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Winter to slowly re-assert itself...


The holiday week is moving along quickly, as are the storm systems in the United States.

A Pacific jet stream continues to pummel the west coast with coastal rain and mountain snow, especially in Washington and Oregon, where, after a dismal ’04-’05 season, the resorts are back to enjoying copious amounts of snow, courtesy of the strong flow off the Pacific. That jet is causing systems to fly across the country…they are taking about two to two and a half days to cross the country…which means if you want to start to get a handle on a 7 day forecast, you have to check out what’s happening just east of Japan!

The fast jet is still keeping cold air bottled up north of the border…the fact is that Canada is not particularly cold right now, with respect to their normals. That air is still plenty cold for our purposes, but all but the northeastern corner of Canada is running above normal right now. Meanwhile, as I mentioned in my discussion earlier this week, cold air is being stockpiled over Asia. Quite often, one continent or the other (Asia or North America) holds the lion’s share of the cold air at a given point in the winter. When the cold air is being shared, neither continent tends to reach extremes, but when one has the bulk of the cold, it can get very cold, indeed.

Before I talk about where or when that cold air might impact the United States, there is the matter of the three separate systems that will fly through the east in the next 5 days. The first is underway right now (Thursday morning), and it’s a soggy one right now. Rain is falling over a good portion of the northeast, including all the way to the Canadian border. There is a low pressure area taking shape over the waters near the mouth of Chesapeake Bay, as the primary low dies in the eastern Great Lakes. The secondary low will take a path up and over southeastern New England later today…this is a track that would often produce heavy inland snows from Virginia to central and northern New England, but there just isn’t enough cold air to do the job. Light snow is falling this morning in the mountains of West Virginia, and a couple of inches will accumulate by late today, helping to mitigate the effects of the rain that fell on the front side of the storm. Northern New York and northern New England will see the rain change to snow late tonight, too, but here again, an inch or two will do it for accumulations, and with temperatures remaining below freezing in those mountains Friday, it will be a classic case of “dust on crust”. At least snowmaking can resume in those areas tomorrow, and that will help soften up some runs.

A very subtle change in the weather pattern is going to get underway in the next 5 days or so, one which I believe could have a major impact on snow conditions in the Northeast…roughly north of Interstate 80. Another system will be coming along on Saturday and Sunday…western New York and western Pennsylvania early Saturday…New England Saturday night and Sunday…and this system will take a track a little further south than the current rain maker. It will have a little more cold air to work with, as well, so I expect a “net” of snow in the Catskills and Berkshires, and to a lesser extent the Poconos, where there will be some rain early on, before a change to snow. North of Interstate 90, which runs from Buffalo to Boston, it should be all snow. It won’t be a big storm, but a solid 2 to 4 inches will start the process of repairing the damage that today’s rain caused.

Early next week, yet another low will come racing eastward, and again, it looks as though the track will ease a bit further south than the weekend event, so the rain snow line will also inch southward. Again, it doesn’t look like a big storm, but several inches of new snow will certainly be welcomed. Late next week, a more vigorous low will make its way to the Atlantic coast, and by that time, we could be looking at a more significant storm, especially away from the coast…last time I checked, that’s where you find the ski resorts. The reason that the storm could be bigger is that by that time, the upper level ridge over the west will be rebuilding, and in response, an eastern upper level trough will be taking shape. Those developments will force the jet stream to take a more meridional (north/south) path across the country. In effect, it will “slow” the progression of systems and allow them to tap into more moisture from the Gulf of Mexico, and more cold air from the north. By that time, the jet stream configuration at the high latitudes will have started to shift, allowing for some of the Siberian air to head over the pole. It won’t be ready to descend upon the U.S. quite yet, but it will be massing in the “staging area” in the Northwest Territories of Canada. The late week low will tap into air from the Canadian arctic regions, and although that air is warmer than normal right now, it will be the coldest air to enter the east in a couple of weeks. Overall, then next week will be 5 degrees or so above normal in the eastern U.S., but normal to slightly below normal air will arrive with the passage of the storm about a week from now. The question will then become whether or not the Mother Lode of Siberian cold air will come diving into the country. Further changes in the high latitude jet stream setup will be necessary for that to happen, but the early signs of just such a change are starting to appear. In the meantime, the slow march back to winter, complete with a couple of light to moderate snow events, will take place over the next week.


