Chad Merrill

Chad Merrill

Happy February, Western Maryland and the Potomac Highlands! After a sputtering start in January, Mother Nature finally dished out a bit of wintery weather.

Now you might be wondering if winter has more tricks up its sleeves in February. Let’s spell out the factors at play for the month and key in on the dates we expect winter to live up to its name in the Potomac Highlands.

Indeed, as mentioned in my column last month, a stratospheric warming event disrupted the polar vortex and triggered cold outbreaks and snow across Asia and Europe.

As you read this column late in January, winter has made a comeback across the Potomac Highlands but the bitter cold weather has remained lodged into Europe and Asia.

The implications of the stratospheric warming event and disrupted polar vortex will bring occasional three- to four-day periods of below-average temperatures to the Potomac Highlands.

No sustained cold weather will inflate heating bills this month but do expect more of a roller coaster ride in temperatures compared to January as the jet stream winds fluctuate on occasion.

Therefore, temperatures will likely end up near to slightly above average. The coldest weather of the month will occur in short time intervals between Feb. 5-9, Feb. 15-18 and Feb. 25-28. I do not see dangerous wind chills occurring in the Potomac Highlands. Also, the weather pattern will be a far cry from reaching into record low territory.

Record minimum temperatures in February for Cumberland include readings as low as minus 1 to minus 3 degrees in downtown Cumberland and 26 degrees below zero in Garrett County.

Following the late January attempt at winter’s return, we’ll careen into the first week of February with two storms. Both systems promise a wintry mix of snow, sleet, freezing rain and rain, with the heaviest snow accumulation likely to occur north of the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

We look to catch a break from the cold and stormy skies just before Valentine’s Day and could even have a few rain showers around that time.

Another cold blast will follow a day or so after Presidents Day and we’ll likely see two more winter storms during the month; around the 20th and again to close out February. The pattern won’t allow for a crippling snow but a few inches are expected with sleet and freezing rain likely mixing in at times. The pressure differences in the wake of each storm will stir up the winds and brief gusty periods are expected.

In February, Cumberland averages 8 inches of snow while Frostburg typically sees about 20 inches and Garrett County piles up 26 to 36 inches, with the highest amount in that range occurring on the western slopes of the Alleghenies. The 30-year February snowfall averages will come to fruition this year.

So, for the month of February, I see Cumberland getting a grand total of 6 to 9 inches, Frostburg ending up with 10 to 15 inches and Garrett County shoveling away about 22 inches of snow.

Precipitation for the month (melted down snow and ice, plus rain) will be near the average of 2.37 inches for Cumberland and 3.10 inches for Garrett County.

The negative Pacific-North American Oscillation and positive Eastern Pacific Oscillation won’t work in tandem to produce a Nor’easter that develops along the Gulf Coast and sweeps up Interstate 95 with crippling snow in the Potomac Highlands. Instead, a progressive jet stream will keep systems on the move and limit a potent, slow-moving winter storm scenario in the region.

Please feel free to reach out if you have any weather questions and if you would like to order a copy of the 2021 Hagerstown Town and Country Almanack! Have a safe and healthy February and stay warm!

Chad Merrill is a Cumberland native and meteorologist who serves as the Hagerstown Town and Country Almanack weather prognosticator and senior meteorologist at Earth Networks in Germantown. Merrill previously was a meteorologist with WDVM (formerly known as NBC25) in Hagerstown and WJAC-TV in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Merrill can be reached at 240-285-8476 or by email at cmweather24@gmail.com.

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