O's open camp in balmy Florida . . . . . . as we endure in frigid Baltimore Day was coldest of a mild winter

February 20, 1993|By Frank D. Roylance | Frank D. Roylance,Staff Writer

OK, so it was cold yesterday. In fact, with a morning low of 9 degrees and a high of 24, it was the coldest day of the season.

It was a day for gloves and scarfs and dead batteries.

Big deal. It still has been one pitiful excuse for a winter.

"We've had a pretty mild winter," admitted Fred Davis, chief meteorologist at Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

December, January and February have all averaged out with above-normal temperatures, with snow totaling just 4.1 inches -- a measure identical to last year's measly accumulation for the season at BWI. More snow has been recorded north and west of the city.

Mr. Davis, who has a bet with his colleagues that we'd get more snow this year than last, said, "I've been sweating that out. I'm just looking for another tenth."

Yesterday's low of 9 degrees at BWI broke the record of 13 degrees set in 1979. At the Custom House downtown, the low was 10 degrees, well short of the 5-degree record set in 1903.

Mr. Davis noted that the 1979 airport record was set the morning after the blizzard of 1979 dumped 20 inches of snow on the city -- the city's fifth-worst snowstorm. With so much snow on the ground, he said, "the lower level [of the atmosphere] cools off quite a bit. There's a lot of radiational cooling."

Yesterday's lows made it the coldest morning this winter at the airport, and tied for the coldest downtown. The high of 24 degrees by afternoon was the lowest high of the season so far, and three degrees short of the normal low for the date, 27 degrees.

The cold caused hundreds of weak car batteries across the region to fail. Sharon Perry, a spokeswoman for the Automobile Club of Maryland, said AAA members were calling for road service at the rate of 150 an hour yesterday morning, about three times the normal demand. Calls by midnight last night were expected to exceed the 1,100 recorded on Feb. 2, the previous record for the season.

"Hopefully spring will come soon," she said.

Spring will come in exactly a month, at 9:21 a.m. on March 20, no matter what.

In the meantime, it has not been a very wintry winter.

December averaged 2.4 degrees above normal, Mr. Davis said. January was even warmer -- 6.1 degrees above normal. And February, so far, is a half-degree above normal.

Snow? Forget it.

Over the last 30 years, the normal seasonal snowfall at BWI has been 20.9 inches. We haven't been close to that since the winter of 1987-88, when 20.4 inches of snow fell.

"We're talking about snow [today], but we've got a very weak system coming through, so we're just looking for a minor amount, less than an inch," Mr. Davis said. "There may be some snow Sunday night, or rain changing to snow. But that's it through Monday."

SNOWFALL

Snowfall this year (inches at Baltimore-Washington International Airport).

Month .. .. .. .. .. Normal .. .... .. .. .. This year

November .. .. .. .. . 1.1 .. .. .. .. .. .. .. trace

December .. .. .. ... 3.5 .. .. .. .. .. .. .. . 1.5

January .. .. .. .. .. 6.1 .. .. .. .. .. .. .. . 1.4

February .. .. .. .. . 6.5 .. .. .. .. .. .. .. . 1.2

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