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Winter 2016-17 goes down as 6th warmest on record in US; Storm parade nearly erases California drought

AccuWeather logo AccuWeather 3/20/2017 Jennifer Fabiano
A woman jogs past damaged cherry blossom trees as they begin to bloom around the Tidal Basin in Washington, DC, March 18, 2017. © SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images A woman jogs past damaged cherry blossom trees as they begin to bloom around the Tidal Basin in Washington, DC, March 18, 2017.

Even with intense winter storms, the United States felt the sixth warmest winter in the 123 years on record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The average winter temperature across the country was 35.9 F, which is 3.7 above average.

Across the South, Midwest, mid-Atlantic and Northeast, 16 states experienced record warmth. Louisiana and Texas had their warmest winter on record with temperatures 6.8 and 5.7, respectively, above average.

Warm, springlike air began confusing flora such as the famous cherry blossom trees in Washington, D.C. A mild late-February had cherry blossoms on the verge of blooming around mid-March.

The initial predicted bloom date of March 14 would have been the earliest on record. The peak blooming date has since been pushed back multiple times. Late March or early April is usually the peak blooming period.

March’s bitter cold killed almost all blossoms that had reached the penultimate bloom stage, according to the National Park Service. The blossoms in earlier stages of blooming, about half, survived the cold and will bloom during late March.

Cherry blossoms in D.C. weren’t the only plants that were fooled by early high temperatures. In California’s Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, wildflowers bloomed early. The early bloom was also due to the abundant rainfall that California received this winter. From October to February, the park got 5.65 inches of rain, an inch above normal.

Though Alaska experienced its coldest December through February since 2012, the winter average was 2.1 above average.

Not only was it a warm winter, but a wet one as well. The U.S. recorded the eighth wettest winter on record. The average precipitation total for the winter was 8.22 inches, 1.43 inches above average.

A blizzard slammed the Northeast in mid-March, with snowfall measuring 42 inches in some areas. During that storm, Burlington, Vermont, received its second highest snowfall total in recorded history for the city. Binghamton, New York, broke a 24-hour snowfall record with 31 inches of snow. The storm caused major disruptions in the Northeast with thousands of flights canceled and dangerous road conditions.

The increased precipitation was especially noticeable in the West as it brought relief to areas gripped by drought for several years. Nevada and Wyoming each had their wettest winter on record, while California experienced its second wettest winter. As of March 14, only 1.06 percent of California is experiencing severe drought conditions, the third harshest drought level.

There are no areas of California that are currently experiencing extreme or exceptional drought. More than 76 percent of the state is currently experiencing no drought, while at this time one year ago, only 0.43 percent of the state was drought-free.

Western ski resorts reaped the benefits of more winter precipitation. Mammoth Mountain ski resort in Mammoth Lakes, California, got 247 inches of snow in January. With over 20 feet of snow, January 2017 broke the record for most snow at the resort in a single month.

While celebrating drought relief and impressive ski conditions, much of the West was also affected by widespread flooding and mudslides.

Increased precipitation was not seen in all parts of the U.S. this winter. For only the third time since 1885, Chicago had no measurable snowfall during the month of February.

The Hawaiian Islands were also drier than average in February, causing drought conditions to expand on the Big Island.

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