We are rapidly entering that here-today-gone-today phase of the snow season, with the March sun gaining ever more authority over already well-warmed paved surfaces and soils.
For the meteorological community, winter actually ended Sunday. However, as Sarah Johnson, a lead forecaster at the National Weather Service office in Mount Holly, has reminded her newer colleagues, nature doesn’t necessarily follow the dictates of the meteorological community.
Postseason snows have been known to happen, in some cases quite dramatically.
Here is a list of some such snows of eight inches or more that have occurred since such records began being kept in 1884. It so happens that Tuesday is the 60th anniversary of one.
Late, but impressive
March 3-4, 1960: 8.2 inches. This happened after a snow-deprived January that featured one lonely “T” for trace and February with just 3.1 inches of snow. It is worth noting, however, that it was a warm-up for one of the coldest and snowiest decades on record, the 1960s.
March 7-9, 1941: 8.2 inches. This was quite a winter for late snows. Nearly nine inches were on the ground when March began.
March 19-20, 1956: 8.7 inches. After it stopped on a Monday morning, this was a classic here-today-gone-today situation.
March 5, 1981: 8.8 inches. It was heavy and wet, and it stuck as temperatures were around freezing.
March 12, 1888; 10.5 inches. It was a Hall of Famer for New York City, the famous Blizzard of ’88. It didn’t have quite the same impact on Philadelphia, but that 10.5 inches would be 35 times the 0.3 inches that have fallen this winter in Philly.
From the Philadelphia winter Hall of Fame
March 19-21, 1958: 11.4 inches. The snow total doesn’t quite capture how disruptive this storm was. Winds and heavy snow ripped down power lines. Even though the Philadelphia region wasn’t as populated as it is today, this remains one of Peco’s all-time outage storms. More than 50 inches of snow was reported in Morgantown, Chester County.
March 13-14, 1993: 12.0 inches. This was that rarity — a March snow cover that wouldn’t go away. The snow stopped late on the morning of the 13th, but it was followed by hours of stinging sleet, and then an overnight flash freeze created an “Arctic landscape,” in the words of a weather service meteorologist, that was slow to melt.
April 3-4, 1915: 19.5 inches. Here’s your Easter bonnet, with a couple of feet of snow upon it. The storm was a complete surprise, at least to The Inquirer. The forecast on the front page of the April 3 issue, the day before Easter, read: “Unsettled, rain likely.” That was a bit off the mark. On Saturday, a 12-hour siege defied the April sun by accumulating 19 inches, with a 0.4 topping on Easter.
It wouldn’t be the last time a forecast was wrong.