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Weekend forecast could inch out Columbia snow record

Friday, March 25, 2011 | 5:44 p.m. CDT; updated 4:48 p.m. CDT, Saturday, March 26, 2011
A holly plant stands out among snow-covered mulch Friday near Peace Park.

COLUMBIA — The projected snow accumulation this weekend threatens to inch out the record for yearly snowfall in Columbia. Despite the Farmers' Almanac predictions of a "kinder and gentler" winter this year, Columbia residents have found mid-Missouri to be anything but.

On Friday morning, about a week into the spring season, Columbia residents woke up to a light dusting of snow. The National Weather Service was forecasting at 3:46 p.m. an accumulation of 2 to 5 inches on Saturday.

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"It looks like the snow will begin Saturday morning and probably get heavier throughout the afternoon before tapering off," said Gary Schmocker, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in St. Louis.

"Temperatures will get above freezing on Sunday, and most of that will probably all melt," he said.

Although this snow won't last long, the accumulated snowfall during this July to June period has already earned Columbia a place in the history books. This period has seen the second-highest total snow accumulation in Columbia's history.

This weekend's storm threatens to put the 2010-11 period on top of the record books, potentially displacing the record-setting 54.9 inches that fell during the 1977-78 period.

Friday morning, 0.4 inches of snow was recorded at Columbia Regional Airport, bringing this year's total snowfall to 52 inches — just 2.9 inches shy of the record, Schmocker said.

Here's how the 2010-11 period stacks up against some of the snowiest years in the city's history:

  • 1977-78: 54.9 inches
  • 2010-11: 52.0 inches
  • 1911-12: 46.2 inches
  • 1959-60: 44.0 inches
  • 1905-06: 40.8 inches

The weather service measures snowfall between July 1 to June 30, Schmocker said. The earliest recorded snowfall in Columbia is in October and the latest is in April, he said.

But as for why this period has been so snowy, there's no definitive explanation.

"It was definitely a colder than normal year, and it was a fairly active winter. But there's no definite climatological reason for the amount of snow. Sometimes you're just in the right place at the right times," Schmocker said.

And if Columbia gets the snowfall that Schmocker and the National Weather Service are expecting, there will be a new record-holder.

"It's going to be real close," Schmocker said. "This storm tomorrow could be the last accumulating storm for the season. They'll probably almost match it or probably get a little bit ahead. They'll probably do it."


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