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February weather: Early predictions, record events and LIers memories

Heroic rescues, 68 degrees, a family friendship ruined by snow - it all happened in February. 

Route 347 in the aftermath of the blizzard

Route 347 in the aftermath of the blizzard on Feb. 8 and 9, 2013 in Lake Grove. Photo Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas

 What’s to say about a month that sees long-range forecasting placed in the spindly claws of the likes of the groundhogs Malverne Mel and Holtsville Hal, whose true talents include burrowing and hibernating, thus avoiding weather altogether?

Just that conditions can go this way. Or they sometimes go that way.

The month is certainly known for its nor'easters and chilling temperatures. Then again, last February ended up being the warmest on record at Long Island MacArthur Airport and one of the wettest.

The good news, says News 12 Long Island meteorologist Bill Korbel, is that by the end of this month, “we will be almost halfway through winter.”

On the other hand, that still “leaves a lot of time for nasty storms and cold before spring arrives on March 20th.”

'While warming slowly, February can still pack a punch and is usually the snowiest month of the winter.'

News 12 Long Island meteorologist Bill Korbel

How about this year?

After a cold start to the month, Korbel says “most of the first week to 10 days will be rather mild, and any storms will bring rain and not snow,” as the January wet-not-frozen precipitation pattern continues.

The Climate Prediction Center is showing high confidence in the stretch from Feb. 4 to 8 averaging out at above normal temperatures for much of the eastern half of the continental United States. Along with that comes increased chances for above normal precipitation.

WHAT’S NORMAL, WHAT’S NOT

TEMPS

February is the second coldest month on average — just a jot milder than January — so as many layers as you can possibly tolerate is a must.

However, while January’s daily temperatures barely budge from the start of the month to the end, February sees a rising trend, beginning on average with daily highs of 38 degrees and overnight lows of 24 degrees, Korbel said.

By month’s end, they’re up to  43 degrees for highs and 27 for lows.

That's because daylight is on the rise! 

By the end of February, there’ll be an added 1 hour, seven minutes of daylight with sunrise at 6:29 a.m. and sunset at 5:42 p.m.

Thank you, daylight!

Still, here's the zinger. Korbel says: “While warming slowly, February can still pack a punch and is usually the snowiest month of the winter."

PRECIPITATION

On average, the month sees 3.26 inches of precipitation.

But, it’s seen as much as 6.21 inches in 2008.

And as little as 0.85 inches in 1980.

SNOW

Normal is 7.1 inches of snow.

That blockbuster year, 2013, brought 31.4 inches.

WILD WEATHER

We scoured our archives — and memories! — and here are some of the most notable weather events and how Newsday covered them at the time.

February 2013 31.4 inches of snow at the Long Island MacArthur Airport

You want to talk snow? Go back no further than 2013, which, in all, delivered record snowfall of 31.4 inches at the airport.

A major contributor was the Feb. 8 to 9 blizzard that dropped 27.8 inches.

With the area still reeling from impacts of October 2012’s superstorm Sandy, Newsday reported that, “the blizzard struck with such ferocity Friday night that hundreds of motorists were marooned along highways and local roads that quickly became impassable — with many stuck until well after daybreak yesterday.”

Main thoroughfares improved by Sunday, “but 27 miles of the Long Island Expressway remained closed for a second day as the removal of stranded vehicles continued and stronger state plows to break stubborn road ice came to the rescue.”

The scene was captured by the News 12 Long Island chopper, the view of residential roads in Brookhaven, Smithtown, Islip and Huntington, “that remained largely impassable, huge fields of snow interrupted by the heads of mailboxes and cleared driveways that dead-ended at the street."

The biggest impact was “a frustratingly slow” Friday afternoon and evening commute, as rain turned to snow earlier than expected.

“If this storm had occurred two hours later, the hundreds of people who were stranded would have made it home,” said Steve Bellone, Suffolk County executive.

February 1969 'The Lindsay Blizzard'

Korbel says longtime Long Islanders will remember this one, occurring Feb. 9 and 10. It was the blizzard that buried the Island and New York City in more than 20 inches of snow. 

It was dubbed "The Lindsay Blizzard," he said, because then-New York City Mayor John V. Lindsay “had cut back the sanitation budget, and much of Queens did not get plowed out for days.”

Thanks to an unexpected Monday nor’easter that Newsday described as a “surprise from the skies” — “virtually everything scheduled to happen yesterday (except Monday itself) was canceled, postponed, delayed, ignored or just plain stopped.”

-Of historical interest, it was the first time the Long Island Rail Road was completely shut down because of weather, Newsday said.

