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The 2018–19 North American winter is winter in North America as it is occurring across the continent from late 2018 through early 2019. So far, notable events have included snow in the Southeast in December, a strong cold wave and several major winter storms in the Midwest, Northeast and much of Canada late January and early February, record snowstorms in the Southwest late February, two nor'easters that affected the east coast early March, deadly tornado outbreaks in the Southeast, collapsing buildings in Quebec, a historic mid-April blizzard in the Midwest, but the most notable event all season was a record-breaking bomb cyclone that affected much of North America mid March. Unlike previous winters, a developing El Niño was expected to influence weather patterns across North America.

2018–19 North American winter
Temperatures plummeting across North America late January
Seasonal boundaries
Astronomical winterDecember 21 – March 20
Meteorological winterDecember 1 – February 28
Most notable event
NameMarch 2019 North American blizzard
DurationMarch 8–16
Maximum snow accumulation
Highest snowfall total52 inches (130 cm) at Wolf Creek Pass, Colorado

While there is no well-agreed-upon date used to indicate the start of winter in the Northern Hemisphere, there are two definitions of winter which may be used. Based on the astronomical definition, winter begins at the winter solstice, which in 2018 occurred on December 21, 2018, and ends at the March equinox, which in 2019 occurred on March 20, 2019.[1] Based on the meteorological definition, the first day of winter is December 1 and the last day February 28.[2] Both definitions involve a period of approximately three months, with some variability. Winter is often defined by meteorologists to be the three calendar months with the lowest average temperatures. Since both definitions span the calendar year, it is possible to have a winter storm in two different years.

Contents

Seasonal forecastsEdit

Temperature outlook
Precipitation outlook

On October 18, 2018, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Climate Prediction Center released its U.S. Winter Outlook. The outlook noted a 70 to 75% chance of El Niño developing. CPC Deputy Director Mike Halpert specified that development was expected to occur by late fall to early winter. He added that while the El Niño was expected to be weak, it still had the potential to bring drier conditions to the northern United States and wetter conditions to the southern U.S. The outlook also noted the potential for the Arctic oscillation to bring colder-than-average conditions to the eastern U.S. and the possibility of the Madden-Julian oscillation contributing to heavy-precipitation events along the West Coast. The temperature outlook favored warmer-than-normal conditions across the northern and western U.S. with the highest probabilities from the Pacific Northwest to the northern Plains and in Alaska. Such conditions were also favored in Hawaii. The outlook also noted that the Tennessee and Ohio Valleys, the Mid-Atlantic region, and the U.S. Southeast had equal chances of either above-, below-, or near-average temperatures. The outlook did not delineate any areas likely to experience below-average conditions. The precipitation outlook noted an elevated probability of wetter-than-average conditions across the southern tier of the United States and along the eastern U.S. up to the Mid-Atlantic. Drier conditions were favored in parts of the northern Rockies and northern Plains, northern Ohio Valley, and Great Lakes regions. The drought outlook mentioned a high likelihood for drought conditions to persist across parts of the southwestern U.S., southern California, the central Great Basin, the central Rockies, the northern Plains, and parts of the interior Pacific Northwest. Drought conditions were favored to improve in the central Plains, the coastal Pacific Northwest, southern portions of Colorado and Utah, and in various areas in both Arizona and New Mexico.[3]

EventsEdit

Mid-November winter stormEdit

 
Autumn leaves fell alongside the snow during the mid-November winter storm in Washington D.C.'s northern Virginia suburbs

An early season winter storm developed in a deep dive of the jet stream into the mid-south on November 13. Accumulating snow was reported in the morning hours of November 13 in Monroe, Louisiana breaking the record for the earliest snowfall by 10 days. In Mississippi light snow was reported in Greenville, sleet in Tueplo and Memphis, Tennessee picked up 0.6 inches (1.5 cm) of snow. Meanwhile, in Ohio, ice accumulations of one-quarter to one-third of an inch were reported in Cincinnati and Dayton metros as well as parts of Northern and Central Kentucky. A general 2 to 5 inches (5 to 12.7 cm) of snow fell in the St. Louis metro with isolated reports of 9 inches/22 cm. November 15, as the storm headed northeastward, an unexpected 6.4 inches (~16.2 cm) of snow fell in Central Park, catching many off guard and resulting in several hour-long commutes that night.[4] Further north, the Toronto area received 10–15 cm (4-6 inches) of snow, leading to significant delays.

