Daffodils hang under the weight of snow in St. Louis, which was socked by… (J.B. Forbes / St. Louis Post-Dispatch )
Spring typically means the return of sunshine, tornadoes and biblical thunderstorms across the Midwest, but a weekend blizzard in the lower Plains had winter stamping on all signs of life in Kansas and Missouri.
A daffodil exposition in Springfield, Mo., had to be put on hold.
The phone for the I-70 Drive-In's box office in Kansas City, Mo., rang without answer: There would be no outdoor movie with 8 inches of snow on Sunday.
Guerrilla Streetfood, a food truck in St. Louis, tweeted that it would take a day off on Monday, preferring not to slog through the city's biggest snowstorm in 30 years -- joining many others in taking a late snow day in this part of the country.
All across the Midwest, snow delayed spring breakers at airports, and pushed back some soccer games and volleyball matches until more sensible weather returned. About 100 flights were canceled at Lambert Field in St. Louis, according to the Associated Press.
With the storm dumping up to 15 inches of snow in some parts of Kansas, and up to 12 to 14 inches throughout Missouri, spring would have to wait a little longer.
Tonganoxie Phil saw all this coming. Sort of.
"February [is] usually our snowy times, and you seldom see snow this late here," Phil Stevens of Tonganoxie, Kan., told the Los Angeles Times on Sunday evening. About 5 inches had accumulated there. "It’s unusual.”
Stevens, 85, a practicing family doctor, became "Tonganoxie Phil" about 20 years ago when a Kansas City radio jockey drafted him to become the human rival to weather-predicting groundhog Punxsutawney Phil.
Each year on Feb. 2, Stevens rises at 6 a.m. and phones in to say whether he can see his shadow at dawn, which supposedly determines whether Kansas will see six more weeks of winter.
This year, the Pennsylvania-based groundhog Punxsutawney Phil called for an early spring -- a prediction that leaves him facing a satirical lawsuit from an Ohio county prosecutor who alleges "misrepresentation of early spring."
But Tonganoxie Phil, who has lived in town for 57 years, was noncommittal.
"I said, 'Well, it would vary,' and I didn’t make any specific prediction this time," Stevens said -- a hemming-and-hawing prediction that turned out to be pretty much right.
Snow is not unheard-of in the Midwest in March, due to moisture coming up from the Gulf of Mexico meeting cold air drifting down from Canada.
But Jim Sieveking, a National Weather Service meteorologist in St. Charles County, Mo., told The Times the system that dumped about a foot of snow on St. Louis might wind up as one of the city's 15 biggest snowstorms in history.
"We haven’t had a snowfall event like this for something like 31 years in St. Louis itself,” Sieveking said. “We’ve gotten reports -- unofficial reports -- of 12 to 14 inches in the northern suburbs of St. Louis.”
Palm Sunday services at some churches in Kansas and Missouri had to be canceled, and thousands of residents reported losing power in the snowy wake of the storm as it lumbered east.
The National Weather Service predicted 4 to 8 inches of snow across central Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and into Pennsylvania over Sunday night and into Monday. The system could pass into the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast as the week goes on.
All this makes Tonganoxie Phil fairly accurate when it comes to this year's forecast.
"It turned out to be a pretty good prediction, because we had lovely spring weather for a month, and then this started," he said.
He added of his record versus Punxsutawney Phil's: "We're about neck and neck."
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