February will be remembered for the heaviest single snowfall event in North Texas weather history. The snow that occurred February 11-12 reached 12.5 inches at DFW Airport and nearly 9 inches in much of Denton County. The snow began about 4:00 a.m. Thursday, February 11th, and continued for 24 hours through early Friday the 12th.
So far this winter, DFW has had over 15 inches of snow and is within 2 inches of the all-time snowfall record of 17.5 inches that occurred in the winter of 1977/78.
The most common winter weather from an El Nino is cloudy, dreary, gray weather with frequent rains and cool temperatures, but there’s always the risk of a heavy snow. The southwest-to-northeast flow of moisture from the Pacific often brings mild, moist weather into Texas. But if there’s already a Canadian air mass in place, the moisture from an El Nino winter can turn into heavy snow. In our case, it became the “perfect storm.” Cold air was in place, moisture arrived from the Pacific and the final factor was an upper air disturbance that lifted the moisture to its condensation point.
Fortunately, the air mass was cold enough that we had a rapid changeover from rain to snow without a lot of ice, although ice was an occasional problem. The worst-case scenario would be a collision of bitter Arctic cold with Gulf moisture and an upper-level low. While we didn’t get a devastating ice storm, we did have enough heavy, wet snow to damage thousands of trees and many flat roofs. Power outages, roof leaks and tree damage added up to at least $25 million in insurance claims from February 11 and 12. And that’s not including all the damage from car accidents. The subsequent snowfall ten days later missed most of North Texas but dropped 3-5” just south of the DFW area.
February was both wetter and cooler than normal. Although final figures are still pending, it appears February rainfall in North Texas exceeded 3 inches on average, well above the normal February rainfall of 2.37.”
Our cooler and wetter-than-normal El Nino weather pattern is expected to continue through March.
February’s cold temperatures were even more impressive compared to our normal readings for this time of year. We expect an average high of 60 degrees and an average low of 38 during February. But this month, our average high has been about 47 and our average low has been about freezing. I’m inclined to agree with many of you who say this February was not only one of the coldest and wettest months on record; it’s been one of the longest, too. Spring is just 3 weeks away!
Brad Barton is Chief Meteorologist for WBAP NewsTalk 820 and heard every weekday morning. He also hosts a local website; www.brads-weather.com. The National Weather Service and Paul Ruekberg of “Newswatch Dallas” contributed to this report.