March 2021 National Storm Summary

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James Munley

Apr 21, 2021, 11:21:29 AM4/21/21
MARCH 2020

1-6: Heavy rain, which had begun in late February, continued into early March across portions of the interior Southeast. Moderate to major flooding developed in parts of Kentucky, including along the Kentucky and Green Rivers, while generally minor flooding affected a much larger area from northeastern Texas into the Ohio Valley.

By March 3, the Ohio River rose to its highest level since March 1997 in gauge locations such as Huntington, WV (3.99 feet above flood stage), and Ashland, KY (6.00 feet above flood stage). The Coal River at Tornado, WV, achieved its highest level in more than 50 years and third-highest crest on record, climbing 5.79 feet above flood stage on March 1. A record crest was established along the South Fork of the Kentucky River at Booneville, KY, where the water level peaked at 17.33 feet above flood stage on March 1. The previous high-water mark at Booneville, 16.40 feet above flood stage, had been set on January 30, 1957. The Kentucky River at Heidelberg, KY, crested 14.20 feet above flood stage on March 1, the highest level in that location since January 30, 1957. Although flooding lingered, quiet weather returned across the Ohio Valley (and prevailed in most other parts of the country) in early March. By March 4, however, showers overspread southern California, where Campo netted a dailyrecord total of 1.05 inches. Farther north, Crescent City, CA, collected a daily-record rainfall (2.25 inches) on March 5. Lateweek showers also dotted several other areas, including southern Florida, where Miami registered a daily-record sum (1.42 inches) on March 7.

7-13: A pair of storms emerged from the western U.S., delivering mid- to late-week rain and snow across a broad area. The earlier storm was responsible for a stripe of snow, mainly on March 10, from Wyoming into parts of the upper Midwest. The second system also produced heavy snow, primarily in the central Rockies and adjacent High Plains. The heaviest precipitation fell late in the week, continuing through Sunday, March 14, as the second storm crossed central and southern sections of the Rockies and Plains. Locally heavy rain also extended eastward across the Ozark Plateau and into the lower Ohio Valley, triggering (or perpetuating) lowland flooding.

During the first half of the week, precipitation was patchy and generally light, although West Yellowstone, MT, received 8.0 inches of snow in a 24-hour period on March 8-9. By March 10, however, heavy snow developed over Wyoming and spread northeastward. Casper, WY, received 11.9 inches of snow on March 9-10, aided by a daily-record total of 8.9 inches on the latter date. In South Dakota, daily-record snowfall amounts for March 10 included 6.4 inches in Watertown, 6.0 inches in Pierre, and 5.2 inches in Huron. Heavy rain, or rain changing to snow, fell on the 10th in portions of the upper Great Lakes region, where daily-record precipitation totals reached 1.25 inches in Marquette, MI, and 0.97 inch in Duluth, MN. Meanwhile, the second, stronger storm system arrived across the West. In southern Utah, Capitol Reef National Park measured 10.3 inches of snow in a 48-hour period on March 11-13. Early on the 13th, heavy snow began to fall across central sections of the Rockies and High Plains. From March 13-15, Casper, WY, received 29.5 inches of snow. With 41.4 inches of snow during the first 15 days of the month, Casper has already set a March record (previously, 36.2 inches in 1975). Casper also achieved its snowiest March day (21.2 inches on the 14th), surpassing 14.6 inches on March 18, 1954, and its secondsnowiest day on record behind 24.3 inches on December 24, 1982. Elsewhere, March 13-14 totals included 30.8 inches in Cheyenne, WY, and 27.1 inches in Denver, CO. Cheyenne’s total of 22.7 inches on March 14 was a station record for any date (previously, 19.8 inches on November 20, 1979). Denver’s 19.9-inch total on the 14th was a record for any March day (previously, 18.0 inches on March 5, 1983), and represented the snowiest day in that location since December 24, 1982, when 23.6 inches fell. Farther east, the 13th was the wettest March day on record in Nebraska locations such as Hastings (2.87 inches; previously, 2.29 inches on March 17, 1987) and Grand Island (2.56 inches; previously, 1.98 inches on March 21, 1979). March 13- 14 totals reached 5.31 inches in Grand Island and 4.71 inches in Hastings; in other parts of Nebraska, 3 to 4 inches fell in Lincoln, Broken Bow, North Platte, and Norfolk. Daily-record totals for March 13 included 1.49 inches in Garden City, KS, and 1.41 inches in Childress, TX.

