Spring still sits on the bench; to get nod soon


Your peripatetic weatherperson has hit the road in search of spring 2013, which has been missing in action over the past several days in southeastern Washington as well as many other parts of our great land.

The new season’s reticence to display itself has even resulted in a mock indictment filed by a winter-weary prosecutor in Ohio against Punxsutawney Phil, the nation’s most famous weather forecasting groundhog. Phil is charged with intentionally misleading the public after the rodent indicated a quick demise of winter 2012-13 after not seeing his shadow some seven weeks ago in Pennsylvania.

Exhibit A will no doubt be the below-freezing temperatures continuing over much of the northern half of the nation.

In Walla Walla, last week’s very brief dalliance with spring-like weather was brought to a screeching halt Wednesday afternoon by the passage of a sharp cold front whose arrival was boisterously announced by lightning, thunder, small hail and winds gusting to 50 miles per hour out of a sky that had an ominous “Wizard of Oz” look to it.

In its wake, afternoon temperatures dropped 8-10 degrees off their seasonal normals of 56-58, and the gusty northwesterly winds accompanying the chilly air lent a particular bite to the air that was much more reminiscent of December than late March. Once those winds subsided somewhat by the weekend, nighttime radiational cooling allowed minimum readings to perilously close to and below the freezing mark in some locations, prompting the use of frost fans in several vineyards to ward off the potential damaging effects of the unusually cold air.

The as-yet fruitless search for warmer weather has brought your frigid forecaster to his birthplace of Baltimore, Md., the 24th largest city in these United States and home of the “Star Spangled Banner,” our national anthem that has brought more singers to their knees than any other piece of music ever written. Charm City, as it is known, is the birthplace of such disparate personages as Babe Ruth, Edgar Allen Poe, Pat Sajak, Billie Holiday, Michael Phelps and Nancy Pelosi.

And it’s where your weatherperson’s generally happy childhood was spent chasing butterflies and imagining himself as another Johnny Unitas or Brooks Robinson — though, in truth, his feats of amazing athleticism in high school were rather few and far between and were performed mostly in his own mind as he warmed the bench.

This year it is spring that is sitting on the bench as winter lingers on here in this part of the world, too. The forecast for Sunday night and Monday indicated a reasonable chance of accumulating snow — especially away from the Chesapeake Bay from whose waters come all sorts of local delicacies which your corpulent correspondent has been sampling frequently since his arrival. When not sucking down a plate of briny oysters or greedily devouring every delightful morsel of an Old Bay-spiced crab cake at the venerable Lexington Market, his culinary cravings have led him to Lombard Street where Attman’s Deli has been turning out highly addicting corned beef sandwiches since 1915. Pass the mustard and the Lipitor — and let us give thanks for both!

Walla Wallans will be thankful, too, for a slow moderation of our temperatures here over the next few days. The northwesterly flow that has brought us our recent unpleasantly cool weather will swing around to a more southwesterly direction and begin to introduce some warmer air into the region on Tuesday and Wednesday. Though some cloudiness can be expected, the threat of showers will be minimal as a warm front works its way north from central Oregon.

Later in the week, a stronger southwesterly flow from a low pressure system off of southern California may be sufficiently energetic to touch off a thundershower or two on Friday or Saturday, with afternoon temperatures reaching into the 60s — certainly a more spring-like scenario than we have experienced lately.

The longer range outlook does not indicate another outbreak of abnormally cold weather here anytime soon. Is it possible that the March lion has reared his threatening head for the last time this year?

A lifelong fan of both the weather and the Baltimore Orioles, Jeff Popick is an instructor at the Center for Enology and Viticulture at Walla Walla Community College and manages the school’s teaching vineyard. Send your questions and comments to him at jeffrey.popick@wwcc.edu.


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