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. David

    Everybody should begin preparing now for excessive heat and drought. Take steps now to budget for rising food prices & make an effort to conserve water beginning today. It doesn't matter whether you believe in climate change or not. The weather pattern in place across the Plains and upper Midwest are eerily similar to what was observed last spring & summer in Texas and Oklahoma, and in Russia and eastern Europe during the spring & summer of 2010.

    March 19, 2012 at 5:20 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Me

    There are extreme temperatures everywhere you look. The Earth is just adjusting and changing. Think of it as your house settling. Every so often the earth needs to shif and we get a few cracks in the house. It will settle down after a while but until then hold onto your seats and enjoy the wonders of nature!

    March 19, 2012 at 5:51 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Larry Adkins


    Let's not get drawn into an Liberal vs. Conservative argument about "Global Climate Change"! It's about Economics!

    The facts are the earth is getting warmer and the climate is becoming more difficult to forecast. So food cost are going to increase.

    The fact that there is nearly a Billion new people coming on line wanting to use Carbon emitting fuels to live like we have in US and Europe for the last century so we are competing for the same energy sources. So Fuel Cost are going to increase.

    So let's have a meaningful discussion on what are the best technologies that we should as a Country invest in that will allow us to continue to be the envy of the world and start a new Energy Technology Revolution which we can sell around the World!

    March 19, 2012 at 5:58 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Victor

    I noted a fascinating statistic that the U.S. has 756 cars for every 1000 people while the global average is roughly 100 per 1000 people – with several countries having four or less per 1000 people – and yet we all live here together and have to suffer the consequences together. We should be thanking the rest of the world that they put up with our continued wasteful silliness...pathetic.

    March 19, 2012 at 6:00 pm | Report abuse |
  5. WASP

    climate change has happen all through out history. humans can contribute either way global cooling or global warming; the thing is nature will fix almost any inbalace we can cause. if as things seem, we are contributing to a warming of the planet, nature has the ability to cool itself. planet gets warmer, ice caps melt diluting deepsea currents caused by dense salinity falling to ocean floor, without ocean currents to move heat from equator north and south to the poles, planet begins having increased freezing weather in those regions bringing about another ice age. now bluntly put, we as a species will suffer massive loss of population due to change in sea levels, drought and floods, snow and heat......and ofcourse being the violent and war-prone species we are we will kill off more of our population trying to secure water and food for our own countrymen/women. so earth will be fine and it will correct any disturbance that comes far as humans surviving which is what the scientists are trying to ensure; well that is the question best answered by our actions. 🙂

    March 19, 2012 at 6:09 pm | Report abuse |
  6. PJ

    Yesterday while outside looking at my roses which did not stop blooming all winter due to the temperatures, we were rained on, hailed on and blown all over with icy winds. It has been in the 70's since October, and NOW it decides to get wintry???? Oh Central Valley of CA – don't do this to my poor rose bushes!
    By the way – other countries pollute far more than we do. Don't believe me? Go to China, Thailand or Vietnam. They do not have laws against pollution and their factories dump whatever whenever. Car creates a horrible cloud when you're driving? NO laws to curb it. We are not the evil ones – they are.

    March 19, 2012 at 6:09 pm | Report abuse |
  7. TheMovieFan

    It was nice to have a break from using the snow blower every few days this season. I have a 120 foot driveway.

    March 19, 2012 at 6:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mabel

      Shorten it.

      March 20, 2012 at 4:22 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Janet

    Thank goodness there's no climate change!

    March 19, 2012 at 6:16 pm | Report abuse |
  9. CJ

    So...the last time the globe warmed up, man had barely just invented the wheel (maybe). The previous warmup, man was still a neanderthal. There were no gasoline engines and pollutants tgen and we still warmed up and then cooled to an ice age. It has happened dozens if not hundreds of times in tge earths history. Guess what? Its going to happen again even if we all switch to hybrid cars and drive batteries to work. There is nothing we can do to stop it. Wake up people. Enjoy life and stop worrying about things you cannot change. We are all just fleas on this earth.

