February 2021 National Storm Summary

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James Munley

Mar 17, 2021, 11:27:35 AM3/17/21
31-6: A slow-moving coastal storm delivered heavy precipitation in parts of the Northeast on January 31 – February 1, with impacts (windy weather and snow showers) lingering for several days. Later, the focus for stormy weather briefly returned to the western U.S., although significant precipitation was confined to the Northwest. By February 4, wintry weather shifted into the upper Midwest.

Early in the week, snow blanketed parts of the Northeast. On the last day of January, daily-record snowfall totals included 3.8 inches in Baltimore, MD, and 3.0 inches in Philadelphia, PA. Farther south, record-setting rainfall totals in South Carolina for January 31 included 1.57 inches in North Myrtle Beach and 1.12 inches in Charleston. Northeastern snow intensified on February 1, when daily-record amounts totaled 22.4 inches in Allentown, PA; 15.1 inches in Newark, NJ; 14.8 inches in New York’s Central Park; and 11.7 inches in Hartford, CT. Although not a record for the date, Worcester, MA, received 13.8 inches of snow on February 1. Windy weather and snow showers lingered across the Northeast into midweek, although additional accumulations were generally light. From January 31 – February 3, storm-total snowfall reached 27.3 inches in Allentown, 18.2 inches in Newark, 17.4 inches in Central Park, and 12.1 inches in Hartford. Meanwhile, periods of precipitation continued to move ashore along the northern Pacific Coast. Hoquiam, WA, netted a daily-record total of 2.24 inches on January 31, boosting its monthly sum to 17.27 inches (167 percent of normal). On February 4, blizzard conditions developed across parts of the upper Midwest. February 4 snowfall totals greater than 5 inches were accompanied by peak wind gusts to 40 mph or higher in La Crosse, WI (5.8 inches and 40 mph), and Dubuque, IA (5.2 inches and 44 mph). In Wisconsin, daily-record snowfall amounts for February 4 reached 10.4 inches in Rhinelander and 8.0 inches in Antigo. Late in the week, the focus for snowfall shifted to the northern Rockies and portions of the northern and central Plains. On February 5-6, Billings, MT, reported consecutive daily records for snowfall (5.2 and 6.7 inches, respectively) and precipitation (0.31 and 0.37 inch). Snow fell in Nebraska and environs on February 6, when daily-record amounts included 8.5 inches in North Platte, 5.5 inches in Lincoln, and 4.4 inches in Grand Island. February 6-7 weekend totals reached 11.6 inches in North Platte, 9.6 inches in Lincoln, and 9.3 inches in Grand Island.

7-13: An intensifying cold regime overtook the country, except across the lower Southeast and from California to the western slopes of the central and southern Rockies. Amid the worsening cold wave, widespread but generally light precipitation fell in most areas of the country. Some of the highest totals (1 to 4 inches) fell in the Southeast, with some snow falling along the northern edge of the precipitation shield. Significant snow also blanketed Nebraska and environs. Late in the week, increasingly stormy weather arrived in the West. In the Northwest, moisture overrunning a shallow layer of cold air led to substantial accumulations of snow, sleet, and freezing rain, with impacts in many rural communities and cities such as Boise, Portland, and Seattle. Showers spread as far south as California and briefly dotted the Southwest. Elsewhere, generally dry conditions stretched across the nation’s northern tier, while wintry weather began to arrive on February 13 across the south-central U.S.—with the bulk of the snow, sleet, and freezing rain falling on February 14-15.

As the week began, snow blanketed portions of the northern and central Plains. In Nebraska, daily-record snowfall totals for February 7 reached 4.9 inches in Grand Island and 4.1 inches in Lincoln. Following a record-snowy January (18.9 inches), Lincoln received 13.8 inches during the first 13 days of February. Moline, IL, received 6.6 inches of snow during the week and has had a continuous snow cover for 46 days (December 30 – February 13), still well short of the all-time record of 78 days set from December 29, 1978 – March 16, 1979. Some of the Midwestern snow later reached the East, where Pittsburgh, PA, received a daily-record snowfall (3.4 inches) on February 9. Richmond, VA, received 2.6 inches of snow on February 11-12. Meanwhile, locally heavy showers swept across the Southeast, where New Orleans, LA, collected a daily-record sum (2.12 inches) for February 11. Late in the week, a significant winter storm arrived in the Northwest, while some additional snow fell in Nebraska and environs. On February 12, Scottsbluff, NE, measured 7.2 inches of snow, a record for the date. Farther west, February 11-14 snowfall totaled 12.4 inches in Seattle, WA; 10.9 inches in Boise, ID; and 9.6 inches in Portland, OR.

