Third Driest March on Record

By Russell Russ

March can be a month that sees some strong nor’easters that can bring heavy snow or rain or both. March of 2018 was a prime example with three storms that helped push last March’s snowfall total to 43.5 inches. That was not the case this March. While this March was cool and cloudy, it was not a month with much snow or rain. Once again there was a brief warm up in mid-February that fooled everyone into thinking winter was over and spring was here. March’s cool weather slowly but surely brought everyone back into weather reality. This year it was a March reality without much precipitation. Thanks to March’s predominantly cool temperatures, most local lakes and ponds were ice covered until March 28-30. For this winter in Norfolk, pond and lake ice generally came in normally to a little early and went out normally to a little later than normal.

March’s low temperature of minus 6 degrees was observed on March 7 and the high of 64 degrees was observed on March 30. With an average monthly mean temperature of 29.8 degrees, it was 0.9 degree below normal. Temperature-wise it was a very normal March and there were no daily or monthly records set. Over the last twenty years there have been ten Marches that were above normal and ten that were below normal. Norfolk’s warmest March was 2012 with 41.8 degrees, the coldest was 1960 with 21.2 degrees.

The total precipitation for the month was just 1.71 inches. This was 2.69 inches below normal, ranking this March as the 3rd driest in the last 88 years. The result of a month minus any typically occurring March nor’easter storms. Norfolk’s driest March was 1981 with 0.64 inch, the wettest was 1953 with 10.37 inches. Through the first quarter of 2019 the total precipitation amount was 10.79 inches, 1.27 inches below normal. Hopefully this is not a sign of things to come for 2019, but this precipitation total for the year is over 4 inches behind last year’s total through March.

Snow, or more correctly the lack of it, was one of the main weather themes for the month. March’s snowfall total of 11.7 inches was 6.1 inches below normal. Snow totals were down considerably, but overall this March did not even rank in the top 25 for least amount of March snowfall. Everyone must still have had last year’s March snowfall in their minds. Last year’s total was nearly 32 inches higher than this year’s. Norfolk’s snowiest March (and snowiest of any month) was in 1956 with 73.6 inches. March 1946 with a total monthly snowfall of just 0.5 inch holds the record for least amount.

Through the first quarter of 2019 the total snowfall amount was 38.4 inches, 20.7 inches below normal. Compared to the same period last year, this year recorded 41.8 inches less snowfall. The 2018-2019 winter season snowfall total through March was 55.7 inches. This was 27.8 inches below normal and also 40.9 inches less than the same period last winter. April and May still count towards winter snowfall, but it is not looking like either month will add much if anything to this year’s totals.

Unless something very unusual happens it is looking like the 2018-2019 winter snow season will rank as Norfolk’s 11th least snowy winter over the last 88 years. Will April bring springtime to Norfolk? It did, but it did not feel or look very spring-like until April 13 when temperatures final topped 70 degrees for two consecutive days. Through April 21, temperatures were about normal and snowfall was 5 inches below normal. Total precipitation (mostly rain) was already at 4.63 inches, nearly a half inch above normal with over a week left in the month. With plenty of rainfall and a few warmer days pushing things along nicely, spring flowers were blooming, lawns were greening up and the magnolias and forsythia were finally beginning to flower. Spring has arrived.