Winter Storm February 11 - 13th 2006
After a quiet winter season in the months of December and January winter finally made an
appearance by mid February. Zonal flow resulted in above average normal temperatures and Pacific
based storms during the first several weeks of winter. Temperatures then fell below normal for the
first part of February due to a persistent ridge of high pressure across the western United States,
which resulted in reinforced shots of cold air over the eastern United States. Below is a statement
issued by the National Weather Service summarizing a warm January in the middle Ohio Valley.
PUBLIC INFORMATION STATEMENT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE CHARLESTON WV
1026 AM EST WED FEB 1 2006
...PUBLIC INFORMATION STATEMENT...
WEATHER-WISE...JANUARY 2006 WILL BE REMEMBERED FOR ITS LACK OF SNOW AND COLD. OLD MAN WINTER
SEEMED TO VISIT ONLY FOR A DAY AT A TIME...THEN LEAVE. THIS ALLOWED ABOVE NORMAL TEMPERATURES
TO CONTROL THE MID OHIO VALLEY AND CENTRAL APPALACHIANS.
WHEN A MONTHLY MEAN TEMPERATURE DEVIATES FROM NORMAL BY ABOUT 2 DEGREES, IT IS QUITE NOTICEABLE
BY MOST FOLKS. THIS JANUARY WAS 8 TO 12 DEGREES ABOVE NORMAL.
HERE IS REPRESENTATIVE DATA FOR SPECIFIC SITES...
THE AVERAGE MONTHLY TEMPERATURE AT THE TRI STATE AIRPORT FOR THE ASHLAND...IRONTON...HUNTINGTON
VICINITY WAS 44.0 DEGREES...OR 11.3 DEGREES WARMER THAN USUAL. IT WAS THEIR 5TH WARMEST JANUARY ON
AT CHARLESTON...THE AVERAGE JANUARY TEMPERATURE WAS 43.2 DEGREES. THAT IS 9.8 DEGREES ABOVE A
NORMAL JANUARY. IT WAS THE 9TH WARMEST JANUARY FOR THE CAPITAL CITY.
IN THE MID OHIO VALLEY...PARKERSBURG AVERAGE JANUARY TEMPERATURE WAS 42.3 DEGREES...OR 11.2
DEGREES WARMER THAN USUAL. IT WAS THE 4TH WARMEST JANUARY...ON THE BOOKS...AT PARKERSBURG.
THE COOPERATIVE OBSERVERS SITE IN DOWNTOWN CLARKSBURG HAD AN AVERAGE TEMPERATURE FOR JANUARY OF
39.5 DEGREES. THAT`S THE 5TH WARMEST JANUARY FOR CLARKSBURG.
ACROSS THE SOUTHERN MOUNTAINS AT BECKLEY...THE AVERAGE MONTHLY TEMPERATURE WAS 39.2 DEGREES...OR
8.8 DEGREES ABOVE NORMAL. IT WAS THE 7TH WARMEST JANUARY FOR BECKLEY.
EVEN IN THE NORTHERN MOUNTAINS...THE AVERAGE MONTHLY TEMPERATURE WAS 38.5 DEGREES AT ELKINS. THAT
IS 9.9 DEGREES WARMER THAN USUAL. IT WAS THE 8TH WARMEST JANUARY FOR THAT TYGART RIVER VALLEY
IN TERMS OF SNOW...ONLY 0.2 INCHES FELL AT HUNTINGTON...WHICH TIES
1924 AND 1934 FOR THE THIRD LEAST AMOUNT OF SNOW IN JANUARY FOR
THAT OHIO RIVER COMMUNITY.
Below is a table of snowfall for the months of December and January along with total snowfall from
February 11 - 13th. Notice how Charleston and Huntington met or exceeded their season to
date totals in just this storm.
February 11 -13th 2006
Snowfall totals for the winter season were below normal, but a low pressure system ejecting out of
the Gulf Coast States February 11th changed all that. With a clipper crossing Friday
February 10, colder weather preceded the storm, allowing for precipitation to take the form of snow
for the most part. Light rain was observed briefly during the overnight hours Friday night across
southern West Virginia, northeast Kentucky, and southwestern Virginia. As the clocked moved towards
dawn Saturday, precipitation changed to all snow area wide. The northern extent of precipitation
reached Elkins by dawn, while heaver precipitation and moderate snow occurred in southwestern
Virginia by Saturday morning.
