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Weather-weary nation wonders about nasty conditions

WASHINGTON — Cold and snow keep battering the Midwest and East, and even Atlanta was temporarily paralyzed. California has been bone dry. Alaska set heat records.

The wild winter somehow became even more wicked Thursday morning when the national average temperature plunged to a brutal 11 degrees — the lowest temperature in a season of extremes.

A weather-weary nation asks a simple question: Why?

The answer is the jet stream, the river of air that dictates our weather. Normally the jet stream stays in Canada or the northern United States, going west to east in a somewhat straight line. But this winter it has plunged south, creating high pressure ridges and low pressure troughs while taking cold polar air south and east, leaving warm, dry weather to the west.

"We are having an unusual jet stream that's giving us crazy cold weather in the East and the ridiculously resilient ridge as it's called in California," said Weather Underground meteorology director Jeff Masters.

When will it end?

Soon enough. In Northern California, heavy rains are coming. And a predicted eastern winter snowstorm this weekend is looking less mighty than it did a few days ago.

It won't be too soon for the meteorologists who predict it.

"I'm sick of it," said Bruce Terry, of the National Weather Service's Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Md.

A man inspects an ice-covered tree that took out a utility line and landed atop a minivan after a storm Wednesday in Philadelphia. Icy conditions have knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of electric customers in southeastern Pennsylvania.

Associated Press

A man inspects an ice-covered tree that took out a utility line and landed atop a minivan after a storm Wednesday in Philadelphia. Icy conditions have knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of electric customers in southeastern Pennsylvania.

Utilities scramble to restore power

Hundreds of thousands of people spent a second day without electricity Thursday as utility crews scrambled to restore power lost when ice took down trees and limbs in the mid-Atlantic.

Nearly a half-million customers lacked power in Pennsylvania and Maryland.

PECO, the dominant electricity provider in the Philadelphia area, had the most outages with 394,000. Spokeswoman Debra Yemenijian said most would have their lights back on by tonight, but some could be without power until Sunday.

Associated Press

Weather-weary nation wonders about nasty conditions 02/06/14 [Last modified: Thursday, February 6, 2014 11:09pm]
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