Late November blizzardEdit

A winter storm formed over the Pacific Northwest November 23 and tracked into the interior Northeast by November 27. Snow caused a 20 vehicle pile-up in Colorado on Interstate 70, meanwhile Interstate 80 in Southeastern Wyoming had to be shut down due to heavy snow and strong winds. The storm snarled traffic in Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri and parts of Illinois as blizzard conditions were reported in Salina, Kansas towards Independence, Missouri and northwards into Iowa and Illinois. Conditions were so bad that stranded drivers had to be rescued by snowmobile. Nationwide, nearly 3,000 flights were cancelled and 4 have died.[5] 5.8 inches (14.7 cm) of snow fell in Kansas City and 8.4 inches (21.3 cm) were reported at O'Hare. Additionally, as the storm pushed into Upstate New York and Northern New England, over a foot of snow were recorded in some locations.[6]

Early December winter stormEdit

A significant winter storm brought snow and ice from Southern plains to the Southeast.[7][8] Early on December 8, 10.5 inches (27 centimetres) of snow fell in Lubbock, TX. Snow fell as south and east as Abilene, TX. This storm caused thousands of people to lose power and 60 car crashes were reported across the Lubbock area. This will be the third time Lubbock has had a double digit snowfall. Only 4 inches were predicted across Lubbock , the residents were shocked to wake up to almost a foot of snow. The storm moved east from Texas and Oklahoma to the Carolinas and Virginia. The storm caused icing across Tennessee and Arkansas, as well as some snowfall. Late on December 9, 1 foot (30 centimetres) of snow or more had fallen in parts of North Carolina and Virginia;[9] both states had declared states of emergency. 240,000 Duke Energy customers had lost power in North Carolina, along with 170,000 more in South Carolina. Appalachian Power had 20,000 without power in Virginia.[10] Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee also had power outages. Charlotte Douglas International Airport had over 1,000 cancellations.[9] Near Winston-Salem, over 14 inches of snow fell, and part of Greensboro, North Carolina received nearly a foot. Three people died in North Carolina.[11] Busick, North Carolina received 34 inches of snow.[12]

Mid-January winter stormEdit

A state of emergency was declared in Pennsylvania and New Jersey as a large winter storm made its way to the Northeastern United States. Three people have already been killed in the Midwest.[13][14] As of January 21, over 4,800 flights had been cancelled and 3,000 delayed.[15] Interstate 55 in Missouri was blocked when snow caused 15 vehicles to crash. Snow totals in New York included 10-15 inches in the Albany area, 18-20 inches in the Adirondacks, and a foot of snow in Buffalo. Connecticut had nearly 28,000 lose power, as well as 3,000 in Ohio.[16] In Southern Ontario, parts of Hamilton received over 40 cm (16 inches) due a lake-effect snowband coming off Lake Ontario. The Toronto area received around 10 cm (4 inches), with 20 cm (8 inches) in Montreal.

Late January winter storms and cold waveEdit

 
The storm as seen in Toronto
 
Radar loop of the Late January storm hitting Michigan

A storm, resulting from a polar vortex from the north, brought blizzard conditions and between 6–14 inches (15 to 35 cm) of snow to the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes region starting in the late evening hours of January 27, while a separate storm dropped snow over the Southeast. Accumulations reached 5 inches (13 cm) in Chicago and Minneapolis, 7 inches (18 cm) in Milwaukee, and 13 inches (33 cm) in Toronto (with 4 inches (10 cm) on the day before with a separate system).[17]

Record-breaking and extreme cold immediately followed the storm as the polar vortex shifted south. Midwestern cities, including Minneapolis, Detroit, Chicago[18] and Milwaukee[19] are under wind chill advisories and severe wind chill warnings with wind chills approaching −55 °F (−48 °C) at night.[18] Chicago area schools, universities, public transportation, and cultural attractions announced closures or reduced schedules during the weather emergency.[20][21] Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers declared states of emergency due to the record low windchill temperatures.[22][23] At least 22 people had reportedly died due to the storm as of January 31, 2019.[24]