    March 19, 2012 at 6:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jessica

      CJ, It's not that it hasn't happened before its the rate at which its happening now. Faster than ever before. The last time that the 100,000 year Milankovitch cycle happened there were no modern men in North America and the Neanderthals ruled elsewhere. It's real and it is dangerous that too many think it's not because big corporations spread baseless lies so they don't have to spend a dime fighting pollution. The pollution that you and your kids and grand kids will be dealing with for the rest of their lives.

      March 19, 2012 at 7:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Primewonk

      The folks who understand climate change know about previous heating / cooling cycles. Do you think they wouldn't know this? They are also smart enough to understand that we have ways to look at the previous changes and see the overall change as well as the rate of change – which is the important part. What these scientists – the actual scientists who study climate – know is that we are in a period of accelerated change. They know whaat the rate of change should be, and what it actually is. These two rates are very different.

      Unless, of course, you have some valid peer-reviewed scientific research that says otherwise?

      March 21, 2012 at 10:16 am | Report abuse |
  10. MandoZink

    Someone here said earlier "profit mongers who continue to try and sell man made global warming to line their pockets" statement? Can you even remotely explain that? How do you possibly think global warming makes more money for the 97% of climate scientists who are sure of the explanatory data we have? Does their salary go up with the predicted rise in temperature? How does that work? What is the logic her, or do you have some form of "reductio ad absurdum"?

    By the way, I have good friends who have been researchers for decades. They have long been astounded at what people read and believe about scientists. Any scientist would be happy to be first to discover the truth. There is no conspiracy going on. Even though articles often appear saying global warming has been proven false, that flies in the face of legitimate data that continually reinforces the accelerated warming. I recently looked up data from both sides of the argument and all I can say is: Learn what media have integrity, and which are agenda driven. I prefer to NOT be misled!

    March 19, 2012 at 6:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Oh for Pete's sake!

      Oh, thank goodness. At least someone has a logical mind here!

      March 19, 2012 at 8:36 pm | Report abuse |
  11. MandoZink

    Something is seriously wrong with the posting hierarchy here. Replies don't seem to go under the comments and they are way out of post-time synch. It's been that way on this site for weeks.

    March 19, 2012 at 7:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Valley skier

      Interesting what people take out of these stories. I was thinking Flagstaff is not even decent skiing. For that you have to go to Eastern Arizona and Sunrise Ski area outside of Pinetop. And the moisture was welcome, whatever form it falls in.

      March 21, 2012 at 10:48 am | Report abuse |
  12. Oh'really

    Anything "out of whack" must be blamed on Al Gore because he is using 5 times the amount of fossil fuels the average person uses. If global warming ever turns out to be true, Al Gore created it, caused it and only made it worse.

    March 19, 2012 at 7:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      And thanks to him, you can read all about it on the web! 😉

      March 19, 2012 at 11:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • george

      At what point will you accept the fact that the globe is warming to be "true"? Waiting for foxnews or your pastor to tell you what the scientists have been saying for decades?

      March 20, 2012 at 10:08 am | Report abuse |
    • Patrick

      Well to be fair Al Gore had to turn his focus away from global warming to hunt the elusive ManBearPig.

      March 20, 2012 at 1:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      The only thing Al Gore created was the

      March 20, 2012 at 8:35 pm | Report abuse |
  13. whitmanguy

    If this report were a room there'd be an elephant in it.

    March 19, 2012 at 7:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • EG


      March 20, 2012 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • just sayin.

      a big republican elephant?

      March 21, 2012 at 12:06 am | Report abuse |
  14. hotblazer

    Snow CLOSED I-8 in San Diego County!

    March 19, 2012 at 8:33 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Sam

    There is plenty of evidence that the climate has changed and even convincing evidence that the change was accelerated by human activity. What is missing, is evidence that the change can be stopped, or even slowed down. While non-carbon energy is still a good long-term investment, It looks like a more practical investment opportunity is in dealing with what comes. Buy a snow shovel if you are in Arizona. Launch the boat a few weeks earlier if you are in Minnesota. Don't buy ocean front property less than 10 feet above flood stage. The cost of recovering from weather disasters could be high, but at least its something society can get behind.

    March 19, 2012 at 9:03 pm | Report abuse |
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