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Deep freeze; Coldest Jan.-March here since first records in 1892.

Byline: Bill Fortier

The National Weather Service has confirmed something that many people in Central Massachusetts know from having experienced a winter more common to Labrador.

The past three months at Worcester Regional Airport have been the coldest January, February and March time frame since weather records started being kept in the city in 1892. The average temperature for the past three months at the airport was 21.9 degrees -- more than one degree colder than the 23.1 degrees measured for those three months in 1970, according to National Weather Service records.

The average temperature for the past three months is just under 7 degrees below average, with a large measure of that deficit coming in a historic February that saw a mean temperature of 12.8 degrees below normal.

"That's why our heating bills have been so high,'' said Alan E. Dunham, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Taunton.

Hartford and Providence also experienced their coldest January, February and March, while Boston had its third coldest period, tying it with 1904.

"At least you're not alone in Worcester,'' Mr. Dunham said.

So far this season, and this is certainly no surprise to anybody looking out the window at their snow-covered yards, 119.5 inches of snow have fallen, which is almost double the amount that can be expected in a normal winter.

That is good for third place in the annals of snowy Worcester winters, just behind the 120.1 inches measured in the 1992-93 winter.

The snowiest winter in Worcester was an unofficial 132.9 inches in the winter of 1995-96 that featured measurable snow each month from November to April.

"This has certainly been a winter that people will remember for a long, long time,'' said meteorologist and long-range forecaster Mark J. Paquette.

In a recent interview, Channel 5 chief meteorologist Harvey Leonard said one of the most impressive things about the winter has been the persistent cold. January, for example, averaged just over three degrees below average. That month was notably cold even before a one month onslaught of almost 100 inches of snow started on Jan. 24.

"What is really incredible is that you got almost all of your snow within a 25-day period,'' said Leicester native Mr. Paquette.

The relentless cold continued last month, as the only time the high temperature exceeded 50 degrees was on March 11, when it reached 53 at the airport. Still, it could always be worse and in fact it was much worse on March 31-April 1, 1997, when the so-called April Fool's storm dumped 33 inches of wet, heavy, power line-snapping snow on Worcester.

That was the biggest snowstorm on record until a blizzard this January buried the area under 34.5 inches of snow. Mr. Paquette and Mr. Dunham said the cold weather the last three months has been caused by a large ridge in the western part of the United States that has helped form an atmospheric trough in the Northeast, repeatedly forcing surges of cold air into Central Massachusetts.

Mr. Paquette said because we are now in April, the temperature should start going up.

"The sun is getting stronger and stronger,'' he noted.

The weather pattern the area has been in essentially started in the late summer of 2013, he said. "When people ask me if the weather pattern is going to change in any major way anytime soon I say no,'' said Mr. Paquette.

Thursday and Friday of this week should see the temperature reach the 50s and approach 60 degrees, forecasters say.

"After what we've been through we'll be saying, 'Hey, that feels pretty good,' '' Mr. Dunham said.

But forecasters, including those on the Boston television stations, say warm-weather fans shouldn't get too excited.

The National Weather Service's long-range forecasting branch says the next 10 to 14 days should bring colder than normal temperatures and average amounts precipitation. Mr. Dunham said there are indications a weather pattern change that would bring milder weather to the region during the last half of this month.

"It will be colder than normal for the first third of the month, at least,'' Mr. Dunham said.

Mr. Paquette said there could days by the middle of the month when the temperature could spike into the 70s before a cold front arrives to make it cooler.

"But there won't by any consistent warmth, " he said. "This isn't a flip-the-switch-to-summer kind of weather pattern.''

In the interview at the end of February, Mr. Leonard said he didn't think Worcester would break the 132.9-inch record, and a below-average 10.9 inches of snow fell in March.

However, the National Weather Service's 10- to 14-day forecast of colder than average temperatures and average precipitation hints of at least a chance of some snow this month.

"I really can't say that we've seen our last snow,'' Mr. Dunham said.
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Title Annotation:Local
Author:Fortier, Bill
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Geographic Code:1U1MA
Date:Apr 2, 2015
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