The New Year has brought with it a new series of forecast challenges, mainly the question of when a sustained period of cold air will return to the eastern United States. The upper level trough that was firmly established over the region for the first three weeks of December weakened in time for a holiday week warm up, and now the upper level flow around the Northern Hemisphere is more conducive to transient long wave features, rather than a stable, sedentary pattern. For the near future, the transient nature of the pattern will produce some moderate swings in temperature, as well as the threat for fast moving systems that bring a variety of precipitation types, with the snow confined generally to the mountains in the central Appalachians and north of Interstate 80.

Yesterday (Thursdays) event worked out pretty much as planned, as light snow fell across New York into New England. Amounts were generally 3 to 6 inches from the Adirondacks across northern New England, although Whiteface, Stowe, and Smuggler’s Notch all checked in with 7. As for the late week coastal snow threat that I mentioned earlier in the week, it looks as though it will stay far enough offshore to keep the snow away from just about everybody, with the possible exception of Cape Cod and the islands. The upper level energy that got the system going in the Carolinas last night just didn’t get involved early enough to allow the low to turn the corner sharply enough to ride up the coast. In the wake of the low, colder air will flow into the east this weekend, which will allow for snowmaking just about everywhere. Snow showers and some squalls have already developed downwind of Lakes Erie and Ontario, and they will continue into the weekend, helping to restore packed powder to resorts in western Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

As was the case in my last discussion, I remain confident that abnormally cold air will indeed return to the eastern U.S. During the past several weeks, Asia has stockpiled a massive area of frigid air, and even though it is literally on the other side of the world, it is a threat that is in play here in this country…all that is needed is the proper alignment of the flow at the higher latitudes, and a chunk of that air can come right over the pole and descend into the U.S. That’s not something that happens overnight…right now I think that the earliest it will happen is the last ten days of this month. Much of Canada has been warmer than normal for much of this winter, but that is starting to change now. The cooling of Canada back to their normal temps (which are still pretty damn cold by our standards) is the first step in making a cold outbreak in the U.S. possible. If a piece of the Asian cold had to move across a milder-than-normal Canada to get to us, the air would be modified to a greater extent as it did…the colder Canada gets, the higher the risk that a late month cold outbreak becomes extreme.

Over the next couple of weeks, I look for a gradual cooling trend overall, with the threat of the cold air diving in and taking over more dramatically later in Week Two…between the 15th and 20th. The primary reason that I think we are headed toward a colder than normal second half of winter is that the pool of warmer than normal water in the Pacific that helped to spread milder air across the country in the past couple of weeks is just about gone. Overall, the generally warmer than normal Atlantic water is a stronger signal this winter…where water is warmer than normal, overall the air is rising, and air over the North American continent will flow in to replace it. The same warm Atlantic water that produced the tremendous amounts of October rain is going to induce cooling the rest of the winter, as colder continental air moves southeastward from Canada (and eventually from Asia) to replace it. By the way, the hangover effect from the warm water from eastern Maryland to southern New England is a big reason why there have been so many instances of snow changing to rain along the coast this winter. Usually that tendency is just about gone by January as the waters moderating effect is lessened, but this year, the water temps had further to fall.

Another critical component to delivering cold air into the eastern U.S. is the NAO, or North Atlantic Oscillation. When the NAO is in its negative phase, low pressure is located near the Azores, and high pressure is situated over the North Atlantic, in the vicinity of Iceland and Greenland. In this position, the high helps to establish higher latitude blocking, which forces the jet stream to flow in more of a north to south or south to north fashion. That configuration favors a trough in the eastern part of the country. Right now, the jet is basically flowing west to east across the U.S. A fairly significant trough will take shape over the east this weekend, which is why it will turn colder, but again, the trough is a transient one, and by early next week the trough will weaken and move on, and moderation will set in again. This weekend will be colder, but not excessively so, because the source region for the air…Canada…isn’t that cold right now. But, by late this month, with blocking in place, and with a colder source region of air, we’ll all get a shot of the real meaning of winter.

