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A March ‘bomb’ brings snow, gales, and a freeze-up to the Philly region

Close to 5 inches was measured in Montgomery County, and winds gusted to 64 mph at the Shore.

How many days until spring? A plant holds an accumulation of snow on Saturday in Maryland from the storm that that reminded the Midatlantic and Northeast that winter was still around.
How many days until spring? A plant holds an accumulation of snow on Saturday in Maryland from the storm that that reminded the Midatlantic and Northeast that winter was still around.Read moreJulio Cortez / AP

It was indeed a “bomb cyclone” that incited wind gusts past 60 mph Saturday and blinding clouds of snow in parts of the Philadelphia region, and it also was a classic example of a nor’easter that clearly was taking its marching orders from March.

For starters it came a day after the temperature hit 60 in Philadelphia. “That’s the way March storms are,” said Tom Kind, a senior meteorologist with AccuWeather Inc., who added that this one did meet the criteria for a bomb, which is a rapidly intensifying cyclone.

“It’s 60 degrees, you wonder how is it going to snow,” he said. “It happens.”

» READ MORE: Just what is a bomb cyclone?

And as so often occurs in March storms, the effects varied tremendously over relatively short distances.

Some areas did have an actual snowstorm, over 5 inches was measured in Trappe, Montgomery County, and 3-inch-plus reports were common elsewhere in Bucks and Chester Counties.

As temperatures crashed into the 20s out that way, the heavy snow was topped with layers of powdery flakes that conspired with the wind to reduce visibilities to blizzard levels at times.

Yet places not all that far away had little or no snow to blow.

Officially 0.4 inches was recorded at Philadelphia International Airport, or about 10.1 inches shy of the record for a March 12. That was set 134 years ago, a fragment of the Blizzard of 1888, a historically disruptive storm that would become an impetus for organized urban snow-removal systems and subway-building.

» READ MORE: Philly winters aren't what you think

The storm of March 12, 2022, evidently was more about special effects than disruption, at least around here.

Some roads did ice over in the morning when heavy snow fell atop sleet, even though the temperature had rocketed on Friday and road surface temperatures were in the 40s Saturday morning.

“Sometimes when it comes down that hard and that heavy when it’s cold aloft it doesn’t matter how warm the road is,” said Mike Silva, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Mount Holly.

Snow amounts generally were higher in central Pennsylvania, and state police said a crash involved 73 vehicles in Cumberland County, although no life-threatening injuries were reported.

But locally, despite the icing and the blizzard-level visibilities, PennDot’s Philadelphia regional district reported “no issues,” said spokesperson Brad Rudolph. By late afternoon, he said, the roads were just wet, and the high winds were helping to evaporate some of the water.

And although the winds gusted past 45 mph — past 60 at the Shore — power outages were scattered. Winds likely helped clear snow from the tree branches, which still are unburdened with those weighty leaves.

» READ MORE: All you need to know about the St. Patrick's Day parade

SEPTA reported no major issues, and the airport has had worse days. The tracking site reported 86 cancellations and 186 delays. By contrast, on tranquil Friday, 221 delays were reported.

By nightfall Saturday, whatever had fallen in the way of snow and ice had turned to concrete, but the snow had shut off as the storm’s center was spinning in the Gulf of Maine.

For those who are missing those April-like temperatures, Kind says give it a day or two. It won’t get out of the 30s Sunday, but temperatures will be back in the 50s Monday and perhaps will reach 70 by the end of the workweek.

» READ MORE: This is the topsy-turvy season for weather

March 13 happens to be the anniversary of the 1993 March superstorm, during which Philadelphia set its March snow record, 12 inches (11.7 of that on the 13th). That won’t be challenged Sunday, and though it will be chilly, the winds will have died down by the time the 250th annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Philly starts at 11 a.m., resuming after its two-year COVID-imposed hiatus.

Sunday also is the first day of daylight saving time, when the sun will set after 7 p.m. for the first time since mid-September And could it be that the region’s snow lovers will have to wait until next winter?

“I don’t know,” said Kind. “I’m not ready to say this is going to be it. Things happen.”

This article contains information from the Associated Press.