So far, it appears that the forecasters have been right on track. Although they can’t say yet if it will come down as snow, ice, sleet or just a cold rain, officials from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center expect above-normal precipitation now through the end of March across both states.
According to reports from the Metro Utility Department water treatment plant, which records and reports its information to the National Weather Service in Huntsville, Ala., 5.86 inches of rain has fallen so far this month, saturating the ground and creating greater than normal runoff.
It’s rained 13 days during January so far, and that includes 10 straight days from Jan. 9 through Jan. 18, with the heaviest being Jan. 16, when 1.76 inches of rain were recorded.
December was relatively wet as well, with 9.59 inches of rain recorded.
The constant rain led to rising streams and creeks in Middle Tennessee. At least two counties in West Tennessee — McNairy and Hardin — closed schools last Monday because of area flooding.
Elsewhere in the state, there were flood warnings for several Middle Tennessee counties, as well as some tornado warnings.
“That water has nowhere to go but on top,” said Metro Utility Department manager Rick Garland, adding that the weather can severely hamper projects in the winter. “It makes it hard for us to go out and do any cleanups, but I think most people understand that. When we can seize the opportunity to go out and straighten something up, we do.”
The area received some relief late last week when the sun broke through the clouds on Friday. The sunshine lasted through the weekend and into Thursday. The short-term forecast calls for a 70 percent chance of rain on Friday with a slight warm up and partly cloudy skies Saturday through Monday.
The temperature outlook is slightly above normal in the western half of Tennessee, with usual readings elsewhere. The prediction for more precipitation is too long-range for forecasters to pinpoint the type or amount to expect.
“What the outlook can’t tell us is how much,” said Bobby Boyd, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Nashville.
Moore County’s director of schools, Chad Moorehead, said he’d almost always prefer the rain as opposed to ice and snow. He said that safety is his primary concern, and it’s much easier to make adjustments when there has been several days of heavy rain.
“The snow and ice concerns me more,” said Moorehead. “The creeks rising normally is something that builds up over time and you can keep an eye on it. The snow and ice … it could start sleeting in five minutes and turn bad before you could get the bus drivers here and ready to go.
“I spent (last) week trying to forecast the weather. Hindsight is 20/20. We just try to err on the side of caution, and we hope the parents understand that.”
Not long after Moorehead shared his concerns about potential snow and ice, those fears were reaffirmed some 65 miles to the west of Moore County where two inches of snow fell in Lawrence County Thursday in just 20 minutes.
With the band of winter weather approaching Middle Tennessee, Moorehead made the decision to release school early. He wasn’t alone as both Franklin County and Fayetteville City schools were closed Wednesday and dismissed early on Thursday. Coffee County Schools were also closed Thursday due to the threat of sleet and snow.
While he said the winter weather is hard to prepare for, he feels comfortable that Moore County has an adequate amount of days in reserve just in case.
“In our school calendar, we go to school 30 minutes longer than the state requires. Because of that, we are able to stockpile days, so we still can meet our 180 days of instruction,” Moorehead said. “You can stockpile up to 13 days.”
Moorehead added that because Moore County schools get out early one day each month for a teacher professional development, the Moore County school system essentially has 10 days in reserve.
Read the complete story in this week’s (Jan. 24) print edition of The Moore County News. (Click here to subscribe to the print or online edition of The Moore County News)
By ROBERT HOLMAN (Robert Holman is the editor of the Moore County News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)