Reprint from The Wheeling Intelligencer, article by Heather Ziegler, Associate City Editor
When February turns to March, the Ohio Valley is headed into the weather record books with above-normal temperatures.
According to meteorologist Tom Green at the National Weather Service, January marked the 12th month in a row that Pittsburgh and the local region have experienced above-average temperatures. It is highly likely that statistic will jump to 13 months when February rolls up its warm carpet.
Green said today the high temperature will continue in the 60s with a predicted high of 76 degrees on tap for Friday. A cold front will bring thunderstorms to the area between midnight Friday and continue through noon Saturday. Winds could gust upward of 20-30 mph and a few wet snowflakes may mix in as temperatures drop into the 30s on Saturday night, Green said.
"The Friday forecast of 76 will shatter the record. In fact, each of the next three days you will see above-record temperatures in Wheeling," Green said.
While many Ohio Valley residents are praising the mild winter, the warmer climate poses specific issues for farmers.
Ohio County residents Lisa and Roger White operate a cattle farm on Stone Church Road. Lisa White said the fluctuation of temperatures is cause for concern.
"It's good for me, bad for the animals. They are a little uncomfortable when it's this warm," she said. "It's irritating to them so the cattle start rubbing off their fur. It's really too early for them to do that. They need that fur when it turns cold -- and it will again -- and for when the spring rains come."
The warm temperatures and rainfall have caused very muddy conditions for farmers. Lisa White said they have experienced two pasture slips because the ground has become saturated and is not frozen. She said the cattle are walking through the mud, creating deep pockets with their hooves.
"When that freezes again it will be very difficult to walk on. It's like walking on stalagmite. It's terribly muddy. I donát remember a winter this bad but my husband said he remembers a few times like this year," she said.
Lisa White said some of her neighbors are taking advantage of the warm weather and have been spreading manure on their fields, which could lead to earlier crops of hay.
"That's almost unheard of in February. We would be doing that, too, but my husband has been fighting the flu this week. ... People don't realize what goes into farming. Every day we have to be scientists, nutritionists, veterinarians and caretakers of the earth."
In January, the local area saw four days with temperatures above 60 degrees, including a 65-degree day on Jan. 12. So far in February, there have been four days of 60-plus-degree weather, including a 68-degree day on Feb. 18. The rest of the week will add to that total, Green said.
Green cautioned that the meteorological winter extends from Dec. 1 through the end of February, although Mother Nature begs to differ. He and others recall many March snowstorms, often referred to as the St. Patrick's Day snowstorm regardless of the actual date the storms have occurred.
In addition to the warm temperatures, snowfalls have been few and far between this year. Pittsburgh typically records 1 inch less snowfall in March than in December.
"It's usually very close," Green said.
The National Weather Service suggests that from March through May, there is a 43-percent chance of above-normal temperatures in the Wheeling area. Green said those weather projections are updated monthly and often change.