Sun, warmer temps supplant period of much-needed moisture

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The weather gods played a cruel pre-April Fools’ trick on your unsuspecting weatherperson this past week by supplying several days’ worth of very un-Florida-like weather that wrought serious havoc on his stay in the so-called Sunshine State.

A variety of wind, clouds and rain (and sometimes all three in concert) caused a cancellation of his much-anticipated fishing charter and ruined any chances he had of cultivating that George Hamilton-type tan that would assuredly have been the envy of friends and acquaintances here in Walla Walla upon his return. Instead, the bathing suit and flip-flops went unused, and the tan will have to come out of a bottle or from the parlor if his Washington winter pallor is to be improved.

The final ignominy was served upon him and his comely traveling mate on departure day Sunday, when a line of severe thunderstorms associated with a cold front zipping through the eastern third of the United States formed in southern Alabama and the Florida panhandle, then tracked briskly to the south and east. This prompted the issuance of numerous severe thunderstorm warnings and even a tornado watch, which effectively brought all air travel in the Southeast to a screeching halt for six hours while the front cleared the peninsula. In the Tampa International Airport, detained travelers were treated to a thunderous torrential rainstorm that pelted the area with rainfall rates in excess of 2 inches per hour — the equivalent of 10 percent of Walla Walla’s annual rainfall.

To add insult to injury, because of the long delay your forecaster was unable to root his Arizona Wildcats on to basketball victory. It is difficult not to feel as if his active support might have made the difference in a bitter one-point overtime loss to those nasty Badgers from Wisconsin, an inordinate number of whom were on his eventual flight to Minneapolis late Saturday night, where a fitful six-hour sleep left him even more cantankerous before early Sunday-morning flights to Salt Lake City and Pasco.

Here at home the weather news was considerably better. A few days of significant rainfall (totaling 1.15 inches at the airport) — some of which fell in thundershowers — boosted the monthly rainfall total to 50 percent above normal (3.03 inches vs. 2.01 inches). This precipitation represented a much-needed shot in the arm for local wheat and grape growers, who have bemoaned the lack of moisture here over the last several months.

It appears as if the current week will offer only a very modest (20 percent) daily chance of showers from a system that will primarily affect Oregon as its slides to the southeast. Temperatures should remain within a few degrees of normal for this time of year: afternoon highs around 60 or a bit higher and lows in the upper 30s to near 40 degrees. Somewhat warmer weather under the influence of building high pressure may grace the Valley on Sunday or Monday with afternoon readings perhaps attaining the once-unthinkable mark of 70 degrees. A little lawn mowing and some spring yard work would probably help the sallow skin situation, though it seems unlikely that there will be a tall, cold tropical drink involved as there might have been in Florida.

If the 16-day Global Forecast System outlook has even a shred of credibility, the forecast turns disappointing around April 9, with an increasing chance of wet weather and cooler temperatures through April 15 or 16. Although it must be restated that this prediction model is notoriously unreliable as it gets out past 10 days or so, a caveat that your weatherperson has occasionally used to extricate himself from the rare inaccurate prognostication.

Bring us your long-awaited sun and warmth, April!

A lifelong fan of both the weather and the Baltimore Orioles, Jeff Popick is an instructor at the Center for Enology and Viticulture at Walla Walla Community College and manages the school’s teaching vineyard. Send your questions and comments to him at jeffrey.popick@wwcc.edu.

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