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Forecasters say cold snap not unusual

by Paul Leakan


(September 10) Though it's still officially summer, plummeting temperatures over the past few nights may cause some people to pack away their T-shirts and dig up their sweaters.

The low temperature Tuesday at Benedum Airport was reported at 45 degrees, according to the National Weather Service in Charleston. While no record temperatures are available for Clarksburg, a record low was set Wednesday morning in Bluefield, where temperatures dipped to 41 degrees. The previously low in Bluefield, set in 1979, was 44 degrees.

What's the culprit?

A cold front pushed through the area Monday evening, coming almost straight from the north, according to Matt Belk, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Charleston. Cool air from the north also swept behind the front, leaving a unseasonable nip in the air.

It may seem unusually cool right now, but the weather is not rare for this time of year, Belk said.

"It's very common to get cool Canadian high pressure, particularly as we get into fall," he said. "It's a little taste of autumn, just to let you know that seasons are changing."

The transition from summer to fall means the sun will soon be positioned away from our area, the northern hemisphere, toward the southern hemisphere, Belk said.

"The sun is becoming more and more at an oblique angle, so it's not as strong," he said. "It's getting weaker, as far as its ability to warm us up."

Fall begins Sept. 22. That doesn't necessarily mean people should ditch their shorts and slip into thermal underwear over the next few weeks.

"We'll have our warm spells and our cool spells," Belk said. "It's that transition kind of phase. It's not anything extraordinary. It's happened before. It will happen again."

Heading toward the end of the week the area will be getting out of the cool snap and back to more seasonable temperatures, Belk said. The forecast for the next few days calls for highs in the mid-70s and lows in the mid-50s.

Until then, some in the area may seek relief by cranking up the heat in their homes. The lower temperatures, however, won't put a strain on power, according to Allen Staggers, spokesman for Allegheny Power.

"I'm sure some people's furnaces have kicked on in the early morning, but it's minor as far as our demand," Staggers said. "If it does anything it decreases our demand.

"It's really not cold enough," he added. "The highest pinnacle of demand normally occurs in a period of hot weather or very cold temperatures. One hot day or one cold day won't cause a peak in demand. It takes a pro-longed period of hot or cold days to create a peak."