News Column

No Doomsday, but Winter Begins

Dec 21, 2012

Mark Todd


If you're reading this this morning, we know two things: Mayans make lousy forecasters and you may have to shovel your sidewalk for the first time in many months.

Contrary to the interpretations of a well-publicized calendar, the world did not spin off its axis, explode or turn into a ball of ice. Well, let's rethink that last one. The first day of winter was expected to be marked by sizable snowfall and powerful winds. The one-two punch could make travel a challenge and may cause power outages for some of the Illuminating Company's nearly 53,000 customers in Ashtabula County.

Centuries ago, a calendar created by the Mayans abruptly came to an end at Dec. 21. The doomsday crowd interpreted the cut-off to mean those ancient people had somehow learned that plotting dates beyond Dec. 21 was pointless.

For the past year the world has been subjected to a countdown to the apocalypse. As the date grew close, reactions ranged from the silly (countless "end of the world" parties) to the sad (schools closing in Michigan after threats of violence were received).

Right now, the region has real stuff -- like nasty weather -- to worry about. After weeks of above-average temperatures and green lawns, the National Weather Service in Cleveland foresees a big change. High temperatures today will drop a few degrees above freezing, accompanied by between three and five inches of snow.

The big worry, however, are strong winds of 20-30 mph that could gust as high as 50 mph today and 55 mph tonight, Tom King, NWS meteorologist in Cleveland, said Friday. "(The winds) are going to complete the picture," he said.

After a blustery start to Saturday, the snow will diminish, but the wind will continue to roar, gusting to 45 mph, according to the NWS.

The storm could produce a white Christmas -- temperatures through Tuesday aren't expected to climb beyond the mid-30s.

For the second straight year, the area was blessed with an absence of snow in the fall. Less than 1.5 inches has fallen near Lake Erie in November and so far this month, said Ron Coursen, a weather observer in Ashtabula. By comparison, 5.5 inches fell those two months last year, Coursen said.

"(The weather) is taking the same track we took last year," he said.

Things have been nearly as calm in the southern part of the county. Only 3.5 inches of snow have fallen in November and December, said Greg Becker, weather observer in Dorset.

"It's been nothing to speak of," he said. "It's pretty close to last year."

Aside from the dearth of snow, overall Fall 2012 in northeast Ohio was nothing out of the ordinary, King said. "It was fairly benign," he said.

Just like Mayan prophecies.

Source: (c)2012 the Star Beacon (Ashtabula, Ohio). Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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