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Charlottesville area sees first (and likely last) snow of winter

The Charlottesville area on Sunday had its first, and likely its last, snow day this winter, eight days before the first day of spring.

Schoolchildren praying for a day off on Monday were bound to be disappointed to find what little grassy accumulation there was had melted by late afternoon.

There is a chance that the area has experienced a historic first.

There has never been a winter in Charlottesville history without at least 1 inch of snow, according to records kept at the McCormick Observatory at the University of Virginia, which has kept official snowfall records since 1894.

Already, the area had a completely snowless meteorological winter, which begins on the first of December and lasts until the end of February.

And while the official McCormick count was not out by press time on Sunday, after a warmer-than-average season, it was safe to say the final tally pales in comparison to years past.

Charlottesville had its fifth-warmest start to the year on record, according to Sean Sublette, chief meteorologist at the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

“Spring is way ahead of schedule, with buds, leaves and pollen already visible in Virginia,” Sublette reported on Feb. 18. “According to data from the National Phenology Network, the first leaves are more than two weeks early in areas eastward from Virginia’s mountains.”

Wintergreen Resort in Nelson County announced on Feb. 24 it would conclude its winter season early due to unusually high temperatures.

The resort closed its slopes on Feb. 26, marking the shortest ski season in at least a decade at Wintergreen totaling about 68 days.

Last year, the ski season at Wintergreen lasted 95 days, according to Wintergreen’s profile on Ski Central. Over the past decade, the season has averaged 99 days. The shortest season over the past 10 years, before this year, was 2016, which totaled 89 days.

The warmer temperatures have also caused flowers to bloom earlier than is normal, producing a strange contrast and pretty picture on Sunday as snow frosted the petals of daffodils, magnolias and other blossoms on Grounds at UVa.

And while some blooms were clearly struggling to hold on under the weight of snow, and later rain, at least the daffodils will likely survive.

Those flowers produce a natural antifreeze that allows them to survive the cold, according to the Botanical Garden of the Piedmont.

While spring is just around the corner, Virginia’s last frost date of the year is April 15 and residents should be prepared for temperatures to remain chilly for the time being.

The National Weather Service issued a winter weather advisory for higher elevations in the Blue Ridge Mountains as well as the central Shenandoah Valley that will last through Sunday night.

The heaviest snowfall in Charlottesville history occurred between March 5 and March 7 in 1962. According to McCormick, the area received 23.8 inches in that three-day period.


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