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Will March open like a lion?

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Tornadoes and snow of 2012 don’t appear likely

By Lisa King

Last March arrived like a lion – bringing first deadly tornadoes to southern Indiana and eastern Kentucky followed by the only substantial, school-closing snowfall of the winter in Shelby County – but that on gray skies and some light swirling snowflakes will ask the question of whether this will be a lion or a lamb.

“That’s a tough one,” National Weather Service meteorologist John Denman said. “It won’t be really stormy, but definitely cold and gray and unpleasant.”

What’s even more unpleasant is that scenario will probably hang around for a while, Denman said.

“The last couple of days have been kind of cloudy and gray, and it will stay that way. Any real threat of accumulated snow will be on Friday, but I can’t rule out flurries on Saturday and Sunday as well. Certainly, it’s the worst week of winter, compared to normal. We’ve had a pretty mild winter, but this first week of March and maybe the second week, too, will certainly be colder than normal. We’re just getting air right out of the north right now.”

In exploring whether there is any basis for the old saying, “If March comes in like a lion, it will go out like a lamb,” Farmer’s Almanac makes the observation that some weather phrases are based on observations and some are merely beliefs of ancient peoples.

The phrase has been around for a while, with the first written reference by English playwright John Fletcher, who in 1624 said that “I wouldchuse March, for I would come in like a lion.”

In reality, the almanac says, March is such a changeable month that both spring-like weather as well as late-season snowstorms are possible and that no one would be surprised to see either kind of weather.

In fact, March is Severe Weather Awareness Month in Kentucky, and tornado drills will be conducted statewide on Tuesday.

But for those who despair to see nasty weather on March 1, Shelby County Extension Horticulture Agent Walt Reichert said even if many people wish for warm weather to start out the month, they should remember that colder weather is best for plants.

“You’re actually better off if it’s lion-like and cold because the plants will stay asleep longer, and then if it’s warmer toward the end of the month then that’s OK,” he said. “It wouldn’t be good if it were reversed. If you remember last year, we had such mild weather that peach trees were blooming in March and then we had that freeze in April. Also, you remember how ‘buggy’ last year was, and if we can hang onto that winter weather a little longer, the bugs will suffer at least.”

Historically, the NWS shows some interesting records for February’s last gasp on the last day of the month, from a massive snowstorm that set records from Kansas to New York in 1900, to 83 degrees in Bowling Green in 1918, to a tornado outbreak in Kentucky in 2011, including an F3 tornado in Henry County.

So, with that in mind, maybe gray isn’t so bad after all.