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. RobbD

    Yesterday, was 77.1 F , today it is 75 F, forecast next 2 days 78 F and 78 this is not Daytona fact, it is Ottawa, Ontario Canada where our normal high temperature should be 39 F....No complaints here eh.

    March 19, 2012 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      Blaming God is a right-wing thing to do...blaming people seems to be the left.
      They're both wrong.
      It's WEATHER, lol!

      March 19, 2012 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      This was placed wrong, sorry.

      Cnn needs to restore the boards to the old format.

      March 19, 2012 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nicole

      LOL!! I hear ya there lol!! I am luving this warm weather 🙂

      March 19, 2012 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
  2. peter

    This is a myth! Ask any Republican ~ What global warming? It must be a ploy from the Dems! lol, ya

    March 19, 2012 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chrissy

      "Global Climate Change" is the official phrase. -wacky weather breaking the norms more and more often and increased water elevation in the oceans.
      They figured "Global Warming" was confusing too many of the Right Wingers. If they had cold weather in Florida they were asking "What Global Warming?!"

      March 19, 2012 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Bevo

    Somebody will somehow blame Obama for this.

    March 19, 2012 at 1:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • NorCalMojo

      I doubt it.

      Blaming people for the weather seems to come from the left (Katrina, global warming etc)

      March 19, 2012 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Dean

    I wish we could get a little of that warm and dry up here in the Seattle area!

    March 19, 2012 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Peter

      NorCalMojo wrote: "Blaming people for the weather seems to come from the left (Katrina, global warming etc)"

      So, are you one of those folks who thinks that man's activity on earth can't impact the weather?

      I guess you don't live in L.A.!

      March 19, 2012 at 1:48 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Peter

    SOMETHING is going on with the weather. little of both.......SOMETHING.

    The official USDA growing zones have all moved up further north this year, and NATO now has open water on their navigation maps where it used to be ice all year long.

    SOMETHING is going on.

    I would like to find the REAL story, but there is too much money at stake on BOTH sides of the argument, so I suspect that this will be like smoking and cancer.......cancer dangers were known as early at the 1940s, but as late as the late 50s, you still had doctors endorsing Camels and Luckies in magazine ads.


    Money hides the truth.

    So, I neither buy the line from Limbaugh who says "it ain't nuttin', light up another cigar" or Gore who suggests that the world will end.

    March 19, 2012 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lena

      What financial motivation does the GOP have to deny global warming? Financial support from the oil industry, coal industry, auto industry and more. What financial motivation do scientists and others have to promote the concept of global warming? None. There isn't one.

      If you want a big gamble–this is it. If we do something to curb global warming, the worst thing that can happen is that we'll have cleaner air and a world that doesn't rely on oil (so, no more wars for oil, auto-related air pollution, high pump prices). If we bet against global warming and the experts are right, then the world as we know it will no longer exist.

      You judge if you want to risk that much.

      March 19, 2012 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
  6. helicohunter

    People need to start believing the scientists. Scientific results are independent of political party. Minnesota winters have many more above-freezing days than they did 30 years ago. Someone should look at tornado data, too. I don't recall there being nearly as many March tornadoes 30 years ago. You can choose to stick your heads in the sand, but it won't make global warming go away.

    March 19, 2012 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      Unfortunately, when the methods and motivations behind the results of a minority of researchers in a hotly debated field are questioned, that casts a shadow on the whole field of data and evidence. Until non-scientists stop trying to play the role of peer-reviewer on an entire field of study, we're not going to see any changes in distorted, biased public opinion. I pity our forthcoming generations that will have to not only deal with debt, but an uninhabitable planet in the aftermath of public policies of our time (whether that be related to climate, pollution, or pushing further into the ecosystems around us).

      March 19, 2012 at 2:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mosin Nagant

      Yeah we have a record COLD winter last year and just because we have a few warm days this year it must be global warming.

      March 19, 2012 at 2:15 pm | Report abuse |
  7. CSisler

    December 21, 2012 it will all end so enjoy it while we can! – LOL

    March 19, 2012 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Jack

    Critics of global warming suggest that global warming will translate to consistant high heat everywhere.
    This is and will not be the case because the atmosphere is not a static solid, it is a massive gas cloud wrapped around a spinning orb with strong influences from the oceans. Heat energy translates directly into state changes and kinetic energy (winds) to make things even more complex. To be sure though as these increase, the influences of mountains and land masses will decrease because these energies will overwhelm the friction that they pose, which will in turn bring microclimates to an end.

    March 19, 2012 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Sarah Vakili

    What is more fishy is the weather in Dubai, 3 constant days of sand storm now!! This is very shocking!! And no rain at ALL this winter!

    March 19, 2012 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Wisconsin

    Wisconsin winters are brutal so most of us in WI are happy about climate change, for now that is. However humans do need to re-learn to live with nature and cut down on our population & natural resources consumption both of which are creating todays problems.

    March 19, 2012 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lena

      People in Wisconsin and Minnesota might be happy about a warmer climate, until you realize how dry conditions are and how much more likely you are now to have out of control wildfires–much like Texas had last year. And, how's that Lake Superior level there–which has been declining for years?

      March 19, 2012 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Chris

    This weather bites. I'm used to getting a few months where I can leave the windows open and save on electricity to cool my apartment. When the highs in mid-march are already 80, that plan's no longer desirable.

    March 19, 2012 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
  12. canadian in florida

    Wow, RobbD that is pretty warm for up there this time of year.. I remember clearly walking to school (up hill both ways ha ha 🙂 in a blowing bilzzard in Toronto in March. So, yeah, 78 in March is pretty astounding!! Almost makes me want to move back.............almost. By the way, thanks for using Fahrenhieght for all of us down here that are still on imperial instead of metric. Canadians are so polite. 🙂 Oh, Canada!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    March 19, 2012 at 2:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • RobbD

      Tonight's low temperature in Ottawa is 54 F, tomorrow night 56 F, and by Wednesday night 59 F...the average .low for Ottawa according to Environment Canada for this date is 19 F. By the way gas is $ 4.83 per US gallon. Take care.

      March 19, 2012 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Bob

    Solar flare activity. A 6 year old can figure this out on Google.

    March 19, 2012 at 2:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chrissy

      Bob, the 11 year solar flare cycle does not show any consistency with the climate changes becoming more and more drastic over the last 100 years. Even in non-flare years there has been steady changes/warming of equatorial ocean temps.

      March 19, 2012 at 2:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Solar Flare?

      Bob, I'm sorry to burst your bubble there... but any solar flare would have had a negligible effect on the global temperature. Think of it this way... a solar flare is like a flame on a lighter.. the earth is your finger as it passes through that flame.. when you move it quickly through the flame.. do you feel it? When you hold the finger in place above the flame, now do you feel it? A solar flare comes and goes very rapidly...and cannot have that effect on the planet. The only way you could do that is if the Sun became a bit larger and started emitting more energy all the way around, exposing us to increased solar radiation year round.

      March 19, 2012 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Ancient Texan

    The current "heat wave" in the Southwest isn't all that unusual this time of year. If we happen to break a record high,.it's usually one set back in the 30s. It must have been all those gas guzzling model A's of the era.

    March 19, 2012 at 2:14 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Lola

    LA was really cold and wet over the weekend, it felt like the Northeast weather. A week earlier, it was 80 and sunny. Crazy extremes. Normally it's in the 70s.

    March 19, 2012 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
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