Columbia record-low temperature pales in comparison to rest of country

Monday, March 3, 2014 | 10:33 p.m. CST; updated 10:28 a.m. CST, Tuesday, March 4, 2014
As Columbia weather dropped to a record-low temperature Monday, individual reports about weather across the country put the city in perspective.

COLUMBIA — The last time March 3 was this cold, William McKinley was president.

On March 3, 1900, the low temperature in Columbia was 1. One hundred and fourteen years later, at 6:54 a.m. Monday, the temperature dropped to a record-low of 2 below zero, according to the National Weather Service website.

Weather service acknowledges 'bad forecast'

The National Weather Service in St. Louis acknowledged its “bad forecast” of the weekend's storm in a Facebook post Monday.

"Winter weather forecasting is by far the most difficult thing we do, and the models were almost no help this time" the post said.

Scott Truett, a senior forecaster with the weather service in St. Louis, said forecasters have to be spot-on with temperature forecasts and the trajectory of low pressure systems. If the storm system varies from the model by even 10 miles, there is a tremendous difference in the amount of snow an area gets.

This storm was particularly difficult to predict, Truett said, because it came in two parts: a northern part and a southern part. Northern and southern regions in Missouri were impacted, but the Interstate 70 corridor stayed out of both systems, he said.

The National Weather Service collects data from across the globe twice a day — at 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. — to feed into supercomputers near Washington, D.C. The computer system amalgamates the data into models. Forecasters get that model data back in real-time and use it to discern what the forecast should be.

Each model gives thousands of pieces of data, and there is no way for forecasters to look at it all, Truett said.

“There are different fields that you look at for forecasting heavy snow,” he said. “In this case, perhaps a different field in the model could have been used to determine snowfall orientation.”

Truett said forecasters review their methods to see if they missed data that would have helped them to make a more accurate prediction.

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The Missourian staff has come to the consensus that winter has overstayed its welcome. Some of us yearned to live vicariously through tales of warm beaches. Others wished to hear about places even colder than here to put our misery in perspective.

We called people living across the country to ask for a glimpse into their Mondays.

Baseball in Florida

It was 1:15 p.m., and even though it was only 76 degrees, Janet Coats had already applied a layer of sunscreen. The cobalt sky above McKechnie Field in Bradenton, Fla., was clear except for two puffy, white clouds that drifted in the gentle breeze.

The MU alumna, dressed in shorts and a short-sleeved T-shirt, cheered on the Pittsburgh Pirates as they faced the Boston Red Sox in a spring training baseball game.

"The sun's pretty bright, so I need a hat for protection for my face," Coats said from her seat near the first-base line.

Coats and her husband, Rusty, drove to the game in their silver 2009 Mitsubishi Eclipse convertible with the top down.

Coats regularly posts about the warm weather on Facebook, and that's irritated some of her friends in colder areas of the country. One of her friends from MU who now lives in New Jersey has threatened to "unfriend" her twice in the past week, she said.

But that hasn't deterred Coats the slightest bit.

"I'm just posting about my everyday life," she said.

Avalanche in Montana

The sun appeared for about an hour Monday above the University of Montana in Missoula — a welcome change from the weekend, sophomore Rennie Winkelman said.

The campus is still recovering from Friday’s snow day. It was the first day of canceled classes some of Winkelman's Montana friends can remember.

An avalanche Friday on Mount Jumbo, a peak near campus, buried a couple in their house and an 8-year-old boy playing outside, according to Reuters. The man is still listed in serious condition. The boy was released from the hospital Sunday, and the woman died Sunday night, according to the Missoula Missoulian.

Winkelman decided to drive to a friend’s house Friday, but the weather had coated the parking lot in such a heavy layer of snow that it took her 20 minutes to find her car.

She arrived at her friend's house just in time. The snow was coming down hard, and the winds were gusting as strong as ever. It was a blizzard.

They spent the rest of the day hunkered inside, and as night began to fall, Winkelman realized she would be spending the night. In the morning, they needed snow shovels to dig out her car.

"Cars were getting stuck everywhere, even big four-wheel-drive trucks," she said.

The weather subsided a bit over the weekend, but a 12-inch layer of snow still stood between Winkelman and her classes Monday.

Gardening in California

Beneath a clear blue sky sprinkled with a few lingering clouds, Dana Karcher left her house in Bakersfield, Calif., at 6:30 a.m. to stroll around her neighborhood.

There was a light breeze, so Karcher dressed accordingly: a long-sleeve T-shirt and short yoga pants.

Karcher works from home, but she still finds ways to enjoy the mild March weather.

"I've been looking out the window at the beautiful weather all day," she said.

She hoped to wrap up her daily work around 4 p.m. to go work in her backyard garden, she said. "I need to pick weeds that have popped up after the rain we've had."

Mistaken forecasts in Pennsylvania

Mike Schubert, the owner of Maggio’s Restaurant in Southampton, Pa., is frustrated with the recent media frenzy around winter storms.

Southampton was forecast to receive between 6 and 12 inches of snow Sunday, but he said only about an inch fell.

"The media made a hype," he said, "almost like the end of the world was coming."

That's bad for business, he said. People stock up on food and hunker down, even when nothing comes to pass.

Snow is still piled on the edges of roads, but it's left over from past storms. Even though Schubert is frustrated with alarmist forecasts, he said Southampton has experienced heavy snow this winter.

"It is miserable," he said.

Bundling up in Maine

Shireen Shahawy is pretty sure the snow piled around the side of her driveway will melt by June.

Shahawy, who has lived in Maine since 1981 when she started classes at Colby College in Waterville, doesn't mind the cold, though. "I just wear lots of extra layers," she said.

When she arrives home from work Monday, she plans to bundle up in a shirt, sweater, long coat, scarf, thick gloves and a fleece hat to take her golden retriever, Marlo, for a walk.

Since there's no fresh snow on the ground and the sidewalks around her house are mostly cleared, Shahawy doesn't think she'll need her "stabilicers" today. Stabilicers are rubber contraptions with small steel spikes on the bottom that can be strapped to shoes to provide traction in the ice and snow.

The high in her town of Portland, Maine, was 20 today, but Shahawy said there's hope on the horizon.

"We're rallying for the 38 degrees we'll get next week," she said.

Supervising editors are Elizabeth Brixey and Adam Aton.

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