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February 2021 National Weather Summary

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James Munley

Mar 17, 2021, 11:26:54 AM3/17/21
31-6: Generally light rain across the South. At week’s end, patchy precipitation fell from the northern and central Plains into the East. Late week temperatures plunged below -20°F from northeastern Montana. northern Minnesota. Sub-zero readings occurred across a much larger area, extending southward by February 6 into northeastern Kansas and northern Missouri. An earlier cool outbreak reached deep into the Southeast, resulting in the first freeze since January 18, 2018, in Florida locations such as Fort Pierce (29°F), Vero Beach (30°F), and Melbourne (31°F). Although some Florida producers employed protective measures, most sensitive crops— including citrus, strawberries, sugarcane, and vegetables—escaped the light freeze. Weekly temperatures averaged at least 10°F below normal in several Southeastern locations—but were at least 10°F above normal in scattered locations across the central and southern High Plains and the interior Northwest. Elsewhere, generally dry weather prevailed in early February from southern California to the southern Plains.

Cold air in advance of the Northeastern storm resulted in a daily record low (-15°F) for January 31 in Montpelier, VT. Meanwhile, warmth returned across the West and spread eastward. The first day of February featured daily record-tying highs in California locations such as Fresno (73°F) and Stockton (72°F). By February 2, daily record highs across the northern Plains included 62°F in Billings, MT, and 58°F in Dickinson, ND. Elsewhere on the 2nd, Naples, FL, reported a high temperature of just 60°F. On February 4, daily-record lows in Florida dipped to 29°F in Fort Pierce and 30°F in Vero Beach. In Fort Pierce and Vero Beach, temperatures had remained above 32°F on 1,112 consecutive days, from January 19, 2018 – February 3, 2021. In contrast, temperatures soared in Texas, where record-setting highs for February 4 soared to 93°F in Laredo and 92°F in Del Rio. A day earlier, on February 3, Southwestern warmth had resulted in daily-record highs in Midland, TX (83°F), and Nogales, AZ (78°F). Western warmth continued through week’s end, as Redding, CA (76°F on February 6), and Yakima, WA (61°F on February 5) logged daily-record highs. In the Midwest, however, daily-record lows were established by the morning of February 7 in Appleton, WI (-20°F), and Ottumwa, IA (-11°F).

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.

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. Weekly temperatures averaged 20 to 30°F below normal throughout the northern and central Plains and upper Midwest, with readings averaging 30 to 45°F below normal on the northern High Plains. Where winter wheat fields lacked a protective snow—an area encompassing northeastern Montana and parts of the western Dakotas—the extreme cold increased the threat of winterkill. Unprotected wheat on the central and southern Plains received varying amounts of snow starting on February 13, prior to the coldest weather. On February 15-16, the full force of the Arctic outbreak reached deep into the South, including the lower Rio Grande Valley, where hard freezes occurred. Potential damage to Texas’ freeze-sensitive crops, including citrus, sugarcane, and winter vegetables, is being assessed amid the ongoing cold spell. Elsewhere, a dangerously cold combination of low temperatures and gusty winds affected the northern Plains and upper Midwest, starting during the weekend of February 6-7. The protracted spell of frigid conditions increased livestock stress, as extreme minimum wind chill temperatures plunged below -50°F from Montana to northern Minnesota. More details on extreme events that occurred after February 13 will appear next week. Early in the week, frigid air continued to settle across the northern and central Plains and upper Midwest. Appleton, WI, notched a daily-record low of -20°F on February 7 and experienced sub-zero temperatures each day during the week. Elsewhere in Wisconsin, Merrill posted a daily-record low (-34°F) on February 9. In Minnesota, Hibbing collected daily-record lows (-34 and -39°F, respectively) on February 8 and 13. In fact, Hibbing reported a minimum temperature below -30°F each day from February 8-13. Meanwhile, extremely cold weather persisted in Montana, where locations such as Cut Bank (-38, -35, and -38°F) and Dunkirk (-34, -27, and -40°F) tallied a trio of daily-record lows from February 10- 12. For Dunkirk, it was the lowest reading since January 14, 2005, when it was also -40°F. From February 11-13, Miles City, MT, closed the week with three consecutive daily-record lows (-26, -31, and -28°F). Cold air also spilled into the Northwest, where Quillayute, WA, logged consecutive daily-record lows (23°F both days) on February 9-10. Record-setting lows for February 12 dipped to 15°F in Wenatchee, WA, and 19°F in The Dalles, OR. Whitman Mission, WA, collected consecutive daily-record lows (15°F both days) on February 12-13. In the north-central U.S., the week ended (on February 13) with daily-record lows in International Falls, MN (-42°F), and Bismarck, ND (-28°F). In contrast, consistent, record setting warmth prevailed across the lower Southeast. Alma, GA, tallied a daily record-tying high of 80°F on February 11. In Florida, daily-record highs soared to 88°F on February 13 in Melbourne and Vero Beach.

