As cold front nears, little relief in sight with spring only five days away - The Buffalo News

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As cold front nears, little relief in sight with spring only five days away

Winter’s numbers speak for themselves.

One frozen lake. Two blizzards. Four straight months of below-average cold. Ten feet of snow.

For winter-weary Buffalo Niagara residents, the magic number is five – as in the number of days until spring.

Will the date on the calendar translate as easily to the weather outside?

“That makes no sense whatsoever,” said Jeff Wood, meteorologist at the National Weather Service. “Just because the calendar says it’s spring, doesn’t really mean anything.

“And, if you look at the extended forecast, it’s going to stay cold for a while.”

Today’s forecasted high of 47 degrees, although above-average, will be tempered by a breezy southwest wind.

“It certainly is going to make it feel cooler,” said Wood. “Forty-seven degrees is nice, until you have 20 mph winds.”

The temperature dives again Saturday night into the lower teens with highs Sunday projected only to be in the low 20s – about 20 degrees below average. The lows Sunday night will be back into the single digits.

Five of the Top 10 snowiest months of March in Buffalo’s recorded weather history have occurred in the 21 years since the Blizzard of ’93 came to an end on this date after dropping 17.5 inches on the city.

On March 16, 2004, 14.3 inches of snow fell and on March 27, 2011, there were 6.8 inches – both records for the date.

Even April isn’t reliably safe.

The month might be known for “bringing showers,” but three times since 2005, Buffalo has broken a daily snowfall record in April.

And, those Buffalo-area residents at least 30 years old might even remember the week before Mother’s Day 1989. On May 7 that year, 7.9 inches of snow fell at the Buffalo airport.

So, it’s way too early to sound the death knell for Old Man Winter.

There is some good news in the immediate forecast, however.

Wood said no storms close to Wednesday’s blizzard seem to be on the horizon.

Some area residents questioned the designation of the storm as a blizzard, as if the use of the word should carry with it something more special than an average snowstorm. But Wood pointed out Wednesday’s weather met the meteorological criteria for much of the period between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. Wednesday.

Wind speeds fluctuated through the day, according to weather service hourly but that at Buffalo Niagara International Airport, the visibility was reduced to one-quarter mile or less from 9 to 11 a.m. and then straight through from 1 to 7 p.m.

At 2 p.m., visibility was nearly zero.

That was well before the last student from Holland Central School was returned home at 11:30 a.m. Holland was the only area district to hold class Wednesday, but school officials decided to release students early when the weather seemed to worsen.

“Never would I make the call if I ever thought it was jeopardizing anybody’s safety,” Holland Superintendent Cathy Fabiatos told the News Thursday.

The district, which has had seven weather-related closures this season, preserved the day for state instructional requirements despite the fact that students were only at school for about 90 minutes.

“This winter weather has truly interrupted the soundness of our educational program,” Fabiatos said.

Wednesday’s blizzard total of 13.8 inches of snow broke the daily record for the date and was the highest for any day this winter season, eclipsing the 8.8 inches Buffalo received on Feb. 5.

It also boosted the Queen City into third place in the race for the Golden Snow Globe, a national contest for snowfall among cities with populations over 100,000. Buffalo, with 120.6 inches of snow for the season, cruised by Grand Rapids, Mich., and trails only second-place Syracuse, 128.4 inches, and leader, Erie, Pa., 130.4 inches.

Nearby Rochester climbed into fifth place on the list after picking up 16.2 inches in this week’s blizzard to land at 102.6 inches for the season. And if the consistent snows haven’t made this winter seem interminable, it’s been the extreme cold.

There have been 37 days where the mercury has dipped into the single digits or below and six times when it went below zero – about twice as many in both categories as the average winter, according to David Thomas at the weather service. By comparison, the infamous winter of 1976-77 had 35 days in the single digits.

Through midnight Wednesday, March’s average monthly temperature was running 8.9 degrees below normal, which – at 21.8 degrees – is on pace to make it the second coldest March ever since 1885. That’s followed below-average readings for February, 6.5 degrees; January, 4.9 degrees; December, 2.1 degrees; and November, 3.1 degrees.

News Staff Reporters Denise Jewell Gee and Scott Scanlon contributed to this report. email:

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