Storm system poses threat to holiday snow

But December’s shaping up to be area’s whitest in awhile

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    Mike Johnson, owner of Our Brothers Place, cleans the sidewalk in front of his restaurant before doors open Tuesday afternoon.

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  • Mike Johnson, owner of Our Brothers Place, cleans the sidewalk in front of his restaurant before doors open Tuesday afternoon.
    Mike Johnson, owner of Our Brothers Place, cleans the sidewalk in front of his restaurant before doors open Tuesday afternoon.

    So all that snow Toledo got Saturday surely is enough to ensure a white Christmas, right? Not so fast, Frosty.

    Despite providing an official 7.4 inches — Toledo’s biggest single-day December snowfall in 36 years — and higher estimates to the east of Toledo Express Airport, it may be all for naught when it comes to having a winter wonderland next week.

    A strong storm system expected to move into the lower Great Lakes region Friday and then stall for the upcoming weekend, will bring in enough warm air to be a rainmaker in Toledo — plenty enough to wash away all the snow and possibly cause some flooding too, a National Weather Service forecaster said Wednesday.

    “Once the front passes, the temperatures are going to drop again,” forecaster Kristen Schepel said.

    It will be cold enough early next week for snow to fall, she said, but it’s too soon to tell if that would be enough to produce a white Christmas.

    The 7.4 inches that fell Saturday at the airport was the Toledo area’s biggest December snow since Dec. 8, 1977, when 7.8 inches fell.

    That, in turn, was the second big storm that month — 9 inches had fallen three days before. But both would end up also-rans during Toledo’s record-setting winter of 1977-78, which featured the 13-inch Blizzard of 1978 in late January and a season total of 73.1 inches.

    Overall, Saturday was just the 30th day since 1871 in which more than 7 inches fell in Toledo in a calendar day, according to National Weather Service records. The most recent was a 7-inch snowfall on Feb. 25, 2011.

    “I was fairly surprised at how short the whole list was,” said Allan Curtis, an assistant climatologist at the Midwest Regional Climate Center in Champaign, Ill., who then noted that such data would not include storms spread over more than one calendar day.

    But there’s no disputing that this month so far has been harsher than normal, especially in contrast with recent years.

    Since the 7-incher in February, 2011, Toledo has had two winters that started out with Decembers that were 5.4 degrees (2011) and 5.6 degrees (2012) warmer than normal and concluded with snowfall totals well below the 39.5-inch average.

    This month’s 9.5-inch snowfall so far, by contrast, already exceeds that of the previous five Decembers, all of which were below average. And the minus-1 temperature reading at Toledo Express on Monday morning was Toledo’s coldest December temperature since Dec. 22, 2008, when the mercury also dipped one degree below zero; the day before, it dropped to minus-2.

    The airport’s average daily mean temperature of 25.5 degrees for the month as of Tuesday is 6.2 degrees below normal for the period, and Wednesday marked the 13th straight day when temperatures stayed below freezing.

    That streak is expected to end today, with forecasters expecting a high in the upper 30s after a warmer southwesterly airflow picks up overnight. Mrs. Schepel said temperatures were likely to start rising shortly after midnight.

    Rain showers are expected in the Toledo area by midafternoon, and on Friday through Sunday it will be steadier, she said.

    “You might see a break in there, but it’s going to be fairly continuous,” with the heaviest precipitation expected Saturday night, Mrs. Schepel said.

    The combination of snowmelt and extended rain could cause urban and river flooding, the forecaster added.

    Northwest Ohio temperatures are not expected to get much higher than the low 40s during the storm, but farther south it’s expected to get much warmer — into the upper 50s in Cincinnati, for example — before the storm clears out.

    Contact David Patch at: or 419-724-6094.