29 inches. The water content of the snow during the blizzard alone was 3.35 inches.
This year our February temperatures were slightly below normal and ranged from a high of 49 degrees on the 15th to a low of 7 degrees on the 10th.
Now March is here. What can we expect, weatherwise? March is a transition month, and we know temperatures will become warmer, since the sun is climbing higher into the sky. On March 20th at 7:02 a.m., we will experience the vernal equinox, the first day of spring. Finally, our daylight hours are getting longer. Any snow that does fall will melt away much faster. But winter is not over and we still can have more snow.
Our daytime high temperatures are normally found in the 40s early in the month, while early morning readings drop into the mid-30s. By month’s end, the daytime highs climb into upper 40s and readings by dawn will be in the mid-30s.
During the past 30 years, our highest March temperature here in Salem was a summer-like 92 degrees in 1998. Our lowest reading was a bone-chilling 1 degree above zero in 1978.
We have had some truly dramatic March snowstorms. During our 30-year period of records, we had four significant snowstorms in 1993 with wind gusts as high as 71 miles per hour. The total snowfall for the month of March that year was an impressive 51.5 inches. On the other hand, during the months of March 1979, 1983, and 1992, we had no snow whatsoever.
Arthur A. Francis is a Salem meteorologist.
SALEM FEBRUARY FACTS
High 49 degrees
Low 7 degrees
Average 30 degrees
Peak gust 56 mph on the 17th