Winter outlook: Average

Weather service predicts temperature, precipitation ahead

It’s predicted to be an average winter in Marietta, maybe a little warmer than usual, according to both the National Weather Service and the Old Farmers Almanac.

The NWS issued its annual national winter weather outlook Oct. 19 for December, January and February.

Andrew Beavers, a meteorologist for the NWS in Charleston, W.Va., cautioned that it’s not a detailed, specific forecast.

“For the most part, it’s long term probabilities,” he said.

“For West Virginia and Ohio, the temperature outlook for those three months is above average, with chances of that lessening as you move northwest,” he said. Conversely, areas southeast of the Mid Ohio River Valley will have better chances of warmer-than average temperatures, he said.

For precipitation, the entire area has about an equal chance of being slightly above or below normal, he said.

The Old Farmers Almanac bases its predictions largely on sunspot activity, on the theory that low activity on the sun’s surface tends to make for cooler winters. However, the almanac in recent years has taken into account the higher carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere and adjusted its temperature forecasts upward.

For last year, the almanac says, the sunspot activity would normally have foretold a colder than average winter, but it turned out to be above normal averages. The almanac predicts much the same thing this year, forecasting above average temperatures in most parts of the east but cooler than normal temperatures in the plains and the west because of a weak El Nino system developing.

Just west of Marietta, Tom Burch at Hidden Hills Farms said he doesn’t get concerned with long term weather predictions in winter. The farm, which includes apple and peach orchards, won’t see much activity until February, when pruning begins, he said.

“Whatever happens in December and January, we just don’t worry about,” Burch said. “Once they’ve gone dormant, they’re perfectly fine.”

What he does worry about is a severe cold snap after the trees are pruned.

“We’ve had problems in the past pruning in January and early February,” he said. “If you do it too soon and it gets cold, you can definitely injure the trees.”

The Ohio Department of Transportation District 10, which includes the Marietta area, has already held its staff winter readiness events, public information officer Ashley Rittenhouse said.

“It was day-long in each county, and during those events every piece of snowfighting equipment got a 150-point inspection, everything from the wipers down to the plow,” she said. “All our drivers, whether they’ve been here for two years or 20 years, have been through a snow and ice refresher course, reminding them what kind of materials to use on the road, taking care of the equipment and important safety reminders.”

District 10 includes Athens, Gallia, Hocking, Meigs, Monroe, Noble, Vinton and Washington counties, with more than 1,200 bridges and 4,000 lane-miles of state highway.

The agency’s salt barns are full, she said. In District 10, ODOT used 21,776 tons of salt last year. This year, she said, it got the salt for $51.97 a ton, 77 cents cheaper than last year, she said.

Rittenhouse reminded motorists to take it easy on snow and ice and watch for snow removal equipment, which is often going somewhat slower than average traffic speed. Plows sometimes intrude slightly into the oncoming traffic lane, she said.

As for long term weather predictions, she said, the highways department doesn’t take any chances.

“There are so many resources out there, and they often say something different. We just prepare for the worst,” she said.

Winter outlook, 2017-18

¯ Temperatures slightly above average.

¯ Precipitation normal.

¯ Normal average December temperatures in Marietta: High, 43; low, 26.

¯ January: High, 39; low, 26.

¯ February: High, 43; low, 24.

¯ Normal average December precipitation: 3.31 inches.

¯ January: 3.15 inches.

¯ February: 2.80 inches.

¯ Normal winter snowfall average: 19.4 inches.

Source: National Weather Service.