14-20: As the week began, heavy snow fell across central sections of the Rockies and adjacent High Plains, while heavy rain spread eastward from the central Plains. Subsequently, a second storm delivered mostly rain, primarily from the central and southern Plains eastward into the middle Atlantic States. From March 16-18, that system also sparked a severe weather outbreak and produced locally heavy showers across the South, where more than five dozen tornadoes were spotted, based on preliminary reports.

The 14th was the wettest March day on record in Grand Island, NE (2.75 inches), eclipsing the 2.56-inch total set the previous day. Prior to this year, the wettest March day in Grand Island had been March 21, 1979, when 1.98 inches fell. Grand Island also set a 2-day March precipitation record, with 5.31 inches falling on March 13-14. Elsewhere in Nebraska, 2-day March precipitation records were broken on March 13-14 in locations such as Lincoln (3.76 inches; previously, 2.62 inches on March 22-23, 1987) and Omaha (2.92 inches; previously, 2.53 inches on March 27-28, 2004). However, unlike 2 years ago in mid-March 2019, when a similar storm caused catastrophic flooding in Nebraska and environs, runoff was limited by an unfrozen and relatively dry soil profile, along with the lack of a preexisting snow cover. Meanwhile, March 13-14 snowfall totaled 30.8 inches in Cheyenne, WY; 27.1 inches in Denver, CO; and 26.3 inches in Casper, WY. At the height of the storm on March 14, northerly wind gusts were clocked to 54 mph in Cheyenne and 48 mph in Denver. With 48.9 inches during the first 21 days of the month, Casper set a March snowfall record (previously, 36.2 inches in 1975). Casper also achieved its snowiest March day (21.2 inches on the 14th), surpassing 14.6 inches on March 18, 1954—and had it second-snowiest day on record behind 24.3 inches on December 24, 1982. Cheyenne’s total of 22.7 inches on March 14 was a station record for any date (previously, 19.8 inches on November 20, 1979). Denver’s 19.9-inch total on the 14th was a record for any March day (previously, 18.0 inches on March 5, 1983), and represented the snowiest day in that location since December 24, 1982, when 23.6 inches fell. By March 15, a stripe of snow across the upper Midwest resulted in daily-record totals in Rochester, MN (7.9 inches), and Sioux Falls, SD (4.7 inches). Meanwhile, a new Western storm dropped 3.2 inches of snow in Winnemucca, NV, a record for March 15. With a daily-record sum of 3.7 inches on March 16, Casper’s 4-day snowfall climbed to 33.2 inches. At mid-week, heavy rain erupted across the mid-South, where record-setting totals for March 17 in Arkansas reached 3.22 inches in Jonesboro and 2.36 inches in North Little Rock. Also, on the 17th, daily-record totals in Missouri included 2.40 inches in Columbia and 1.96 inches in Cape Girardeau. As rain spread eastward, dailyrecord amounts for March 18 totaled 2.19 inches in Pittsburgh, PA, and 1.46 inches in Springfield, IL. At week’s end, precipitation again overspread the West, where daily-record totals for March 20 included 0.97 inch in Ely, NV; 0.85 inch in Salt Lake City, UT; and 0.82 inch in Pocatello, ID.