Surface temperatures hovered around freezing in the valleys, and soil temperatures were in the mid
30s. As a result, snow accumulations during the day Saturday where confined to hilltops and ridges
in the lowlands, and the mountains. By midday Saturday, 1 to 3 inches was common in the mountains
and higher elevations in the lowlands. Pocahontas County received 5 to 6 inches by 12pm Saturday as
did the higher elevations in southwestern Virginia like Breaks Interstate Park. Snow continued
during the day and accumulated little over lower elevations in the lowlands. Meanwhile, it continued
to pile up in the mountains. Snowfall reports Saturday evening depicted widespread 4 to 8 inch snow
totals in the mountains and 1 to 3 inches in the lowlands.
The surface low continued up the eastern seaboard Saturday night and snow persisted across most of
Charleston's forecast area. Snow began to taper off after dawn Sunday with the surface low off
the Jersey shore. The upper air system and northwest winds kept the snow machine going in the
mountains. A band of moderate to at times, heavy snow tracked across southern Ohio, northeast
Kentucky, and southern West Virginia in response to the aforementioned upper air system. Snowfall
rates with this band where an inch an hour and persisted for two to three hours. Prior to the
accumulation with the snow band, only an inch of snow fell over southeast Ohio and northeast
Kentucky. Breaks in the clouds and the resultant sunshine allowed the atmosphere to become unstable.
Consequently, scattered snow showers were observed across the entire area Sunday afternoon.
Total snowfall ranged from less than a half an inch across portions of southeastern Ohio to nearly
a foot in the northern West Virginia Mountains and higher elevation of southwestern Virginia. Much
of the lowlands ended up with 2 to 4 inches. To see a graphic representation of the snowfall for the
Charleston, WV county warning area an image is supplied below. Sample points throughout the map
represent snowfall in tenths of an inch.
Figure 1 Total snowfall for the Winter Storm
This storm most resembled the storm of December 1969 (Kocin and Uccellini) due to its upper level
characteristics.Snow amounts were quite similar across West Virginia when comparing the two storms
with three inches along the Ohio River and a foot in the mountains. The 850mb analysis from the
December 1969 storm mirrored the plots from the February 11-13th storm. An open wave
became closed off as it reached northern Virginia and eastern Maryland. Farther up, 500mb heights
analysis also aligned well with a strong ridge across the western United States and a transitory
full latitude trough across the eastern United States. In the days leading up to the event,
comparisons looked similar to the February 1967 storm. However, the 850 low verified weaker than
what was projected by the NCEP suite at 72 to 84 hours.
The National Weather Service handled this event extremely well with a winter storm watch hoisted
for the northern and central mountains of West Virginia Thursday afternoon February 9th.
The following midnight shift expanded the watch farther south in southwestern Virginia and westward
to northeastern Kentucky. The winter storm watch was subsequently upgraded to a heavy snow warning
in the mountains Friday afternoon February 10th, while the remainder of the winter storm
watch was changed to a snow advisory that evening.
As the case with heavy snowfall across the northeast and mid-Atlantic, a surface low tracked up
the eastern seaboard emerging offshore near the southern Jersey coast then tracked east northeast
south of Long Island, NY and southern New England. Typically with lows tracking up the east coast
warm air surges northward due to an inverted trough setting up on the leeward side of the
Appalachians yielding rain opposed to snow. However, a reinforcing shot of cold air arrived Friday
and a northerly low level wind component allowed temperatures aloft and at the surface to be
Given the track of the surface and intensity of the 850mb across central Virginia (not pictured),
most of the county warning area was too far west to see substantial snowfall. In the cumulative
snowfall map, less than an inch was observed west of the Ohio River. Due to the close proximity of
the mountains to the center of the lower and upper level cyclone, they received the greatest
snowfall. Of course, colder ground temperatures allowed for snow to accumulate during the day
Saturday February 11th in the mountains, while lower elevations experienced wet snow that
The following images chronicle the surface low progression and upper air pattern over the
Above is the surface map for Saturday February 11
Above is the surface map for Sunday February 12
500mb analysis for Saturday February 11 2006
500mb analysis for Sunday February 12 2006
The above surface and upper air charts came from HPC's daily weather map webpage. These maps
are accessible at the following link: http://www.hpc.ncep.noaa.gov/dailywxmap/