Simply saying that February was cold doesn’t quite cover it. We set nine low temperature records, tied another one and also set one record high. All in the space of about two weeks. But Geary County Extension Agent Chuck Otte said as brutal as the temperature was, for both humans and animals, it was not the coldest February on record, in fact it was only the fourth coldest February.
Otte said the average daily high for February was 32.1, 12.5 degrees below normal. The average overnight low as 12, 10.4 degrees below normal. This gave us a monthly mean temperature of 22.1, 11.4 degrees below normal. This was the fourth coldest February on record. The coldest was February of 1979 with a monthly mean temperature of 17.6. A year earlier we had the second coldest February with a monthly mean temperature of 17.8. Nestled between that cold February and this year was February 1989 with an average of 21.9 degrees. The highest and lowest temperatures for the month both set records for their respective dates. The lowest temperature for the month was -18 on the morning of the 16th. The highest temperature for the month came one week later when we hit 73 on the afternoon of the 23rd. This gave us a one week temperature swing of 91 degrees. On February 15th we had a high temperature of -2. There are six previous days involving three cold snaps when that also happened. December 21 and 22, 1989 we had daytime highs of -7 and -3. In December 1983 we had three consecutive days, December 21, 22 and 23 that stayed below zero with daytimes highs of -2, -1, -2 and on February 4, 1989 we had a daytime high of -2. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does it is memorable!
The overnight lows on February 14, 15 and 16 all set new record lows for those dates. The low of -12 on the 14th broke the old record of -2 set in 2007. The low of -15 broke the old record of 0 also set in 2007 and the low of -18 on the 16th broke the old record of -10 set in 1979. The -18 reading on the 16th also ties for the coldest February temperature. It was previously reached on February 1, 1979. Amazingly, on the 23rd we hit 73 degrees which was a new record high. The old record was 72 set in 1976. We also set or tied numerous record low high temperatures. 9 on the 7th broke the old record of 13 set in 1994; 6 on the 8th, old record was 11 set in 1994; 0 on the 12th, 13th, and 14th broke the old records, respectively, of 20 set in 2004, 18 set in 1949 and 14 set in 2007; -2 on the 15th broke 11 set in 2007 and 7 on the 16th tied the old record first set in 1979.
February precipitation was nearly a non-factor. While snow flakes were seen in the air many days during the cold spell we only managed to garner a total of 1 inch of snow for a total liquid equivalent of 0.12 inches at Milford Lake and 0.17 inches in Junction City. Normal snowfall for February is 4.7 inches and precipitation average is 1.10 inches. Year to date we have received 1.05 inches of precipitation in Junction City and 0.89 inches at Milford Lake. Normal through February is 1.83 inches. Season to date snowfall is 3.5 inches with normal seasonal snowfall through February of 14.1 inches.
March brings the start of meteorological spring on the 1st and astronomical spring on the 20th. We also hope that it brings us somewhat more normal temperatures. March average daily highs run from 50 on the 1st to 62 on the 31st. Average overnight lows rise from 26 at the start of the month to 39 by the end of the month. We often see our first thunderstorms during March and monthly average rainfall increases to 2.0 inches. But it is a transition month and we average 3.1 inches of snow during the month as well. Once we reach spring on the 20th we also start to have more hours of daylight than night. For the month we gain a little over 2½ minutes of daylight per day. But gardeners need to temper their enthusiasm with the reality that our average last frost date isn’t until April 14th and frost free date (for planting frost tender plants like tomatoes and peppers) isn’t until May 10th.