14-20: Back-to-back storms interacting with an Arctic blast led to extensive snow and ice accumulations in the Northwest and from the southern Plains into the mid-South and lower Midwest. Precipitation also fell in the East, with snow, sleet, and freezing rain noted in the middle and northern Atlantic States. Storm- and cold-related issues, such as power outages and travel disruptions, plagued the northwestern and south-central U.S. Cascading impacts later included shortages of potable water, most notably in Texas. Cattle producers fought through snow, bitter cold, and feed and water shortages to save animals, while some dairy and poultry operations contended with lack of power and heat. Bitterly cold weather also covered the northern Plains and upper Midwest, although less snow and more familiarity with harsh conditions led to overall fewer agricultural impacts.

Abilene, TX, set a station record with a 14.8-inch snowfall on February 14. The previous record for any day had been 9.3 inches on April 5, 1996; Abilene’s snowiest February day had been 8.0 inches on February 12, 1890. Similarly, San Angelo, TX, set records for snowiest day and snowiest February day (10.1 inches on February 14; previously; 10.0 inches on January 16, 1919, and 8.0 inches on February 24, 1924). The storm responsible for the first round of Texas snow had initially hit the Northwest and was closely followed by another system. The 8- day period from February 11-18 featured 1 to 2 feet of snow in locations such as Little Rock, AR (20.3 inches); Pendleton, OR (19.7 inches); Flint, MI (16.5 inches); Toledo, OH (16.1 inches); Salt Lake City, UT (14.3 inches); Fort Wayne, IN (13.2 inches); Chicago, IL (12.8 inches); Seattle, WA (12.4 inches); and Amarillo, TX (12.4 inches). The 17th was the snowiest February day on record in Salt Lake City, where 11.7 inches fell (previously, 10.9 inches on February 1, 1989). Meanwhile in Arkansas, February 17 featured 11.8 inches of snow in Little Rock and 9.1 inches in Pine Bluff. On February 15, the earlier storm had dumped at least one-half foot of snow in Fort Wayne, IN (10.1 inches); Toledo, OH (8.0 inches); and Detroit, MI (7.2 inches). In the mid-South, twostorm total snowfall included 10.0 inches in Memphis, TN; 8.3 inches in Louisville, KY; and 6.3 inches in Shreveport, LA. In Texas, February 11-18 snowfall reached 6.5 inches in Austin, 6.2 inches in San Antonio, 5.0 inches in Dallas-Fort Worth, and 4.6 inches in Waco. In Jackson, MS, where 1.9 inches of snow fell on February 14-15, a monthly snow-depth record of 2 inches was tied on the 15th and 16th. The last time Jackson had a 2-inch depth at daybreak in February was February 13, 2010. According to the National Weather Service, snow covered more than 70 percent of the Lower 48 States each morning from February 15-19, with coverage peaking at 73.2 percent on the 16th. Elsewhere, periodic heavy showers (and severe thunderstorms) dotted the Southeast. Late on February 15, a deadly tornado swept across Brunswick County, NC, killing three people. Daily-record rainfall totals topped 2 inches in several locations, including Fort Myers, FL (2.15 inches on February 14); Meridian, MS (2.21 inches on February 17); and Florence, SC (2.39 inches on February 18).
21-27: Late in the week, heavy showers erupted across the mid South, where record-setting amounts for February 26 totaled 2.06 inches in Pine Bluff, AR, and 2.05 inches in Greenwood, MS. In fact, Pine Bluff received 4.49 inches during the last 4 days of February. Meanwhile in Kentucky, February 26-28 rainfall totaled 6.32 inches in London, 6.00 inches in Bowling Green, and 5.04 inches in Jackson. More details on the Southern downpours, which peaked on February 28, as well as subsequent flooding, will appear next week.

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