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News Winter of 2012 shaping up to be one of the warmest on record

Macon and surrounding counties endured two severe thunderstorms last Friday night, which brought high winds and damaging hail. Two tornado warnings were issued in Macon County, but luckily, neither touched down and caused any significant damage. However, the severe lightning and hail certainly gave residents a scare and caused significant property damage. Photo by Amberly Rogers.Despite the recent cold streak, Western North Carolina has experienced a warm winter – especially during the months of January and February. Franklin’s Greenway has seen an unusual amount of walkers, runners, and bikers of late. One would think that spring has arrived early. With last Friday night’s severe weather thrown in the mix, this winter has been nothing but bizarre for Western North Carolina and the people of Macon County.

Two tornando warnings were issued in Franklin last Friday night, March 2. Along with the high winds, severe lightning and golf ball sized hail nailed Macon County too. Fortunately, neither twister touched down after one caused major damage in Murphy.

In fact, according to the National Climatic Data Center, the first two months of the winter season, December and January, have been much warmer than average for the contiguous United States. This two-month period was the four warmest on record with a season-to-date temperature 3.8 degrees above average. Much of the warmth was anchored across the northern and eastern United States. Minnesota was record warm for the period, with a temperature 10.1 degrees F above average. A total of 22 states from Montana to Maine had December 2011–January 2012 temperatures ranking among their ten warmest.

Despite a large winter storm which impacted the western U.S. during January, much of the region was drier than average. California had its fourth driest December- January period, and Montana had its sixth. Wetter-than-average conditions were observed in a string of states from New Mexico to New York, with Texas having its eleventh wettest December-January period.

A resident displays a handful of hail after the Friday night storms passed through Franklin.The same organization revealed that the month of January was the fourth warmest on record for the Southeastern United States, and for North Carolina, precipitation was below normal as well. How does the higher than average temperatures affect North Carolina in general? The answer to that question is a rather long answer. Farmers may see their apples and oranges spring up too soon, only to be killed when March decides to invite Jack Frost back again.

North Carolina’s often humid climate is not a favorite for allergy sufferers in any year. But even with recent cold snaps, the unusually mild winter the state is experiencing this year promises to make 2012 an allergy season to remember for all the wrong reasons. It turns out the stuffy noses, sneezing, coughing that many people have been mistaking for a cold are really allergy symptoms. Symptoms that happen to be arriving 4-6 weeks earlier.

It’s not just trees and flowers that are blooming earlier, but allergy symptoms. Dead plant material is decaying faster than usual (mold) which is adding to the problem. And because it has been a fairly dry winter, some fall allergens such as ragweed may still be blowing around. The bad news for allergy sufferers is that most allergy specialists say it appears this is just the start of what will be one long spring allergy season.

Abby Reynolds, a Kerr Drug pharmacist and Manager of Clinical Programs for Kerr Drug, offers these tips to help allergy sufferers enjoy the mild temperatures despite the itchy nose and eyes.

Ask your pharmacist about over-thecounter antihistamines, such as Zyrtec, Allegra, and Claritin. These medicines will work well with patients with mild allergies.

Use a saline nasal spray if you’re looking for a quick fix to temporarily stop the sneezing without any kind of oral medication. It will wash away all the dust and allergens and can be used several times a day without any problem.

This winter has been abnormally warm, and has sparked strange weather like WNC saw last Friday. Pictured above is severe lightning residents witnessed last Friday night.If you spend a lot of time outside, especially if you are working in the yard, pollen can end up on your skin and in your hair. Take a shower after you come inside to rinse away the pollen.

Keep the window closed. While it is nice to open the windows and let a warm spring breeze into the house, allowing the breeze to blow through invites pollen inside. It’s better to use the air conditioner during the height of seasonal allergy season. Watch the perfume and cologne. Strong perfumes can irritate the nasal airways and lungs and make you cough.

As you are sniffing and sneezing earlier than usual, you can blame La Nina, which is a cooling of the waters off the coast of South America, for this unseasonably warm weather. Ironically, it’s the same weather pattern that brought last year’s bitterly cold winter and snow.

The difference this year is something called the arctic oscillation, which can either be positive or negative. Last year it was negative; this year it’s positive–and that’s what’s making all the difference. – Special Thanks to Frank Graff for his commentary on this winter’s allergy problems.


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