Early February winter stormsEdit

February 3-4th winter storm

On February 3 parts of Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin were 50 to 60 degrees warmer than the previous week, but this weather created the potential for an ice storm as well as a risk for floods from quick melting of snow.[25] Despite the area's first ice storm warning in nine years[26] Chicago remained too warm for ice,[27] By February 8, 160,000 in Michigan had lost power due to high winds and ice, with many of those in the Grand Rapids area and in Ionia and Montcalm counties.[28]

February 8-9th winter storm

On February 8, Washington Governor Jay Inslee declared a state of emergency as a winter storm that could bring up to 8 inches (20 cm) of snow began to affect the state. More than 50,000 customers were without power on February 9, according to Puget Sound Energy, while 180 flights from Seattle–Tacoma International Airport have been canceled. The storm is also affecting several national parks in California, with dozens of people in the Sierra Nevada requiring rescue due to the extreme conditions.[29] Some places in the Seattle metropolitan area received 10 inches (25 cm) of snow on February 9, the most in 70 years.[30]

February 11-13th winter storm

Another storm began on February 11, with some areas in the Midwestern and Northeastern United States expected to receive up to 12 inches (30 cm) of snow in the upcoming days, as well as parts of Ontario and Quebec expected to receive 14 inches (35 cm) .[31] In Toronto, all schools were closed on February 12 in anticipation of the storm.[32] The city saw up to 15 cm (6 inches) of snow followed by sleet and freezing rain. Ice and snow in Chicago resulted in 70,000 ComEd power outages.[33] The storm's maximum snowfall accumulation was 26.5 inches (66 cm), which fell near Negaunee, Michigan. Ice secretion peaked at half an inch north of Toledo, Ohio. The storm was dubbed "winter storm Maya" by The Weather Channel.[34]

Mid-February winter stormEdit

As of February 19, a major winter storm had already dumped 14 inches (35 cm) of snow in Flagstaff, Arizona. Las Vegas even received snow for the second time that month. The storm was projected to head east, forcing the cities of Sioux Falls in South Dakota and Norfolk in Virginia both to declared snow emergencies.[35] 3 to 6 inches (7.5 to 15 cm) of snow were expected in the Washington and Baltimore metro areas and up to a foot of snow was forecast for Northern Maryland before the precipitation was expected to change over to sleet or freezing rain.[36] New Jersey governor Phil Murphy declared a state of emergency ahead of the storm. In Washington DC, schools and federal offices closed for the day on Wednesday and over 2,200 domestic flights were cancelled. In Kansas, the storm has been blamed for one death and in New Jersey, two died in a car crash on Wednesday.[37]

Late February winter stormsEdit

Two major winter storms/blizzards affected much of the United States and Eastern Canada late February.

February 22–24 winter storm

On February 22, heavy snow fell once again in parts of the southwest, breaking an all-time snowfall record in Flagstaff with 40.3 inches (102 cm) of snow, and leaving behind nearly 2 inches (5 cm) of snow as far south as Tucson. The snow prompted an emergency declaration and forced the closure of schools. In Nevada, Las Vegas recorded their first measurable snow in over a decade. As the storm tracked further north and east, blizzard conditions were felt in Kansas, resulting in a state of emergency there.[38] Blizzard warnings were issued by the National Weather Service for much of the Upper Midwest and Environment Canada for Central and Northern Ontario in anticipation of the storm, as dangerous travel was expected.[39][40] Widespread high wind warnings were later issued on February 23 for the vast majority of the Great Lakes and the Northeast regions.[41] In Michigan, over 90,000 DTE Energy customers lost power and Interstate 75, including the Mackinac Bridge, closed due to "whiteout conditions" as a result of a "bomb cyclone".[42] The storm was also responsible for tornadoes in the southern US, with the first tornado fatality of the year linked to an EF3 tornado in Columbus, Mississippi.[43]

