Weather out of whack as winter nears end
Peak bloom dates for cherry trees in the nation's capital are this week, earlier than usual.
March 19th, 2012
12:50 PM ET

Weather out of whack as winter nears end

On the last weekend of winter, people were taking out their skis in Arizona and putting them away in Minnesota. They were putting on sweaters in Phoenix and stripping down to their shorts to ice fish near Fargo, North Dakota. They were calling out snowplows in the California desert and counting the millions left in their snow removal budget in Ohio.

There were real extremes in a record-breaking streak of weather across the country.

Here's how the topsy-turvy climate confounded convention:

Officials closed 180 miles of Interstate 40 across northern Arizona on Sunday as a winter storm dumped more than a foot of snow on the region. In Flagstaff, schools were closed Monday as the snow made travel hazardous.

But some snow-hungry visitors went to Flagstaff specifically for the snow, CNN affiliate KPHO-TV in Phoenix reported.

"We knew what the weather would be like up here so we made sure to keep all of our snow gear so we could come up here and play in the snow and have lots of fun," Jennifer Gregory told the station.

The Arizona Snowbowl ski resort in Flagstaff reported 36 inches of snow.

While residents got their snow gear out in Arizona, they were stowing it for the season in Biwabik, Minnesota, 1,800 miles northeast of Flagstaff.

The Giants Ridge Ski Area in Biwabik closed for the season Sunday afternoon, three weeks ahead of schedule. Resort officials blamed the warm weather, saying it has deteriorated trail conditions, CNN affiliate KDLH reported.

While the warmth may have meant business lost in Minnesota, it brought unexpected business to Alger Hardware and Rental in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

"Last week, I looked at the weather and thought, 'Maybe I ought to get a little bit of (spring supplies) in.' I didn't think it would be this nice," owner Bill Dejong told CNN affiliate WOOD-TV. The store ran out of charcoal and propane for cookouts and fertilizer for, well, late winter gardening.

Allergy sufferers were also shopping in Grand Rapids. "We're going to sell a lot of antihistamines this year," Walker Street Pharmacy owner Ed Rutowski  told WOOD, as pollen counts spiked with the warmth.

In Atlanta, pollen counts that usually peak in early April were popping off the charts over the weekend, CNN affiliate WXIA-TV reported.

Warm weather also has cherry trees in the nation's capital blooming earlier than usual this year, CNN affiliate WTTG-TV in Washington reports. Peak bloom dates are expected to be Tuesday through Friday, well ahead of the average peak bloom date of April 4, according to the National Cherry Blossom Festival website. The event begins Tuesday.

Across the northern part of the country, from the upper Plains through New England, residents were enjoying days of record-high temperatures.

Since March 12, there have been 1,192 high-temperature records set or broken across the United States, and the forecast for the next several days doesn’t show any reprieve from these record-setting highs as parts of the Great Lakes and Upper Midwest see highs 30 degrees to 40 degrees above normal.

Chicago recently had high temperatures at or above 80 degrees for five consecutive days, setting a record for the most 80-degree plus days during any March. The city on Saturday also saw the warmest St. Patrick’s Day since records began in 1872.

Burlington, Vermont, was enjoying a "hard to believe" week of warmth, CNN affiliate WCAX-TV reported. On Sunday, the high was 76 degrees in Burlington, 14 degrees above the previous high for the March 18, set in 1945. The city's average high for the day is 41 degrees, according to the report.

It was warm enough over the weekend to ice fish in shorts and a T-shirt on Jewett Lake in Elizabeth, Minnesota, about an hour's drive from Fargo.

"It's 70 degrees up here and down here you're sitting on an ice cube," fisherman Neal Funkhouser told CNN affiliate KXJB-TV in Fargo. The forecast high for Fargo on Monday was 75 degrees and the low was 53, well above the averages of 37 and 21 for the day, according to KXJB.

Contrast those North Dakota temperatures with the Phoenix forecast for Monday, 58 for a high and 44 for a low, according to KPHO.

"This is the kind of weather I like. It is sweater weather. I wish it was like this all the time," resident Matthew Conn told the station.

In the southern California desert, snow made a mess of I-10 between Riverside and Palm Springs over the weekend, leading to a 10-car pileup that closed the freeway for 90 minutes late Saturday, CNN affiliate KESQ-TV in Palm Springs reported.

