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Abingdon had never had an 80-degree temperature during February, or during all of meteorological winter, in over 50 years of weather records until Thursday.
The Washington County town was among a handful of locations in Cardinal News’ coverage area, the others much farther east in Southside and Central Virginia, that reached the 80-degree mark during a historic Carolinas and Mid-Atlantic warmth surge that underachieved just a bit in most of our region.
Morning clouds and scattered showers hung on a bit more stubbornly than originally expected, so our region did not see temperatures in the 80s covering roughly half the region as had appeared likely. Nonetheless, plenty of records were set, with widespread highs in the 70s.
Numerous 80-plus temperatures did occur, however, in the Carolinas, eastern Virginia and even into the Washington, D.C., area.
Temperatures will feel far more like February on Saturday, with mid 30s to lower 40s common. Some rain is expected, even some patchy freezing rain and sleet, mainly in the 3,000-plus elevations and near the Interstate 64 corridor at the north edge of our region.
The hottest temperature in the Cardinal News coverage area over Southwest and Southside Virginia appears to have been 83 degrees at John H. Kerr Dam in Mecklenburg County. That tied the warmest Februrary temperatures recorded at the dam, previously occurring on Feb. 13, 2017.
Other 80-plus temperatures reported included 81 at Farmville and 80 at Clarksville and South Boston.
Danville and Lynchburg fell just short of the 80-degree mark, hitting 79 and setting daily records for the warmest Feb. 23 high temperature. Roanoke’s 78 and Blacksburg’s 72 also set Feb. 23 daily high temperature records. These were comparable to normal highs in late May (so not quite June, as appeared possible in Wednesday’s weather column).
More significantly for Roanoke, Thursday was only the second time on record for any meteorological winter day – encompassing December, January and February – that the temperature never dropped below 60 degrees.
Thursday’s low temperature of 61 was the warmest February and winter low temperature on record in the Star City. In February that beat out lows of 57 on Feb. 4, 2020, and Feb. 12, 1932, which both came during warm, nearly snowless winters similar to this one.
For winter, the previous warmest daily low temperature at Roanoke was 60 on Dec. 14, 1928 – not even really quite winter on the calendar, but it goes down that way in official weather records that even off seasons with the starting and ending of months for statistical convenience.
Abingdon’s high of 80 beat out the previous February and meteorological winter high temperature of 79 on Feb. 26, 1977 – a warm spurt at the end of a very different winter than this one, with frequent snow and sub-zero temperatures through January and early February. Abingdon’s records begin in 1969.
Burkes Garden in Tazewell County recorded its warmest February temperature on record, at 73, topping 72 on Feb. 26, 1977. Richlands, also in Tazewell County, tied its warmest February temperature at 77, equaling a mark in 2018, as did Bluefield, West Virginia, just over the state line, hitting 75 to equal a 1977 mark.
By contrast, Wytheville and Lexington each failed to reach even 70 degrees, with highs of 67 and 68, respectively. It is still quite a statement on the intensity of a warm spell in February when upper 60s are the “cool” spots.
Other high temperatures in the region on Thursday included Appomattox, 77; Covington, 73; Gathright Dam, 72; Hot Springs, 70; Martinsville, 76; Pulaski, 70; Rocky Mount, 75; Pearisburg, 74; Stuart, 78; and Tri-Cities Airport, Tennessee (near Bristol), 72.
Journalist Kevin Myatt has been writing about weather for 19 years. His weekly column is sponsored by Oakey’s, a family-run, locally-owned funeral home with locations throughout the Roanoke Valley.