February 25 - March 1 winter storm

Residents of the Wilamette Valley woke up to a rare accumulating snowfall February 25. 1 to 2 inches (2.5 to 5 cm) fell in western parts of the Portland Metro, while the Eugene Airport reported an impressive total of nearly 20” (50 cm) of snow from February 25–27, making it the south Willamette Valley’s most significant snow event since January, 1969. The interior sections of Oregon reported 2 to 3 feet (60 to 90 cm) of snow. The highest accumulation in the state was 48 inches (120 cm) at La Pine. Meanwhile, in Montana, Missoula's local National Weather Service Station noted blizzard conditions, and in Idaho, 46.5 inches (115 cm) of snow fell in Featherville. Accumulating snow also fell in several other States including parts of the central plains, the Midwest and the Great Lakes, although it was much less significant. Winter weather advisories have been issued for much of the Midwest and Northeast,[44] meanwhile, in Southern Ontario, Toronto was under a snowfall warning as 18 cm (7 inches) of snow fell, which combined with earlier snowstorms pushed the city to above average snowfall for the winter.[45]

Collapsing buildings in QuebecEdit

Alternating snow and rain began to cause structural problems in Quebec, and a spate of building collapse began in mid-February. A few roofs had collpased earlier in the month, but media attention was captured when three buildings collapsed in as many days on February 14–16.[46][47][48] By the second week of March, more than 20 collapses or evacuations had been reported across the province, most of them large industrial-style buildings.

Collapsed or damaged building reports
Location Date Circumstances Ref
Wendake February 8 A building belonging to a company specialized in the fabrication of ladders and stepladder collapsed. No one was inside at the time. [49]
Notre-Dame-du-Mont-Carmel February 14 Municipal garage collapsed following the latest 30 cm of snow. [46]
Saint-Étienne-de-Lauzon February 15 Partial roof collapse of a Métro Plus grocery store. Two people were injured, though unclear if the collapse itself or ensuing panic caused injuries. [47][50]
Trois-Rivières February 16 Collapse of a Kenny U-Pull auto parts store. A security perimeter was established (stopping traffic on nearby Quebec Autoroute 40 for several hours) as it was originally thought a client was trapped in the rubble. [48]
Saint-Jérôme February 16 Collapse of a 2-story mixed-use building. The occupants of seven apartments on the second floor evacuated shortly before the event. The ground floor hosts commercial space. [51][52][53]
Sillery February 16 Aréna Jacques-Coté, a municipal ice rink was evacuated and shut down when damage to a wooden beam was noticed. This interrupted the roof-clearing operations that were ongoing on the building. [54][55]
Saint-Lin–Laurentides February 17 The building belonged to a excavation company, and collapsed on Sunday evening. It was empty whe approximately 75% of the roof collapsed. [56][57][58]
Shawinigan February 17 The building used to be the municipal garage of Grand-Mère and was used for storage. [59]
Mirabel February 18 The industrial building, home to an road maintenance contractor, collapsed in the early hours of the morning. It was empty at the time. [60][56][58]
Saint-Élie-de-Caxton February 20 After the discovery of cracks, the local primary school was evacuated. While it was originally planned to reopen after spring break in March 11, this has been delayed as of March 12. A municipal gravel storage shed had collapsed earlier in the month.[61] [62][63][64][65][66]
Nicolet February 22 The building was a former bowling alley and used by the municipality to store equipment. [67][68]
Wendake February 23 Emergency services came to the scene after the building's alarms were tripped, only to find the Nissen shed-like structure collapsed. It had been used to store small recreational vehicles, and was located directly across the street from the building that collapsed on February 8. [69][70]

[71]

