WRAL WeatherCenter Blog

Snow in March...is it rare?

Posted March 6, 2013

Model-estimated snow projections for the March 5-6, 2013 storm affecting the northeastern U.S.

For the last week or so, we've all been watching a projected low pressure system that at one time held some potential for producing measurable snowfall across north central and northeastern parts of our state.

The track gradually shifted north a ways as the system moved into and across the U.S., and new observations became available with which to make further forecasts.

Of course, it now appears there will be a major snowstorm for central and northern Virginia, with 10 to 20 inches possible in some places there (where the red and pink colors are shown in the model-projected snow cover map above) and some decent snow for parts of the NC mountains.

Locally, we should see just some periods of light rain, a few pockets of light snow, and some drizzle, with most precipitation shifting north and northeast of the Triangle by midday, and little if any snow accumulation, with brighter skies and eventually warming temperatures on tap for the remainder of the week and into the weekend.

When we look at our snow potential for March overall, though, it is a transition period, being the month that begins "meteorological spring" on the first of the month, and of course the more traditional "astronomical spring" with the passage of the vernal equinox on March 20.

Our chance of snow overall drops off rapidly going into March, but it remains a month in which an occasional storm is quite capable of producing significant snow here.

For some quick history, I took a scan through the Southeastern Regional Climate Center's database of historical observations for the Raleigh-Durham airport and found that out of 67 years in the record, at least one day in March yielded an inch or more of snowfall in 12 different years.

Most of the 12 brought just one day with that threshold reached, but in 1962, there were 3 days that brought 1 inch or more of snow, and there were two such days in 1960 and 1980.

The top three March periods for total snowfall at RDU were 1960 (14.0 inches), 1980 (11.1 inches - I remember getting 19 inches from that storm where I grew up in Rocky Mount!), and 9.3 inches in March of 1969.

Of course, snow and ice can be highly variable over a short distance, so this represents a pretty limited snapshot of March snow for the area as a whole.

If you're interested in seeing a more broadly-based overview of past wintry events in March, or any other selected time frame, there is a {[a href="external_link-1"}}nice tool{{/a}} for doing that on the web site of the State Climate Center of NC, and I've included a link here to their interactive "Winter Storm Database."


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  • shutterbug Mar 6, 2013

    BigRedTruckMan, I was a freshman in high school in 1960. We were scheduled to take some national standardized test the first Wednesday in March. We started and were dismissed about 10 AM because it snowed. The same happened here the next two Wednesdays as I remember. That was in Upper Sampson County. I forget how much it snowed but we were out of school a couple of days each week because of the snow.

  • bigredtruckman Mar 6, 2013

    It was 10 years before I was born, but my grandparents in western NC always gauged any snow storm by March of 1960. From what they told me, it snowed heavily every Wednesday for a month and it was so cold that the snow didn't melt so it kept accumulating. I still have a picture marked "March 1960" of my grandfather standing in the middle of the road in front of their house with snow piled up on each side up as high as his shoulders as far down the road as you can see.

  • hardycitrus Mar 6, 2013

    The horribly dmaging spring freeze of about 6 years ago was on Easter Sunday. That one put some commercial nurseries out of business because so many young plants were killed. Our hollies looked like they'd been hit with a flame thrower.

  • bkahuna Mar 6, 2013

    I've seen a few rogue flurries this AM near Falls Lake.

  • tayled Mar 6, 2013

    My father was a botanist who was performing a study for Duke in the mid 70's. He had to record weather conditions everhy day in March for 4 years to document the blooming patterns of a flower of whose name I have long forgotten. But what I do remember was that we had measurable snow on March 28 for 4 straight years.

  • simplelogic Mar 6, 2013

    I remember very well the 1980 snow. I was in college, and driving home for spring break - I almost didn't make it. We were snowed in for about 5 days after that. I remember migrating robins hanging out in a holly bush outside the window with their feathers all fluffed up.