21-27: However, drought intensified across portions of the northern Plains and southern and western Texas. Elsewhere, spotty rain and snow showers provided beneficial moisture in parts of the West— but did not appreciably change the region’s water-supply outlook. In the Sierra Nevada, the traditional peak snowpack date of April 1 approached with water equivalency averaging 18 inches, less than two-thirds of normal. Cool weather in the West contrasted with expanding warmth across the eastern half of the country. Weekly temperatures averaged at least 5°F below normal across large sections of the Great Basin, Intermountain West, and Southwest, but were mostly 5 to 15°F above normal from the Mississippi Valley eastward. Warmth (locally more than 15°F above normal) in the Northeast replaced previously cold conditions. Early- to mid-week temperatures fell to daily-record levels in Western locations such as Montague, CA (20°F on March 21), and Redmond, OR (15°F on March 23). In California, daily-record lows for March 24 dipped to 30°F in Paso Robles and 34°F in Stockton. Meanwhile, warmth developed across the Great Lakes region, where Pellston, MI, posted consecutive daily-record highs (64 and 68°F, respectively) on March 22-23. Other record-setting highs for the 23rd included 74°F in Grand Rapids, MI, and 68°F in Saint Johnsbury, VT. Another dailyrecord high (69°F) occurred in Saint Johnsbury on March 25. Elsewhere in Vermont, record-setting highs for the 25th reached 73°F in Burlington and 70°F in Montpelier. Warmth persisted through midweek in the lower Great Lakes region, resulting in daily-record highs for March 24 in Youngstown, OH (75°F), and Buffalo, NY (72°F). As the week progressed, warmth became prominent across the South and East. On March 25-26, consecutive daily-record highs were established in Eastern location such as Islip, NY (67 and 78°F), and Daytona Beach, FL (88 and 90°F). On March 26-27, Charleston, SC, logged a pair of daily records (86 and 87°F). Surging Eastern temperatures on March 26 led to daily-record highs in dozens of communities, including readings of 90°F in Jacksonville, FL, and Savannah, GA. Farther north near the Atlantic Seaboard, March 26 highs climbed to 86°F in Richmond, VA; 84°F in Newark, NJ; and 80°F in Poughkeepsie, NY. Summer-like temperatures lingered through week’s end across the Deep South, where daily-record highs for March 27 rose to 90°F in Tampa, FL, and 88°F in Jackson, MS. As the week began, gusty showers swept across portions of the southern Atlantic Coast.

On March 21 in Georgia, Saint Simons Island clocked at wind gust to 47 mph, while Savannah collected a daily-record rainfall of 1.48 inches. The following day, heavy rain developed across the nation’s mid-section, where daily-record totals included 1.90 inches in Hastings, NE, and 1.66 inches in Wichita, KS. The rain propelled Goodland, KS, to its wettest March on record (4.03 inches through the 27th), supplanting 3.60 inches in 1981. March precipitation records from 1987 were broken in Nebraska locations such as Grand Island (8.65 inches through the 27th), Hastings (8.16 inches), and Kearney (6.79 inches). By March 23, heavy showers erupted in the central Gulf Coast region. Daily-record totals in Louisiana for the 23rd reached 5.54 inches in New Orleans and 4.99 inches in Lake Charles. For New Orleans, it was the wettest March day since 1948, when 7.87 inches fell on the 5th. For Lake Charles, it was the wettest March day since 1934, when 5.50 inches fell on the 3rd. By mid-week, heavy showers swept into the midAtlantic, setting records for March 24 in Atlantic City, NJ (1.82 inches); Wilmington, DE (1.78 inches); and Washington, DC (1.69 inches). Rain quickly returned across the South on March 25, producing dailyrecord totals in Asheville, NC (3.64 inches); Chattanooga, TN (2.61 inches); and Birmingham, AL (2.47 inches). Elsewhere in Alabama on the 25th, a deadly, mid-afternoon tornado struck Ohatchee in Calhoun County, resulting in five fatalities. Hours later, around midnight, another tornado-related fatality occurred in Newnan, Coweta County, GA. Farther north, Caribou, ME, received precipitation totaling 1.49 inches, including 4.7 inches of snow, from March 26-28. Meanwhile, severe flooding struck central Tennessee and environs. With a 5.75-inch rainfall total on the 27th, Nashville, TN, experienced its wettest March day on record (previously, 4.66 inches on March 12, 1975). Nashville’s March 27-28 total of 7.01 inches became the second-wettest 2-day period on record in that location, behind only 13.57 inches on May 1-2, 2010. In other parts of Tennessee, daily-record amounts for March 27 included 3.77 inches in Memphis and 3.68 inches in Jackson. By March 28, the Harpeth River near Kingston Springs, TN, crested 15.36 feet above flood stage, second only to the May 2010 high-water mark (26.00 feet above flood stage).

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