The United States just had its wettest winter on record

Precipitation differences from normal over the winter months of December, January and February. (NOAA)

March 6 at 4:39 PM

Boosted by February’s relentless low-elevation rains and blockbuster mountain snows, the United States notched its wettest winter on record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The average precipitation, including rain and melted snow, was 9.01 inches during meteorological winter, which spans December, January and February. That amount was 2.22 inches above normal and broke the record of 8.99 inches set during the winter of 1997-1998.

Both the winters of 1997-1998 and the present featured El Niño events, which tend to increase the flow of Pacific moisture into the Lower 48 states.

Of the three winter months this year, the finale was particularly soggy, ranking second-wettest on record. Nineteen states posted one of their 10 wettest Februaries. Tennessee registered its wettest February, while the month ranked second-wettest in Kentucky and Wisconsin.

February precipitation differences from normal. (NOAA)

The February deluges in the Tennessee Valley spurred flooding along the Mississippi River and mudslides in Tennessee and North Carolina.

From the mid-South to the Tennessee Valley, record February rainfall was logged in numerous population centers, including Knoxville (13.08 inches); Nashville (13.47 inches); Bristol, Tenn. (10.47 inches); Tupelo, Miss. (15.61 inches); Muscle Shoals, Ala. (14.13 inches); and Huntsville, Ala. (13.63 inches).


A backyard on Pryor Road in Decatur, Ala., is flooded Feb. 22, 2019. (Jeronimo Nisa/The Decatur Daily/AP)

Greg Carbin, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, told The Washington Post that a record 5.5 percent of the Lower 48 received more than 10 inches of rain in February.

Heavy precipitation visited the northern tier, as well.

The zone from the Pacific Northwest to the Great Lakes was hit repeatedly by winter storms that unloaded historic amounts of snow.

Record February snowfall was observed in Seattle (20.2 inches); Pendleton, Ore. (32.5 inches); Great Falls, Mont. (31.3 inches); Rochester, Minn. (40.0 inches); Minneapolis (39.0 inches); and Eau Claire, Wis. (53.7 inches).

In addition, numerous ski areas in the Sierra Nevada, blasted by a series of atmospheric rivers, witnessed record snowfall in February. Mammoth Mountain and Squaw Valley reported record snowfall over 200 inches.


This photo provided by the California Highway Patrol Truckee Division shows a patrol vehicle navigating a stretch of Interstate 80 in the Donner Pass area of the Sierra Nevada, just west of Truckee, Calif., that remained closed Feb. 27. (California Highway Patrol/AP)

For the winter overall, all but five of the Lower 48 states reported above-normal precipitation.

U.S. precipitation over the past three, six and 12 months has been unsurpassed.

While precipitation over a short period cannot be conclusively linked to climate change, a greater frequency of heavy downpours is projected in a warming world, which would increase the likelihood of any given period being abnormally wet.

Backcountry skier killed in avalanche near Lizard Head Pass

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On Sunday, March 3, 2019, a backcountry skier was reported overdue near the Matterhorn nordic trail system north of Trout Lake, near Lizard Head Pass. Two members of San Miguel County Search and Rescue were flown in via helicopter and spotted a large avalanche and debris pile, but it was late in the day and there was still risk from further avalanches. They planned for a search and rescue mission the following day.

On Monday, March 4, San Miguel Search and Rescue and the Telluride Ski Patrol sent search teams. Search teams concentrated on a large pile of avalanche debris east of Priest Lake in an area locally know as Base Camp 1. Search dogs alerted, and rescuers confirmed the body of the missing skier using probes. He was buried approximately 1 meter deep. The avalanche appeared to be triggered by the skier as indicated by the visible ski track. This was a soft slab avalanche that broke around 100 feet wide and ran at least 400 vertical feet. It released on a south-facing slope at an elevation of approximately 10500 feet. It was very small relative to the path and large enough to bury, injure, or kill a person (SS-ASu-R2-D2)    CAICScreen Shot 2019-03-05 at 7.24.02 AM.png

photo credit, Telluride Helitrax

Hwy 550 corridor/RMP ~ 2/23/19 @ 10:33 & Storm Totals ~ SWE

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Monument: 7.5″

RMP 7″

Molas 5″

Coal Bank 6″

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Storm Totals ~ SWE

Coal Bank Pass 44″/2.5”
Molas Pass 17″/1.2”
Red Mountain Pass 16”/1.25”
Monument 14.5″/1.05”

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The San Juan Basins have almost pulled ahead of the rest of the state for the 1st time with % of Normal.. Yea

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Rescuers resume search for skier missing after avalanche near Telluride

February 20 at 11:54 AM
The Washington Post

The search continued Wednesday for a missing backcountry skier who was believed to have been trapped by an avalanche near Telluride, Colo.

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The unidentified skier was reported as overdue at around 4:20 p.m. Tuesday and “they were looking last night and they couldn’t find him,” a dispatcher said (via the San Miguel Sheriff’s Twitter feed). The avalanche, which left a debris field 75 feet wide, 300 feet long and 15-20 feet deep in the Tempter area of Bear Creek, was believed to have been caused by snowboarders who were skiing off the Telluride Ski area into the Bear Creek Preserve.

“Someone was in the backcountry and got caught in an avalanche,” a dispatcher said Wednesday morning, when the search resumed

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Over the weekend, two Aspen-area skiers died in an avalanche near Crested Butte, police there said Sunday. Owen Green, 27, of Aspen, and Michael Goerne, 37, of Carbondale, were training for the Grand Traverse, a 40-mile backcountry ski race across the Elk Mountains, friends said Sunday. “At approximately 10 p.m. tracks were discovered leading into a fresh avalanche field near the area known as Death Pass. No tracks exiting the slide were found and faint beacon signals were located in the slide area,” according to a news release (via the Aspen Times). “Shortly after midnight, it was determined conditions were too adverse to conduct a recovery operation.” In January, Aspen skier Arin Trook, 48, died in a backcountry avalanche near Ashcroft.

The CAIC center notes on its website that “Over the last 10 years, February is the single most dangerous month for avalanches in Colorado. Over a quarter of the fatal avalanche accidents happened during this month. In the past decade, there have been 15 fatal avalanche accidents in the month of February. Eight of those accidents occurred in the middle of the month, and four between Valentine’s Day and Presidents’ Day. Historically, this weekend has been a dangerous period for avalanche accidents. We would like to break the pattern.”