Chance of snowfall always there, but conditions must be perfect for it to happen

(Feb. 1, 2019) Coastal Worcester County never has been what anyone would call a winter wonderland, but as February begins, people might be wondering whether snow will be anywhere on the agenda.

 “In reality, snowfall-wise at least … it’s been pretty normal, but it’s been a slow start for sure,” said WBAL-TV meteorologist Tony Pann.

Other parts of the country may be blanketed with snow and ice, but Pann said conditions have to be just right for the white blanket to fall here.

“It’s just the timing has been off. They (the storms) haven’t hooked up with the cold air to make the snow,” Pann said. “The storms have been there but the cold air hasn’t come in on time to mix with the storm.”

Darrell Parnell, a professor in the Department of Geography and Geosciences at Salisbury University, said the area’s proximity to the ocean is a factor. 

Parnell called the area’s forecast “highly variable, ” and added that there could be three feet of snow one year, while the following year could bring none. 

“For us to get snowfall here, everything has to be just right,” Parnell said.

Snow lightly covers the ground on Jan. 14 in front of Fager’s Island on 60th Street Bayside in Ocean City.

Parnell said Salisbury averages nearly 1-foot of snow per year. He tracked data of monthly snowfall back to the 1950s and found Salisbury got more than 56 inches of snow in 1996. Parnell added the snow events could vary. One snowfall could bring enough snow for the season’s total. 

It might rain in Ocean City, but Parnell stressed a 2-or-3-degree temperature difference “could turn [the] town into a standstill.”

Pann agreed that it could also depend on the year. 

“You know, some winters the cold locks in and it doesn’t go away,” Pann said. “Some winters it stays warm the whole winter.”

Brent Skeeter, a professor and associate chair for the department of Geography and Geoscience at Salisbury University, used Salisbury data for the Eastern Shore.

Skeeter said there’s been about “four inches of snow so far” in the greater Salisbury area, and added there could be slightly more for northern areas and less for southern areas. 

“Most of our snow usually comes later in the season, [as] February is our snowiest month on a daily basis,” Skeeter said.

As for this season’s temperatures, Pann said it’s been above average.

“I think we’ve been so far slightly above normal, believe it or not,” Pann said.

For the rest of the season, Pann said, “it’ll fluctuate back and forth a lot” between cold spurts and mild days. 

“It’s going to be really cold for a couple of days, and then really warm, and really cold,” Pann said. “And no sustained pattern of warm or cold.”

As for the remainder of this week, Pann said the weekend could bring temperatures nearing 50 degrees for Ocean City.

This is even though the days preceding it were bitter cold.

Skeeter said temperatures in December were about three degrees above normal: the average high was 51.3 degrees and the average low was 32.6 degrees, according to Salisbury weather data.

“Overall, other than December being warmer than normal, nothing really stands out so far,” Skeeter said.

For January, Skeeter said the average high was 47.4 degrees and an average low of 29 degrees.

Winter weather activity varies, but Pann said parts of Delaware and the Delaware beaches have been impacted the most this year. 

“There was a couple times where it was raining in Salisbury and Ocean City, but it was just cold enough up near Wilmington to get snow,” Pann said.

All pointed out that it’s still early in the season.

“I do suspect that we will still get at least a couple decent snowfalls between now and early March,” Skeeter said.

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