So, the next couple of weeks will bring about a gradual cooling trend overall, although it will turn mild again after this weekend’s cool shot. Snow in the next week will come from a series of Alberta Clippers, and generally be confined to resorts north of I-80. The cooling will become a little more pronounced in the 7 to 10 day period and beyond. In the meantime, the pattern is a relatively benign one, with some pretty good snow to enjoy out there, especially across the north…

Riding the coaster again...


For the past couple of weeks, I have been touting the return of colder air to the eastern part of the United States, and while I still feel as though it will come, I am now of the belief that those of us hoping for consistent cold will have to wait a little longer. It is mild right now over most of the region, and it is only going to get milder as this week progresses…colder air will arrive over the upcoming weekend, but with a price…rain will fall in most areas, with a change to snow in the mountains as the cold air moves in. The rain is certainly not good news on MLK weekend, especially after a couple of mild days put a dent in the Christmas week business. In the mountains, the backside snow will help to cover the sins of the front running wet stuff, however.

As the milder air arrived on Monday, it ran into the cold air that was leftover from a weekend trough that dominated in the east. There was enough cold air to set off a period of snow across northern New England…5 inches fell at Stowe and Burke Mountain in Vermont…1 to 2 was the common report in New Hampshire…in Maine, Sunday River got 3, Sugarloaf 6, and Saddleback 7…northern New England will have packed powder surfaces today and tomorrow, and then the snow will moisten up with the mild air. Right now, it looks as though Saturday will be the wet day in the mid Atlantic, with rain showers moving into New York and New England on Saturday night, changing to snow as Sunday unfolds. Monday looks dry, with temps a little below normal…surfaces will be firm, so head for the sunniest trails if you are sliding on MLK Day.

Next week, another in a series of transient upper level troughs will deliver cold air to the Midwest, and later in the week, the cold will spread into the east. Again, the cold air will be preceded by a moderation trend, complete with “warm advection” snows in New York and New England. As the transition back to cold takes place, another shot of rain changing to snow is likely. By the weekend of the 21st/22nd, it appears as though a bigger chunk of cold air will be moving south out of Canada, but right now I think that it will target the west, and not the east. That would produce a western trough/eastern ridge configuration, which would produce another mild trend east of the Mississippi. It is important to note that Canada continues to cool overall…it was much warmer than normal late in December…but the bulk of the cooling is taking place in the far northeastern corner of the country and the far west…thus, the belief that the western U.S. will see the first shot of significantly colder air from this pattern.

I mentioned that next week’s trough in the east will be transient…right now, the jet stream flow around the Northern Hemisphere does not have much amplitude…it is generally flowing west to east around the globe. When the flow is amplified, the troughs and ridges are more distinct than they are right now. Larger troughs and ridges mean areas of more dramatically cold and warm air, and that is where we are headed later this month. It is also worth noting that the west to east, or zonal flow pattern tends to act as a dam, holding any cold air in Canada at bay…there hasn’t been much cold air to the north of late, but that is changing, and when the flow does buckle to a greater degree in the coming weeks, the stakes will be raised concerning the impact of any delivery from the north. In a fast flow pattern such as this, it is often very difficult to forecast just where the troughs and ridges will form…and forecaster confidence takes a hit. The computer models that most meteorologists depend on are at odds with one another right now, so forecasting methods that don’t rely on the computers as much have an advantage, I believe. Based on previous winters (analog forecasting) and pattern recognition (looking at large scale features around the rest of the hemisphere), it looks to me as though any outbreak of consistent cold in the eastern U.S. will have to wait until the end of the month. Until then, it will continue to be a bit of a roller coaster ride, with a bias toward milder than normal weather. That was what I expected as we entered this winter, and thus far, it’s been a season of fairly dramatic peaks and valleys. Thankfully, the analog winters suggest that the bulk of the “winter” weather will be found in the second half of the season, as was the case in 2005. So take heart and hang in there…cold and snow will return, but for the next couple of weeks, they’ll come in short shots.

Wild Weekend Storm...


This is certainly turning into a weather pattern not for the faint of heart…While the pattern overall continues to be one featuring a zonal (west to east) jet stream pattern over the United States, embedded short waves continue to cause a ruckus every few days. The latest in the series will provide all of the glorious variety that Mother Nature can produce in January…between later today (Friday) and Sunday evening, everything from severe thunderstorms to blizzard conditions will be experienced in the eastern part of the country.