Nicolet February 24 Two days after a municipal building collapsed, the warehouse to the local Rona store did the same [72][73]
Terrebonne February 24 Workers at a 24h grocery store called for an emergency inspection late Sunday night after hearing suspicious noises. Fire services evacuated the building, which suffered a partial roof collapsed soon after. [74][75]
Terrebonne February 24 A car repair shop collapsed, damaging several vehicles, one of which may have been a Ferrari, [74][75]
Joliette February 24 Part of the building occupied by Strong MDI (a manufacturer of high-end screens) was destroyed. It was the oldest section of the building that collapsed. The roof had been cleared of snow two weeks prior. [74]
Saint-Alexis-des-Monts February 25 Workers at a pisciculture company evacuated with only seconds to spare after being alerted by cracking noises. [76]
Loretteville March 4 An overhang collapsed late in the evening, injury one man. [77]
Saint-Romuald March 5 A commercial building collapsed overnight. A gas leak took several hours to be repaired. [77]
Shawinigan March 7 A Maxi store was evacuated and closed due to "structural problems". [78]
Shawinigan March 8 A primary school in the Saint-Gérard-des-Laurentides neighborhood was partially closed until further notice for structural repairs and the students relocated three days before the end of spring break. [66]
Montreal March 10 The building was occupied by an auto part shop and collapsed late on Sunday evening in Montréal-Nord. [79]
Sherbrooke March 11 The building served as a painting shop and for storage of boats (several of which were inside) and collapsed overnight. [80]
Mauricie March 14 According to the president of UPA-Mauricie, around 15 farm building collapsed during that week, as "not all of them are publicized". [81]
Saint-Raphaël March 13 Employees evacuated shortly before the roof of a commercial piggery collapsed. 700 pigs inside survived as internal wall protected them from the metal structure. [82]
Sainte-Foy March 14 The roof of a bungalow collapsed while two tenants were inside the buildings. Both escaped without injury. [83]
Quebec City March 14 A 159-years-old barn collapsed in the Lebourgneuf neighborhood. The building was part of a heritage site and had not been cleared of snow all winter. [84]
Quebec City March 15 Two building collapsed. A Rona warehouse had already collapsed under similar cricumstances in 2017. The other was an unspecified industrial building [85]
Saint-Augustin March 16 Part of the local community center collapsed. The building was closed and scheduled for partial demolition and reconstruction. [86]

March nor'eastersEdit

The first weekend of March, forecasts indicated two nor'easters/major winter storms approaching the east coast could dump over 30 cm (12 inches) of snow in Atlantic Canada and several inches in the Mid-Atlantic and Southern New England.[87]

First nor'easter (March 1–3)

The first storm affected parts of the Mid-Atlantic throughout the day March 1, resulting in a general 1 to 3 inches (2.5 to 7.5 cm) of snow there. Overnight, as the storm headed east, snow brushed Southern New England before slowly passing Nova Scotia and heading out to sea, dumping nearly 50 centimetres (20 inches) of snow in southwest Nova Scotia.[88]

Second nor'easter (March 2–5)

The second storm had formed over the Rockies by March 2 and winter storm warnings were already in place there.[89] In Colorado, 16 inches (40 cm) of snow fell at Estes Park and 3.7 inches (9.2 cm) fell at Denver International Airport. 13 inches (32.5 cm) of snow fell in Squaw Valley, California. As the storm tracked eastward, snow was wreaking havoc on parts of the Four Corner States and the Midwest, closing roads and cancelling over 700 flights.[90] Shaping up to be much more intense than the first storm for the US Northeast, The National Weather Service issued winter storm warnings up the east coast, from West Virginia to Maine. Closer to the shoreline, an icy mix affected the major cities such as Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York and Boston and further south, precipitation stayed as straight rain, with severe thunderstorms along the cold front in the deep south,[91] resulting in a deadly early-season tornado outbreak in Dixie Alley.[92][93] The storm also affected Atlantic Canada, although the track of the low was much closer to the shoreline than the previous storm, resulting in mixed precipitation for Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, with heftier snowfall totals in New Brunswick and Newfoundland.[94] 24 centimetres (9.6 inches) of snow fell in Moncton and winds gusted to 170 km/h (105 mph) in Wreckhouse.[95]

March 3rd tornado outbreakEdit

 
Reported tornadoes and tornado warnings March 3

Along the cold front of the second nor'easter, at the southern end of the system, a tornado outbreak occurred in Dixie Alley, a region of the Southeast particularly vulnerable to tornadoes. The tornado which struck Beauregard, Alabama killed at least 23;[96] it was an EF-4, the strongest tornado to touch down in the US since April 2017.[97] Other smaller storms hit Georgia, South Carolina and Florida, also causing some damage.[96]

The storms were followed by frigid arctic air from the polar vortex, resulting in below-seasonal temperatures for the first half of March.[98]

