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Atlantic Ocean saved Hagerstown from epic winter storm

Meteorologist says winds off the coast and up from the south pumped milder air into Tri-State area

February 02, 2011|By DAVE McMILLION | davem@herald-mail.com

Roofs collapsed in Connecticut, part of an airport hangar caved in near Boston, and people climbed onto roofs in Massachusetts to shovel about a foot of heavy snow off structures to prevent further damage from a winter storm this week that was one for the ages.

In the Philadelphia region, icy conditions knocked out power to more than 260,000 customers, and in Chicago, hundreds of people were trapped in cars on Lake Shore Drive for as long as 12 hours during one of the worst winter storms in the city's history that left snow piled up to windshields.

The epic winter storm carved a frigid, 2000-mile path across the United States. So how was Hagerstown able to avoid it?

Chalk it up to the Atlantic Ocean, said Kevin Witt, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sterling, Va.

While people feared for their lives in other parts of the nation Tuesday and Wednesday, winds coming off the Atlantic coast and up from the south pumped in milder air and kept the "chaos" out of the Tri-State area, Witt said Wednesday night.

Witt said it is not unusual for the region to be spared from such weather systems because a La Nina effect was forecast for this winter, Witt said.

A La Nina is a weather condition that results in warmer winter temperatures in the Southeast, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

National Weather Service officials initially predicted that  the Hagerstown area might end up with a half inch of ice Wednesday if a cold arctic high pressure system drove down temperatures.

It turned out that warmer than expected temperatures spared the area from significant ice accumulations.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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