"It started with a single vehicle spinout because of the snow and the sleet that was on the roadway. It ended up escalating to a 10-car pile up, closed the freeway" for up to an hour and a half, Darren Meyer of California Highway Patrol told the station.

On Sunday, the California Department of Transportation pulled plow trucks down from the nearby mountains to clear I-10 and Highway 60 through the San Gorgonio Pass, KESQ reported.

In Ohio, government officials are counting their savings as snowplows have had less work this winter.

"This year we've spent $43 million on ice and snow removal across the state. Compare that to last year, we spent $81 million by this time. That's $40 million in savings," Ohio Department of Transportation spokesman Steve Faulkner told CNN affiliate WEWS-TV in Cleveland. Officials were looking at using the savings toward road repairs, according to the report.

Warm temperatures don't necessarily mean good things though.

Reports from CNN affiliate KHGI-TV in Nebraska said at least two tornadoes touched down Sunday night, injuring three people and tossing 31 rail cars from tracks in Lincoln County.

And the National Weather Service was warning that more severe weather was possible, with severe thunderstorms in the forecast from northeastern Texas through Oklahoma into Arkansas.

The rain came early to Oklahoma City as during the morning the city got 1.83 inches of rain, breaking the previous record for the day, 1.73 inches set in 1903. Flash flood warnings were issued for the area.

CNN Weather Ticker: What's behind this weather?

Forecasters: Warm weather here to stay

soundoff (126 Responses)
  1. mike

    If this is global warming count me in. I've got green tomatoes on the vine in Ohio.

    March 19, 2012 at 11:15 pm | Report abuse |
  2. American Teenager

    Crap, Spring Football is gonna suck and then Summer workouts. Try being outside wearing full pads in that Texas heat. Wish high school football players luck.

    March 19, 2012 at 11:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      Oh, wow.
      I know I don't need to tell you to stay hydrated!
      Be careful!
      Good luck, and I hope you and your team have a winning season! 🙂

      March 19, 2012 at 11:33 pm | Report abuse |
  3. SPENT

    That is the way it is whether you like the weather or not!

    March 20, 2012 at 3:03 pm | Report abuse |
  4. be Wildered

    Strange things are afoot at the circle K bill!

    March 20, 2012 at 10:39 pm | Report abuse |
  5. das272

    Whacky weather or not I'm all for shortened winters and longer summers.

    March 21, 2012 at 5:32 am | Report abuse |
  6. Inquiring Mind

    Does anyone else wonder if this is related to "Solar Storm headed for Earth" from just a few weeks ago?

    I'm curious how a solar storn could potentially cause all sorts of disruptions in communications, but have no effect otherwise. I've also read that the polarity of the radiation from the Sun also affects the degree to which the Earth is warmed.

    March 21, 2012 at 9:47 am | Report abuse |
  7. casey

    record cold temperatures throughout europe and asia, snow on the black sea.
    Low temperatures not seen since the hieght of the little ice age in europe and siberia.
    This will be the third year in a row that the worlds global average temperature will fall.
    We are currently going through serious global climate change.
    3 years ago world tempatures on average were almost on par with the worlds 'great warming' period of the renaisance, just slightly cooler.
    Are we in store for anouther little ice age?

    March 21, 2012 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Naked


    March 22, 2012 at 12:36 am | Report abuse |
  9. WASP

    i always hear people saying, this expert saids this and that expert said that. well here is a clue, one of those experts is being paid or getting kickbacks just like the scienctists that argued that tobacco was perfectly safe back in the 80' guess which one is getting paid? hint the guy saying we are perfectly ok. if you don't trust either scienctist, then pull up nasa photos of those regions of the earth and look at the ice caps. watch the history channel about the melting glaciers in various regions of the world. you could always just think back to the number of days you remember 80 degrees in the winter; it was 80 degrees in NYC this past march....i don't think that is normal. the planet is going through a climate change, the only arguement is how much humans have had on impacting it. if we have had a significant impact on making the planet hotter, don't worry global warming has a cooling. the nice warm climates north america and regions around the temperate zone will lose those nice temperatures due to low saline content in the ocean that drives currents, meaning hot tropical water moves north while cooler artic water flows south, low saline in the ocean will stop that and the north will go into a new ice age.

    April 9, 2012 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
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