The storm will move eastward from the lower Great Lakes into Pennsylvania, with a secondary area of low pressure forming along the New Jersey coast, before moving across extreme southeastern New England on its way to the Maritimes. In advance of the storm, there is no cold air lying in wait, so the precipitation will begin as rain…everywhere. Aloft, the storm will be the result of the collaborative efforts of two short waves…one of Pacific origin, and the other having made the trek from Siberia, over the pole, and southeastward through Canada. The Siberian wave will inject a shot of very cold air into the system, both at the surface and aloft, which will help to ratchet up the intensity of the system as it passes New England. As the cold air catches up with the backside of the moisture field, rain will change to snow…in New York on Saturday afternoon /evening and in New England overnight Saturday into Sunday. Most areas will get several hours of moderate to heavy snow, which will accumulate 3 to 5 inches or so, and the snow will be accompanied by very strong winds, which will make travel a bit dicey for 6 to 12 hours. Backlash snow will not just be confined to New York and New England…the flakes will fly into the Poconos, where a couple of inches will be the result, and it will also snow in western Pennsylvania down into the central and southern Appalachians. Here, too, several inches will be the result. Now, keep in mind that the rain and sudden drop in the temperature will certainly turn the surfaces to something very firm, so skiing and riding on Sunday and Monday will be on variable surfaces…high traffic areas will get slick from traffic. In the mountains of northern New York and New England, the cold air will set off instability snow showers all day Sunday, which will help to keep the surfaces soft, for the most part. Sunday will be windy, and one of the two or three coldest days of the season thus far, so be prepared for that. Highs on the summits on Sunday will not get above 10 degrees, and the north winds will be howlin’…but there will be some powder to be enjoyed where it gets blown in…local knowledge will be a big help.

The cold will only last about 48 hours, before another mild spell sets in…the jet stream will flatten out quickly, allowing for the more modified Pacific air to flow into the region. The next short wave will move through the region in the middle of the week, and unlike the weekend storm, which will pass underneath New York and New England, the next one will pass further to the northwest. That will ensure that the midweek precip will be once again be mostly rain, although I still think we’ll get some backlash snow to cover the sins of the storm…cold air will also arrive on the backside…cold enough for snowmaking for a day or so in most of the east.

Once the midweek system moves out, the jet stream will undergo another change, this time favoring the west. For the past three weeks, the Pacific Northwest has been hammered by a moist onshore flow from the ocean. The coastal ranges have had tons of snow, although snow levels have been a little higher than normal, while the northern Rockies have had an abundance of snow further inland. Every few days or so, the jet has been dipping down low enough to deliver snow to the Wasatch…another area that has had wonderful skiing and riding of late…but late next week, a deeper trough will take up residence over the region, and that will mean more snow for just about everybody out west, along with colder temps and lower snow levels. The western trough will not be a permanent feature, but it will hang out there for several days, before a series of events around the northern hemisphere force it eastward. When that trough moves across the country, during the last few days of the month, I believe that the overall pattern will finally change, with colder air spreading out over most of the lower 48. Canada continues to slowly grow colder, coming down from the outrageously abnormal warmth that covered the country late in December, and that cold air will be poised to drop into the country with the passage of the late month system.

Just a few words about the rest of the season…it is not over, by any means. The two winters that are the best matches for what we have seen thus far are 1995-96 and 1933-34. Both of those winters were colder than normal in the February-March time frame, and that is what I expect to be the case this season…like 2005, this winter will be back loaded in terms of consistent cold and snow. In January 1996, there was a dramatic thaw in the east, but, if you remember, that season was the one that saw seasonal snowfall records set from the Mid Atlantic through New England. I am not forecasting that, but I am confident that skiers and riders will find the second half of the season much more to their liking…in the meantime, the roller coaster ride continues…

Another messy storm...cold onthe horizon...


Last weekend’s storm turned out to be as wild as expected…high winds, heavy rains, thunderstorms, blizzard conditions, and thankfully, some meaningful snow on the backside of the storm. The backlash snow helped to cover the sins of the wind-driven rain, to some extent. Unfortunately, the winds continued for about 24 hours after the snow ended, and a lot of the new stuff ended up in the woods. The base snow that was exposed to the incoming shot of arctic air turned mighty hard, and the groomers have done the best they could to change the surface to something a little more playable. The snowmakers got a chance to make some significant snow on Monday and Monday night…the lower elevations got the first shot, because the winds up above were just too hard to allow for any snow gun accuracy. Last night (Monday) was the most productive night of snowmaking from the Poconos northeastward in several weeks.