Early - Mid-March winter stormEdit

North Dakota, South Dakota and parts of Wyoming were hit hard with heavy snow and strong winds, resulting in near-zero visibility and highway closures. Over a foot of snow (30 cm) fell near Elk Mountain, Wyoming.[99] As the storm tracked eastward, several cities in the Midwest and Great Lakes regions were affected by a mix of heavy snow, freezing rain/sleet and straight rain with wind gusts in excess of 40 mph (63 km/h) in some locations.[100] Eastern Canada was also affected as heavy snow fell in northern Ontario and much of Quebec and further south, in southern Ontario and Atlantic Canada, precipitation remained mainly as rain.[101]

Mid-March bomb cycloneEdit

 
Enhanced satellite image from March 13, 2019

A Colorado low formed in the southwest and began tracking northeastward, undergoing explosive intensification in the process, bottoming out near 968 millibars over Kansas, meeting the criteria for a bomb cyclone and smashing all-time low pressure records at several towns in New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas and Texas.[102][103] On March 13 the tight pressure gradient produced widespread wind gusts above 60 mph (95 km/h+), with a peak gust of 109 mph (175 km/h) at Grand Prairie,[104] strong enough to flip airplanes at the municipal airport there. Along the cold front, a line of severe thunderstorms developed, mainly in Texas, dropping several tornadoes, 2 in New Mexico and 1 in Texas, damaging many homes. A combination of severe weather and strong winds cut power to 140,000 in Texas, mostly near Dallas. The storms also produced baseball-sized hail in many parts of the Southwest.[105] As the storm tracked further north, in Ontario, because of the thick snowpack, forecasters were concerned about flooding.[106] Meanwhile, the storm brought extreme blizzard conditions to the plains, poor visibility closing many interstates from North Dakota to Colorado and just to the south, severe flooding caused billions of dollars in damage. A few notable snowfall totals from this storm include the more than 50 inches (125 cm+) that fell at Wolf Creek pass in Colorado, 26 inches (65 cm) that fell just south of Casper and 18 inches (45 cm) of snow, falling in Kadoka. The Weather Channel dubbed the storm "Winter Storm Ulmer".[107][108]

Late March - early April nor'eastersEdit

First nor'easter (March 20–24)

An area of low pressure formed in North Carolina and tracked towards the shoreline. As it nearly paralleled the East Coast, the Northeast's major cities were impacted with heavy rain and the mountainous terrain in Upstate New York, Northern Vermont and Northern New Hampshire were affected by heavy snow, with the highest peaks expecting nearly 2 feet (60 cm). The storm also brought widespread gusty winds, with gusts approaching 50 mph (80 km/h) in some locations.[109] The low caused minor coastal flooding in New Jersey and Maryland late the 21st and into the 22nd. Heavy rain flooded some streets in Richmond.[110] Also in Virginia, on US 33, heavy snow stranded up to 75 cars in the Blue Ridge Mountains, just north of Charlottesville.[111] Over 2 million people were under a winter storm warning at some point, The Weather Channel naming the storm 'Vaughn'.[112]

Second nor'easter (April 2–5)

An area of low pressure formed off the coast of the southeastern united states April 2 and began a track northeastward. Residents of Central North Carolina woke up to a rare April snowfall, pollen from already blooming trees turned the snow yellow.[113] Elsewhere, moderate rain, gusty winds and costal flooding affected shorelines from South Carolina to Maine (and eventually those in Atlantic Canada). Coastal flooding/storm surge may have been worsened by the arrival of a new moon. However, the worse conditions from the storm were out at sea, where hurricane-force winds (above 74 mph, 119 km/h) and 15–25 ft waves had an impact on ship routes.[114] Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island experienced powerful winds (gust ocassionally exceeding 100 km/h, 62 mph) as well as heavy rains.[115] Meanwhile, a swath of heavy snow developed north of the storm, in Northern New Brunswick, Eastern Quebec and both Newfoundland and Labrador. The combination of heavy snow and gusty winds resulted in blizzard conditions for some locations.[116]

Mid-April blizzardEdit

A historic mid-April winter storm produced several feet of snow across the Northern Plains and Midwest, with snowfall rates exceeding 2 inches per hour at times, combined with powerful winds resulted in widespread blizzard conditions. In the previous year, Minneapolis and St Paul had their largest April winter storm on record, although that record may have been challenged.[117]

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  This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

External linksEdit

Preceded by
2017–18
North American winters
2018–19
Succeeded by
2019–20