There are a lot of reasons to look forward to spring. Unless you’re a frog or a turtle, the mud isn’t one of them.
But we’re dealing with lots of mud in the aftermath of the thaw that has followed back-to-back winter storms, and we’re going to be dealing with more of it in the days ahead as the pattern turns from wintry to rainy. In fact, we might see a lot of rain in the near future.
As we transition from winter to spring, the threat of rain will certainly come as no surprise to anyone who is familiar with East Tennessee weather. Not only is spring the rainiest season of the year, but recent years have featured very wet months of February. This year, February is actually going to go down as a bit drier than it has the last couple of years, simply because we spent most of the month in the grasp of Ol’ Man Winter. But now the rains come.
As noted in a previous post, there is no wintry precipitation and very little cold weather on the horizon for the next couple of weeks. It’s not time to declare winter over; there could still be a late-season surprise or two in the offings. In fact, the first few days of March need to be watched for the potential for cold air to intrude the region, though it doesn’t currently look like that’s going to happen. But, for now, the main weather story around here is going to be rain.
We’ll likely push 60 degrees on Wednesday, with some gusty southerly winds. That will be welcomed — not just because we’re all looking forward to warmer weather, but because the winds will help dry out some of the mud that we’re dealing with. Sadly, Wednesday’s weather won’t last. A cold front will usher in cooler temperatures again to end the week, along with the potential for some light rain.
The National Weather Service has rain chances in the forecast Wednesday night through the weekend. It’s likely that Thursday and Friday won’t be complete washouts; in fact, rain chances will actually be quite low. But more persistent rains will move into the region by Friday night, and the weekend looks very wet.
There will be two separate storm systems to impact us this weekend. First, a warm front will move northeast through the region on Friday, pulling in moisture from the Gulf of Mexico. Later, another system will move into the region from the Southern Plains.
If the GFS model proves correct, we could see as much as 3 to 5 inches of rain here on the northern Cumberland Plateau before the rain ends on Monday. And the ECMWF model is even wetter than the GFS, showing up to half a foot of rain for much of Tennessee.
We won’t be dealing with significant flooding because lakes are actually still at their normal late-winter pool or even a bit lower than normal. But some flash flooding in the usual trouble spots will certainly be a concern if the higher rain totals prove to be the correct projection with this next storm system. In its morning forecast discussion, the NWS at Morristown mentions its intent to introduce the potential for at least isolated flooding into a Hazardous Weather Outlook, saying that “persistent, potentially heavy rainfall” are possible.
While Friday night and Saturday will certainly be wet, the greatest potential for heavy rain comes with the second system on Sunday and Monday, and confidence is still low about exactly how this system will evolve and impact the region. But it’s certainly safe to say that the potential is there for several inches of rain this weekend and early next week.
So far, Oneida has recorded 2.65 inches of rain in February (and 8.9 inches of snow, making February our snowiest month in years). Rainfall is still a bit below average for the month, though it does look like we’ll wind up above-average by the time the month ends on Sunday.
But it’s certainly been a far cry from the past three years, which featured very wet months of February. Last year we had 11 inches of rain in February. The year before featured the wettest February on record in Oneida, with almost 13 inches of rain. And in 2018 we saw 10.75 inches of rain. Collectively, the last three years represent the three wettest Februaries on record in Oneida. This February is likely to go down as the second driest February of the last 10 years in Oneida.