Just as the ski resorts counterpunch, Mother Nature is getting ready to throw another shot. Another storm is approaching the east as I write this discussion, and once again, it’s going to be a messy one. The low pressure center will pass through the eastern lakes, and that path will put the region on the warm side of the action. There will be enough cold air left in place to produce a wintry potpourri of stuff, including some snow, particularly in far northern Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine and Quebec province. In these areas, 2 to 4 inches of new snow will precede a changeover to sleet and freezing rain. The messy stuff will change back to a period of snow at the end, with only a light accumulation coming from the backlash this time. The cold air will not be as effective at fighting off the advancing warm air further south, so after a period of ice, the Catskills and Berkshires will go over to rain, with a little snow at the end later Wednesday. Snow on the backside will also fall in the mountains of western Pennsylvania southward to the Smokies, with a couple of inches the high side for accumulations.

Once the midweek storm moves on, temperatures will cool enough to permit some nighttime snowmaking, but let’s face it; the east needs snow of the natural variety. It is not in the cards for the next week, with only a cold frontal passage this weekend to look forward to …it will produce snow showers across northern New York and New England, with a mix of rain/snow showers further south. The air behind the front will not be of arctic origin, so the cooling will be limited. Early next week, temps will moderate over much of the east, with the exception of northern New England, where a subtle “back door” cold front looks as though it will slip in from Quebec, keeping readings around normal for this time of the year. Speaking of which…this is the climatologically coldest time of the year, and aside from Monday, it sure hasn’t felt like it. The good news is that at this time of year, you don’t need much of a “cold” air mass to produce snow. In fact, as we start to trend back toward colder weather in the last ten days of the month, I think that snows will start to press southward…from I-90 to I-80, and then further south as we head into February. I stated on my television report last week that overall, the last two weeks of this month will be snowier than the first two, and I still feel that will be the case.

At the jet stream level, changes continue to take place…changes that I believe will lead to a colder and snowier February and March. The change will come as we close out this month, when an upper level trough takes shape in the eastern U.S. For the past several weeks, the predominant flow in the continental U.S. has been a zonal one that is an west to east jet stream. That has been great news in the Cascades of the Pacific Northwest, the northern Rockies, Wasatch Range, and to a lesser extent, the Sierra Nevada range. Further east, there have been a few messy storms produced by embedded short waves in the zonal flow, but cold air has been in short supply. Canada was very warm, relative to normal, as January got underway, so even when the flow turned northwestward on the back side of the short waves, the cooling was limited. Well, Canada has been cooling for the past couple of weeks, and that process will continue until further notice. The biggest chunk of cold air in the northern hemisphere is over Siberia right now, and it is especially cold, even by Siberian standards. Some of that cold has started to ooze over the pole into northwest North America, which has accounted for the cooling of western Canada lately. When I look for a sign that the cold of Siberia might make a more significant move into North America, I first try to determine whether or not an upper level ridge is present in central Asia. If it is, then the cold air gets a push up toward the pole, which is the only way it can get to us, really. The ridge is starting to build in central Asia, and that should continue the push between now and the end of the month. The other major player that should be in place for a cold regime to set up in the east is a negative NAO, or North Atlantic Oscillation. A negative NAO consists of an upper level ridge over Greenland/Iceland and an upper level trough over the Azores. A number of the longer range tools that forecasters use are now indicating that the NAO will be going negative by the last few days of the month, which should help to change the pattern. The negative NAO produces more of roadblock for cold air that flows off the continent, which tends to pool over the eastern U.S. That would provide the region with enough cold air for snowstorms, but if the Greenland ridge builds toward the pole and connects with the ridge poking up from Asia, then a full scale assault of Siberian cold could take place in the U.S., a la 1934, which was highlighted by a very warm January, followed by one of the coldest February’s in U.S. history. Could be a case of “be careful what you wish for”…
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oh please let it be.
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I wishing!!

How much longer???