14-20: Producers continued to monitor freeze-affected southern crops, such as citrus and vegetables in Texas, as well as sugarcane in Texas and Louisiana. As the shocking blast of cold air across the nation’s mid-section persisted through a second week, weekly temperatures averaged at least 20 to 30°F below normal from the central and southern Plains to the middle and lower Mississippi Valley. In the southcentral U.S., the frigid, stormy weather profoundly affected agricultural interests, with extended power outages, water shortages, and travel difficulties in Texas and other parts of the central U.S. disrupting supply chains for meat and dairy products. Late-week temperatures began to rebound across the Plains, favoring cold wave recovery efforts such as infrastructural repairs. Only California and Florida’s peninsula, along with the Great Basin and Desert Southwest, fully escaped the cold weather. Weekly temperatures averaged as much as 5 to 10°F above normal in parts of southern Florida. The cold wave peaked on February 15-16 with temperatures plunging below -30°F in parts of Nebraska and to -10°F or below as far south as Oklahoma and Texas’ northern panhandle. Meanwhile, damaging freezes reached key winter agricultural production areas of Deep South Texas. Damage to Texas’ most sensitive crops, including citrus, sugarcane, and winter vegetables, was still being assessed. Much of Louisiana’s sugarcane production area experienced a prolonged period (from February 14-21) with nightly freezes. Across the Plains and mid-South, several all-time records were established. On February 16, for example, Hastings, NE, tied a low-temperature record (-30°F) originally set on January 12, 1912. Elsewhere on the 16th, the lowest-ever temperature occurred in Lawton, OK (-12°F), and Longview, TX (-5°F). February temperature records were shattered on the 16th in Lincoln, NE (-31°F; coldest day since January 12, 1974), and Chanute, KS (-22°F; coldest day since January 30, 1949. In Texas, February 16 lows of -8°F in Wichita Falls and -1°F in Waco matched or broke monthly records set on February 2, 1985. A day earlier in Kansas, February 15 lows of -24°F in Goodland and -21°F in Hill City set monthly records. From February 14-16, dozens of communities across the central and southern Plains and mid-South experienced their coldest weather since the historic cold outbreak of December 22-24, 1989. February 15 lows that matched that criterion (coldest since December 1989) included -33°F in Valentine, NE; -18°F in Russell, KS; and -7°F in Borger, TX. February 16 featured the lowest temperature since December 23, 1989, in locations such as St. Joseph, MO (-22°F); Jonesboro, AR (-2°F); Memphis, TN (1°F); and Galveston, TX (20°F). Elsewhere in Texas, temperatures during the worst cold outbreak in more than 30 years plunged to -4°F (on February 15 and 16) in Childress; -4°F (on February 16) in Abilene; -1°F on February 15 and 16) in San Angelo; and 0°F (on February 14 and 15) in Lubbock. With a low of -2°F on February 16, Dallas-Fort Worth, TX, endured its lowest reading since January 31, 1949 (also -2°F). In Louisiana, Shreveport’s low of 1°F on the 16th marked the lowest reading in that city since January 18, 1930. Oklahoma City, OK, dipped to -14°F on the 16th, representing that location’s coldest day since February 12, 1899 (-17°F). From February 14- 20, Wichita Falls, TX, logged seven consecutive daily-record lows (5, -6, -8, 6, 3, 2, and 16°F). The temperature in Abilene, TX, fell below 32°F early on February 9 and stayed there into the afternoon of February 19—a total of 252 hours—breaking the record of 202 hours set from December 15-26, 1983. In stark contrast, several daily-record highs were set in Florida. For example, Melbourne, FL, registered consecutive daily-record highs of 89°F on February 14-15.

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