-Six hundred people, snowbound at Kennedy Airport, slept in terminals and grounded jets, with helicopters air lifting food to feed them.

-One school remained open, the Montauk Elementary School, with that area seeing rain and not snow.

-A Long Island State Parkway patrolman, who estimated that 1,000 cars were stranded, summed up the travel picture with two words: Forget it.

Feb. 17, 1976 68 degrees 

Sixty-eight degrees? Sure enough, that’s where temperatures went that day.

A shot of warm air from the south resulted in a stretch of balmy days, Newsday reported, culminating with the 17th and its soaring 68 degrees.

That day’s sudden spike came as “a weak front carrying tropical air from the Yucatán area” arrived and mixed with the high pressure system that was already responsible for the warm stretch.

The day before, Feb. 16, had topped out at 59 degrees. “It was the warmest day of one of the coldest winters in years, and youngsters sped down hills on skateboards, and some homeowners spotted crocuses sprouting on their lawns,” Newsday reported.

Feb. 13, 1967 14 below zero 

Minus 14 degrees? That’s how cold it got on that day, the coldest February day, as well as for any other month on Long Island, as far back as records go.

“Icy Islip Hits 14 Below Zero,” is how a Newsday headline writer put it.

It was also a day of near disaster and a resourceful rescue.

Three young skaters fell through thin ice on the Ketcham River in Amityville and were rescued by a lawyer and police officers who turned spare tires, ladders and an oar into lifesaving rescue devices, Newsday reported.

The three children were transported to a nearby hospital, and were reported to be in good condition.

One of the rescuers said he kept talking to the children while they were in the water, trying to calm them. “They were cold and scared, but they’re pretty tough kids and they hung on.”

Here's what Newsday readers remember 

Marty Lieberman, of Hauppauge, remembers a February 1961 storm that ruined a family friendship:

"I was 13 and our family had just moved to the Riverdale section of the Bronx from the Grand Concourse area, also Bronx. My best friend’s bar mitzvah was held that Saturday at the Concourse Plaza Hotel. Huge blizzard that day, maybe 17 or 23 inches, forget exact amount, it’s been...omg...almost 60 years. Our entire family was invited but of course we couldn’t make it.

Roads were unpassable and little access to public transportation in our section of the Bronx. We were 4 blocks from the nearest bus stop (none were running that day anyway) and a bus was needed to get to the closest subway station at 231st and Broadway.

She later told my mom that her good friends should have crawled on their 'bellies' to attend.

We felt terrible for my friend and his parents...they weren’t able to reschedule or cancel and only 25 people attended. His mother never forgot that we didn’t try to get there. Really, there was no way. She later told my mom that her good friends should have crawled on their “bellies” to attend.
Needless to say, end of family friendship. My mother was a strong-willed person as well. They never spoke until maybe 25 years later when they sometimes met for lunch and met in Florida. I only saw my friend a few times after that and haven’t seen or spoken to him since the sixties. C’est la vie."

Wayne Atkins, a retired NYPD officer from Middle Island, remembered being on-duty during a 1978 storm:

"I was assigned to the 8th precinct operating RMP (radio motor patrol) 811 in Levittown N.Y. for the 12-8 shift. The snow started early in the tour. The weather deteriorated quickly. Eventually, a radio headquarters directed message 'minimize patrol' was sent out. It was bad.

Things came to a standstill. No one was making it to work.

"Roads became unpassable. Long Island became unpassable. Things came to a standstill. No one was making it to work. There was no relief for the midnight tour police officers. No roads were plowed. The Long Island Expressway was closed for I rembered for several days. Of course around 11-12 a.m. still working, I received a woman having a baby call. At this time, my relief who luckily lived in Levittown was also with me ... the ambulance and us in RMP 811 made it to the street, not near the house. [The other officer] couldn’t get out of the police car because of the deep snow, climbed through the car window to run to the house. We were able to get the woman into the ambulance one on to Nassau County Medical Center." 

NOTABLE DAYS AND HOW THEY'VE FARED

Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14

Normal is 40 degrees for a high, but the day did warm up to 60 degrees in 1990 and had a record low of 1 below zero in 1979. The most snow was 3 inches in 1966.

Presidents Day, Feb. 18

Normal is 40 degrees for a high, but the day did warm up to 61 degrees in 1981 and had a record low of 2 below zero in 1979. The most snow was 2.15 inches in 1972.

Records are based on data for Long Island MacArthur Airport going back to September 1963.

Source/research: Northeast Regional Climate Center; Newsday librarians; photo researcher Peggy Lundquist

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