Spring forecast to march in with bit of winter's chill

Monday, March 20, 2006

Meteorologists say be prepared for a cool and damp start to the week when spring arrives today. But by the end of the week, area residents can expect sunshine and warmer temperatures.

At 1:26 p.m. today, spring will officially begin. The vernal equinox -- the day when the sun will cross directly over the Earth's equator, resulting in days and nights of equal length -- will arrive.

The forecast calls for a mostly cloudy first day of spring with a good chance of rain, possibly freezing precipitation. The temperature should reach the 40s and drop into the 30s at night. On Tuesday, the temperatures will reach the mid-40s with a 30 percent chance of precipitation.

"We're probably going to be seeing the last of the colder weather in the next couple of weeks," said David Humphrey, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

Local florists say the cooler nighttime temperatures shouldn't affect the spring flowers already in bloom.

Jeanne Friedrich, a florist at Arrangements by Joyce, said irises, tulips and daffodils have been popping up recently and will survive as long as temperatures don't fall below 30 degrees.

"The spring bulb flowers will be fine," she said. "The cool nights are actually good for the flowers and trees because they will last longer."

It's the unseasonable warm temperatures that affect the flowers.

"Because they bloom faster," Friedrich explained. "When it's cooler, we can enjoy them for a while longer."

Temperatures during the first 15 days of March have been above average, Humphrey said. Five of the 15 days have been significantly above average -- approximately 9 degrees above normal.

The area has already received above average amounts of rainfall for the month. Normal rainfall totals for March are approximately four to six inches.

Humphrey said last Thursday in Cape Girardeau, approximately four to six inches of rain fell in one day.

"It was like the April showers came early in the area," Humphrey said.

jfreeze@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 246

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