Winter of 2012 mild compared to snowy winter of 2011

Wednesday, February 1, 2012 | 5:35 p.m. CST; updated 10:39 p.m. CST, Wednesday, February 1, 2012
Walkers take advantage of the warm weather at Stephens Lake Park on Feb. 1. A man ice skates on Stephens Lake on Jan. 19, 2011.


COLUMBIA — We all know Mother Nature can do tremendous things, but what a difference a year can make.

On Feb. 1, 2011, Columbia was in the throes of a blizzard that set a new record for snowfall in a 24-hour period.

Minutes before the calendar turned to Feb. 1 this year, Columbia tied a record of a different sort. At 11:13 p.m. Tuesday, a temperature of 46 degrees at Columbia Regional Airport tied the record-high minimum temperature set in 1990.

The 2010-11 winter season ranked as the second snowiest winter on record in Columbia, and the 17.7 inches that fell between Jan. 31 and Feb. 1 at Columbia Regional Airport was the second largest 24-hour snowfall period behind the 19.7-inch record set in 1995.

Total snowfall during the winter storm ranged from 14.2 inches 2.4 miles south of Columbia to 20 inches three miles east of Columbia.

Snow fell at rates exceeding 2 inches per hour. The heavy snowfall combined with winds gusting from 35 to 50 mph resulted in whiteouts and snowdrifts 3 to 5 feet deep. Temperatures fell below zero with wind chill values between -15 and -25 degrees.

A detailed narrative of 2011's winter storm can be found on the website for the National Weather Service in St. Louis.

The February 2011 “snowpocalypse” had residents of mid-Missouri in a tizzy.

MU canceled classes for three consecutive days — as many closures as in the past century combined and the first closure since 2006.

Columbia Public Schools also closed for four days.

The $1.7 million price tag on snow removal in Columbia sent Zim Schwartze, director of the Columbia/Boone County Office of Emergency Management, to the federal government seeking reimbursement.

The storm’s effects were far-reaching beyond Columbia. Portions of Interstate 70 across mid-Missouri and Interstate 44 across southwest Missouri were closed. Flights were canceled, and some airports closed. The blizzard conditions swept the Midwest, setting snowfall records from Oklahoma through Illinois.

No doubt, the 2011-12 winter season in Columbia has been much milder. January was the 15th warmest January on record, according to a National Weather Service climate report.

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