'11 takes its stab at snow record

There's a car under there, still buried Saturday near 10th and Vine Streets. Some accumulating snow is possible Tuesday and Tuesday night, with mixed precipitation or rain likely Wednesday.
There's a car under there, still buried Saturday near 10th and Vine Streets. Some accumulating snow is possible Tuesday and Tuesday night, with mixed precipitation or rain likely Wednesday.

This winter could rival 2010, with 37.8 inches so far - 10-plus inches ahead of a year ago. It's "a wild time."

Posted: January 30, 2011

Based on a wholly unscientific survey, Philadelphian Paul Marchesano is a member of a dwindling minority: He wouldn't mind seeing more snow.

It's all but certain that he will before the winter is over - or the week, for that matter.

In fact, it's beginning to look a lot like last winter, when Philadelphia smashed a snow record with better than a foot to spare. It appears the sequel could end up rivaling it, said Henry Margusity, a meteorologist with AccuWeather Inc. Right now, the snowfall total is 10-plus inches ahead of a year ago.

"We certainly have an opportunity to make a run at that record," he said Saturday. "This is a wild time."

With 37.8 inches this winter, Philadelphia has already set a two-season snowfall record with 116.5, or more than fell in the nine winters starting with 1924-25.

On a brighter note, the sun may shine all day Sunday, and the temperature may make a run at 40. But a major storm looms for Tuesday into Wednesday, with a potential for front-end snow followed by ice, rain, or both and then an arctic invasion.

"Then there's other events lying in wait," said Walter Drag, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Mount Holly. "This is a potent pattern.

"But we'll take them one at a time."

Actually, the region hasn't finished dealing with last week's snow, not by a long shot.

The tenacious snow lacquered on the branches may have turned well-foliated areas into winter fantasylands worthy of J.R.R. Tolkien's imagination. But the reality at street level isn't a pleasant one.

On Saturday, yet another day when the sun went AWOL, traffic over ice-smothered streets in South Philadelphia, more suitable to dune buggies, was creeping almost as glacially as the melting process.

Blacktop was barely a rumor on some sun-challenged streets, such as the 600 block of Carpenter, where Marchesano was meticulously shoveling the sidewalk to build a sledding hill for his 3-year-old granddaughter, Kenzie.

Marchesano figured he was making up for lost time after a long hiatus in California before moving back to the region. "I went 15 years without seeing snow," he said. But, he said, "I don't like the roads."

City Streets Commissioner Clarena Tolson said crews were keeping at it, adding that 265 plow and salt trucks were out Saturday.

So far, she said, the city had used 8,500 tons of salt on this storm alone, 38,000 for the season. The average for an entire season is 50,000, and it's not even Groundhog Day.

This storm was particularly troublesome because its legacy was part snowpack and part ice cube. Drexel University atmospheric-science professor Fred House offered a scientific perspective. "That stuff is terrible," he said.

The liquid precipitation total for the storm, about 11/2 inches, was similar to that of the 30-incher on Jan. 7 and 8, 1996. That was all snow; this was an amalgam of snow, sleet, and flash-frozen rain.

Still, the snow totals in the last week were prodigious, with 15.1 inches measured at Philadelphia International Airport. Amazingly, it was the fourth 15-inch-plus storm in the last two winters. Before last year, only seven had occurred in the period of record dating to 1885.

Meteorologists are confident the next one won't approach those amounts, but Drag noted that no one had expected last week's snow to reach such depths.

Some accumulating snow is possible Tuesday and Tuesday night, with mixed precipitation or rain likely Wednesday, depending on the track of the storm.

House is one of those for whom winter is losing its allure. "I love to have a good storm," he said, "but I'm sort of waning on that."

"What are you going to do?" Marchesano asked. "Move?"


Contact staff writer Anthony R. Wood at 610-313-8210 or twood@phillynews.com.

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