Winter Storm Jonas more typical than not; still lots of snow to deal with
It is being called epic, record-breaking, Snowmageddon, but in all reality, Winter Storm Jonas was normal, at least for the Greencastle area.
The 22.3 inches that fell between 11 a.m. Friday, Jan. 22, and 7:40 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 23, were to be expected in an El Nino year, according to Greencastle weather observer Robert Wertime.
The weather system stems from a warm phase on the west coast triggered by temperatures in the Pacific Ocean. The air eventually meets a jet stream on the east coast, and the resulting precipitation follows a typical pattern. The winter of 2015-2016 is similar to its predecessor of twenty years ago, 1995-1996.
“They were both strong El Nino seasons,” said Wertime, “this one more so. People enjoy their mobility, but it usually ends with a significant snowfall in January.”
In the 90s it was Jan. 5-7, and the area experienced 28 inches of snow. Both years had a milder autumn.
“This was a normal event for an El Nino year,” Wertime said of the weekend storm that kept people holed up indoors.
And despite some national reports that Greencastle received 38.3 inches, Wertime was adamant that the number was false. He used complex calculations with data from multiple tests in a variety of spots, and all the sampling results matched, every time. The nearly two-feet of snow equaled 1.99 inches of liquid equivalent. Snowbanks higher or lower for citizens in the community was due to drifting and sculpting, he said.
The first very fine flakes fell from 11 a.m. till noon, and Wertime even saw snowing in the clouds. By 1:40 p.m. the rest of the people on earth noticed visible flakes. The descent became heavier by 4 p.m. and at midnight the area realized 3.5 inches on the ground. At 3 a.m. another two inches had fallen. The heaviest density of snow came down from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, and concluded in the evening.
Temperatures ranged from 20 to 22 degree most of the time. A warm wave moved in from 8:30 to 9 p.m. Saturday, again expected by professional weather forecasters, Wertime said. The thermometer read slightly over 27 degrees, but by Sunday morning it had dropped to about 8 degrees.
People must have heeded the many days of warning of the pending storm, as Rescue Hose Company No. 1 did not handle an elevated number of calls. Fire chief Kevin Barnes said the fire department and EMS crews responded to the normal volume of calls, none especially storm-related. Some folks did want their roof vents checked for blockage.
Barnes said Antrim Township and the Borough of Greencastle provided “great support” by showing up at many of the calls. The crews used their equipment to try to improve access to the sites.
Greencastle-Antrim School District schools closed early on Friday afternoon, and by Sunday morning parents and staff were notified school would remain closed on Monday. The United States Postal Service halted service on Saturday. Many church services were cancelled.
Wilson College, Shippensburg University and Penn State Mont Alto also put out the word that they would be closed on Monday, as were Franklin County offices. No major accidents were reported in the Tri-State area. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf asked residents to stay off the road Saturday. PennDOT, Antrim and Greencastle crews were out plowing over the weekend, opening the primary roads first.