March 2017: Where did Spring Go?

Posted: April 11, 2017, 4:23 pm by chewitt

Where on Earth did spring go? That was the question most people across the Northeast probably asked after coming off such an incredibly warm February, especially in those last two weeks of the month. Heading into meteorological spring, it felt as if winter was indeed leaving us but never underestimate Old Man Winter because he came back with a vengeance.

The warmth from February lingered into the beginning of March with temperatures well into the 60s and 70s. Even a few records were broken as Hartford, CT and Boston, MA reached the low 60s with Washington, D.C. hitting 80 degrees. An Arctic front then swept away this warmth on the 3rd as temperatures took a nose dive into the 30s and 40s. This also ushered in snow squalls all the way to the coast. Temperatures then rebounded into the 50s during the second week with the Mid-Atlantic even reaching into the 60s to near 70 degrees for highs.

As the temperatures dropped on the 10th, another disturbance along a cold front went coastal bringing a widespread 2 – 4” of snow along the I-95 corridor from Philadelphia on north. However, a few spots such as the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area and Cape Cod received up to 9”. The cold air mass was then here to stay, as temperatures remained largely in 20s/30s in New England and 40s/50s heading south into the Mid-Atlantic. Departures were even running 10 to 20 degrees below normal. This cold air was the primer for a significant and historic storm heading into the middle of the month.

A system meandering off the Carolinas on the evening of the 13th organized and rode up the East Coast on the 14th. Many areas initially began with heavy snow that fell at 1-3”+ per hour rates but as the low hugged the coast, layers of warm air aloft intruded, allowing for the snow to mix and change to sleet well inland into parts of northeastern Pennsylvania and the Hudson Valley. An absurd amount of sleet fell all the way from Washington D.C. to Boston where many were left with 2-4” of heavy, dense sleet cover! This was especially difficult to clear, with even a few tenths of freezing rain on top of the mess in south Jersey and the eastern half of Maryland.

In addition to the wintry mix, blustery winds impacted many with 30 – 50 mph gusts, blowing and drifting the sleet and snow. Much of the snow also lingered in New England during the morning of the 15th thanks to the sheer size of the storm. In the end, massive gradients in snowfall were left across most states; New Jersey saw everything from coatings near Atlantic County to 20” in Sussex County. New England, Pennsylvania, and New York were similar with as much as 20 – 30” of snow over the interior with lesser amounts closer to the I-95 corridor.

Not many storms followed during the last weeks of the month, but there were several snow shower or lake effect squall events, with seasonable variations in between. Toward the end of March a light freezing event occurred in interior parts of the Northeast before one last storm worked its way into the area. Most of the Northeast rained this go around, but parts of Connecticut, most of Massachusetts and New Hampshire did see some initial mixing during the day on the 31st; any impactful snow and sleet mainly occurred overnight into the beginning of April.

Overall, outside of “the” storm, the extended cold weather led to average temperatures 2 to 4 degrees below normal which is the only month to do so during the winter as a whole. Many cities across the Northeast even experienced a colder March than February, a pattern not seen since 1984!

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