If you ever had any doubts about the resilient nature of machine made snow, the past 3 weeks have provided the best example in recent memory as to just how tough the stuff really is. Since the major snowmaking effort of December, the bases of the east have been rained on repeatedly, been enshrouded in fog on a number of occasions, been glazed by freezing rain and sleet, and every so often, been refreshed by either light snow, or an overnight coating of new machine made crystals. During that time, the traffic from one long holiday week and another long weekend has taken its toll, as well. Nevertheless, trail counts have held just about steady since hitting their peak in late December…the exception is the natural snow trails in the region…most of them have either been closed, or the cover has gotten quite thin, or in some cases well to the north, been converted into something only slightly softer than stainless steel. Those of you old enough to remember what life on the slopes was like before the snowmaking revolution can imagine how little open terrain there would be right now without the snow guns…those of you a little younger…take my word for it…you’d be out of luck for skiing or riding.

The question is…when will the pattern change and bring about a reversal of fortune in the region? Well, the change is underway already…slowly but surely. As has been the case for a couple of weeks, Canada continues to cool down. The western third of the country is now below normal, and the rest of the country is getting close to normal again. Meanwhile, over the North Pole, in Asia, it is extremely cold, and it has been for many weeks now, and a piece of that extreme cold has worked its way into Alaska. Central Asia is one of the spots that I look at for early signs of cold air invading our part of the U.S. When an upper level ridge starts to develop in that part of the world, that is a sign that a connection over the pole may be in the works…a connection that eventually gives us our coldest weather. Other factors have to cooperate in order to put the delivery mechanism fully into place…upper level ridging must also develop in the arctic regions, preferably over Greenland and Iceland. When North Atlantic ridging combines with a trough near the Azores, the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) is in its’ negative phase, which correlates very strongly with colder than normal weather in the eastern U.S., especially in the months of February, March, and April. A negative NAO tends to direct cold air into the eastern U.S. and it also promotes east coast storm formation. The water off the northeast coast is still warmer than normal, and I believe that will play a big role in February’s weather, because any storm that heads across that water will benefit from the added energy that the heat provides, and I think we’ll see some significant snowstorms in the period from early February through March.

In the short run, a couple of systems will run through the region. During the next week, I think we’re going to see temperatures start to trend down, and snow cover over the northeastern quarter of the country will be expanding. The first system will move northeastward late this week, taking a track into the St, Lawrence River valley…not a good path for northeast snow. It will produce some backside snow from Ohio, across upstate New York and into northern New England, but everybody will also get at least some rain with this one. Amounts of new snow will be light, due to the fast forward speed of the system…for that matter, rainfall will be light, too. The air behind this storm will not be particularly cold, but it will cool down enough to provide a better environment for snowfall with the next system, which will run from southeast Texas to Nantucket early next week, with snow falling generally north of Interstate 80 in the northeast, and north of Interstate 70 from Pittsburgh westward to St. Louis. Right now this looks like a 3-6 inch snowfall. Behind this storm temperatures will be colder than normal in New England, but only back to normal through the mid Atlantic and points further west, into the Ohio Valley. “Normal” will be a slap in the face after the recent warmth…remember, we are right at the point in the season with the coldest averages. Also, areas in Ohio, western Pennsylvania, western New York, and West Virginia will be under the gun for lake effect snow in the next couple of weeks, because the mild January has done little to cool the waters of lakes Erie and Ontario, which are still wide open and loaded with fuel for any cold air mass that passes overhead.

The latter part of next week into the following week will feature a back and forth pattern, which is what we have endured of late, but with a colder overall tone. By the 30th or so, look for a powerful push of arctic air to enter the country. A warm up of a few days will precede the cold shot, but the “warm-up” will not be sufficiently warm to prevent snow from falling. Remember, we’ll be cooling down gradually between now and the end of the month, as pieces of the cold building in Canada enter the country, before we are threatened with the whole mother lode dropping in. All periods of major transition are the toughest to forecast, and the week of the 23rd promises to be challenging. The consistent cold will be arriving the week of the 30th, which should set the stage for a cold and snowy February, and that includes places like the mid Atlantic region, where snow has been very scarce since mid December. This has been a winter that has featured extremes, which only continued what we have observed for much of the past year, and the month of February has strong potential to bring the latest reversal of fortune. So, just like the machine made snow has done so well for the past few weeks…hang in there!!!
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thats too much fro me to read.
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It's more than 1 line.
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