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Winter officially blows in today

December 22, 2003|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

Whether shoveling snow or scraping ice-covered windows, defining winter's wake weighs on snow and cold, weather experts say, but the blustery season officially blows onto the calendar today.

"This year is not going to be as cold or as snowy as last year," said Bernie Rayno, senior meteorologist with AccuWeather.

Typically, the Hagerstown area gets around 30 inches of snow over the course of winter, which extends from Dec. 22 through March 19 this year, he said.

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Last winter, according to local weather observer Greg Keefer's Web site, 10.58 inches of precipitation and 47.7 inches of snow or ice fell.

Since the start of fall this year on Sept. 21, the temperature in the Hagerstown area has been two-tenths of a degree below normal while precipitation has been 4.11 inches above normal, Rayno said.

Already this year, 7.5 inches of snow fell Dec. 5 and 6.8 inches of snow fell Dec. 14, he said.

"That's a lot for us," Rayno added.

He guessed that the Hagerstown area might see close to 40 inches of snow this winter, a 30-inch difference from what J. Gruber's Hagers-Town Town and Country Almanack predicts for a similar season.

The almanack, which nuzzles its winter between Dec. 2 and March 26, predicts that the Hagerstown area will get 70 inches of snow, most of it falling in January. This year the almanack predicted snow or rain for Feb. 13 to 15, an overlap of the three-day period that Hagerstown saw 23 inches of snow fall.

The last time Hagerstown got that much snow was Jan. 7 and 8, 1996, when a record 35 inches fell, according to Keefer's Web site.

The almanack predicts during its 116-day winter that there will be 95 cold days, or days colder than 45 degrees, 58 wet days and 20 cyclonic storms.

Storms are predicted to occur on Chinese New Year, Valentine's Day and President's Day. The area will be free from storms New Year's Day and Jan. 2, 3, 6, 10, 13, 18, 19, 20, 24, 25, 26 and 27, according to the almanack.

Feb. 5 ,6, 10, 11, 14, 15, 16, 19, 20, 23, 24, 25 and 26 will see storms, according to the almanack.

"We're off to a snowy start, but often the weather doesn't wait for the calendar," Rayno said.

Last year, he said, for example, November and December were snowy months, but in January, the area was dry.

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