published Monday, February 28th, 2011

Winter break

  • Video: February brings unusually warm weather
    Temperatures historically hover in the mid-50s during February, however high temperatures this year brought unusually warm weather to the Tennessee Valley.

The groundhog predicted an early spring this year, but who said anything about springtime weather barely a week after Groundhog Day?

After a record-low December and a snowy January, many in the Tennessee Valley are scratching their heads over the balmy February, featuring temperatures that lingered in the 60s and even reached into the 70s.

Autum Bonner and Chad McCamish wore T-shirts and shorts Sunday to walk their dogs in 70-degree weather on the Walnut Street Bridge.

“We would never usually do this at this time of year,” Bonner said. “We’d be going to a movie. We’d be just hanging out inside.”

  • photo

Meteorologists attribute the previous months’ unusually cold temperatures to upper-level jet streams, which steered wintry systems Chattanooga’s way.

This month, those jet streams lifted north to the Great Lakes region and a low-pressure system moved in that brought in warm air from the Gulf of Mexico, WRCB-TV Channel 3 meteorologist Nick Austin said.

“We’re usually not seeing these temperatures till sometime in April,” Austin said.

But no record highs will be set for the month, said Terry Getz, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Morristown, Tenn. The first 11 days brought normal or even lower temperatures for February, Getz said.

On Sunday customers swarmed the Ice Cream Show on Walnut Street, eating cones on the shop’s patio.

“This month has been fabulous for us,” said owner Roger Curtis, “We weren’t anticipating this kind of business at all. We’re understaffed,” he said, gesturing to a ‘now hiring’ sign on the door.

WINTER SO FAR

December

Average high: 44

Normal high: 52

Average low: 27.8

Normal low: 32.7

January

Average high: 46.4

Normal high: 48.8

Average low: 28.5

Normal low: 29.9

February

Average high (estimate): 58

Normal high: 56.3

Average low: 36

Normal low: 35.2

But the premature spring has some wheezing and sneezing.

Dr. Curt Chaffin, with Asthma Immunology & Allergy in Chattanooga, said he’s already seen an influx of watery eyes, congestion, and wheezing.

“We saw people coming in with pollen allergy symptoms several weeks ago, which was really a surprise,” Chaffin said. “Usually this doesn’t start until mid-March.”

Austin said he’s anticipating more moderate to warm temperatures over the next few weeks, but that winter’s not done yet.

“We’re getting to a point where we won’t see so many long spans of extreme cold temperatures, but you know, the big blizzard of ’93 was in the middle of March.”

David Smith, owner of Grass & More Outdoor Services said that as a landscaper the early warmth makes him nervous.

“We’re seeing buds on trees, but one hard frost could burn the tips,” he said. “We’re not safe yet.”

He said gardeners need to hold off putting annuals in the ground, no matter how tempting it could be to get a head-start on planting.

“Spring may be in the air, but technically, it’s still in wintertime,” he said.

Severe weather alert for today

Severe storm systems are expected to move into the Chattanooga region around 6 to 7 a.m. today and into North Georgia in the afternoon, WRCB-TV Channel 3 meteorologist Nick Austin said. The storm will pack heavy downpours, frequent lightning and damaging winds in excess of 60 mph with the chance of an isolated tornado. The storm should move out of the area by 7 p.m.

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