May 2, 2023

Unusually cold start to May arrives with feet of snow in the mountains

It feels more like the beginning of March across a huge chunk of the eastern United States as an unusual pattern brings chilly temperatures and heavy mountain snows to the region.

The average high for Wednesday, May 3, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, comes in around 69°F, with the same afternoon up in Buffalo, New York, recording about 63°F.

The National Weather Service's predicted high for both cities on Wednesday is 48°F.

That's pretty darn cold for the beginning of May!

A strong upper-level low diving over the Great Lakes is responsible for the unseasonable start to May we're enjoying (for some) or loathing (for others) across much of the eastern U.S.

Cold temperatures and unsettled conditions often follow these upper-level lows along their path, and this pattern is no exception.

It would be brutally cold and snowy if this scenario unfolded in the heart of winter.

But it's the heart of spring, so "ugh it's cold" is just...jacket weather for most, and downright enjoyable here in central North Carolina, where it's 65 humidity-free degrees as I type this.

Not everybody is so lucky.

This wet and chilly pattern is bringing some epic snows to the Appalachians in West Virginia. Some of the higher elevations are expecting one to two feet of snow through Thursday morning as a result of this pattern, which is extremely unusual for this late in the year. 

In fact, it's not just unusual—this might just be the largest snowfall event ever recorded in West Virginia during the month of May.

The most snow that's ever fallen in Snowshoe, West Virginia, during May was 7.5 inches in May 1997. The observer there recorded 5 inches of snow through Tuesday morning, and the official NWS forecast calls for an additional 6-12 inches there through Wednesday night. 

Things will start to warm up toward the weekend as the pesky upper-level low pushes east out to sea. It looks like a ridge will start building in by next week, favoring above-average temperatures for areas where the atmosphere is waxing nostalgic for March right now. 

Take a look at the NWS's forecast highs for next Monday, May 9:

Mmm-m-m-m-mmm. Toasty.

[Satellite image via NOAA]

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I graduated from the University of South Alabama in 2014 with a degree in political science and a minor in meteorology. I contribute to The Weather Network as a digital writer, and I've written for Forbes, the Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang, Popular Science, Mental Floss, and Gawker's The Vane. My latest book, The Skies Above, is now available. My first book, The Extreme Weather Survival Manual, arrived in October 2015.