March 2018 was snowy, a bit on the mild, dry side
I wonder how many thought we were done with winter weather when temperatures reached into the middle-70s in late February, and the ground became bare of snow. March would throw a curve ball bringing lots of snow to our doorsteps and certainly a wintry feel, despite being the first official full month of spring on the weather calendar.
March brought three nor’easters and a close brush with a forth. Storminess is not the least bit unusual during March and, in fact, history shows that March boasts some of the biggest storms of all. During this “anything goes” month, we can expect nearly any type of weather experience during any given year.
Any New Hampshire native will tell you that spring normally arrives like a rocky roller coaster ride and is never a smooth comfortable ride into warmth and blooming flowers.
The 2018 version of March started with a week of very mild temperatures imbedded with a major coastal storm that left Nashua with heavy rain and gusty winds while the Seacoast suffered through major coastal flooding.
The tone of the month would shift dramatically on March 7th when the months’ second nor’easter brought heavy snow to the area. A new daily snowfall record was set on March 8 with 14.0 inches breaking the 8.0 inch mark from 1996.
This storm also brought temperatures back to reality after readings averaged 12-18 degrees above normal for the first week. From this point until the tail end of the month, we would see near- to below-normal temperatures. Mild readings would make a return on the final couple days of March.
Most of us were hoping that nor’easter No 2 would be winter’s last gasp, but Mother Nature had other ideas as a third nor-easter would bring snow and wind from March 13 into March 14. This storm deposited even more snow on the order of 18-26 inches throughout Greater Nashua.
Nashua’s 19.3-inch total was the fourth-biggest March snowstorm of record. Despite the higher snow totals, we would not set any records this time around. During 1993, we saw an even bigger storm dump big snows along the East Coast on these same dates. In case you’re wondering, the Blizzard of March 12-14, 1888, brought 30.0 inches to Nashua.
Of interest with our two March snowstorms were the snow totals across the local area. Both storms exhibited significant mesoscale banding, which means there were narrow bands of considerably heavier snow.
These snow bands do not occur in all storms but were observed with the two March storms, bringing noticeably higher snow totals to area towns mostly to the east of the Merrimack River. Mesoscale snow bands are generally 10 to 20 miles wide and can stall for a few hours producing very heavy snow while areas nearby see only light or moderate snow.
For our March storms, the towns of Hudson, Litchfield, Windham and Londonderry were recipients of two storm totals of a foot or more than towns a little to the west of the Merrimack River. Nor’easter No. 3 snow totals reached 26.3 inches for Hudson, while Derry saw 26.8 inches.
Both of these locations saw monthly totals of 4 feet.
We don’t see snow banding like this through the local area very often, and to have it occur in two storms within a week is quite uncommon.
Following our mid-month blitz of snow, a more settled weather regime would set up for much of the remainder of the month. We would be on the outskirts of a forth nor’easter on March 21, but this storm tracked far enough to our southeast to bring only a couple inches of fluffy snow to the Gate City.
Temperatures remained a little colder than normal for the second half of March, helped along by the snow pack, but the strong March sun would make the snow history before month’s end.
We were lucky this year that the ground thawed out before the heavy snows came, allowing the melting snow to just settle straight into the ground rather than producing flooding problems as happens during some years.
Many of us might have thought March was a cold month, but that was not the case. The average temperature of 35.2 degrees was 0.6 degrees above normal. March was in a tie at No. 41 mildest out of 125 years. Temperatures were as much as 18 degrees above normal on the first and second and fell to 13 degrees below normal on March 19.
The monthly high of 62 was recorded on March 1, while the mercury fell to 11 degrees on March 18. No temperature records were set in March.
The precipitation total at Pennichuck Water Works was 3.90 inches, a deficit of 0.46 inches. The greatest storm total was 1.35 inches melted falling as snow on March 8. The precipitation total for March ranked at No. 79 out of 135 years from driest to wettest.
The Gate City endured the fifth snowiest March on record. The total of 34.3 inches was 23.6 inches above normal. The season total to date is 81.4 inches, 27.3 inches above normal.
April continues the tug of war between winter and spring with spring weather usually getting the upper hand as we move deeper into the month. April’ weather is generally known for being cloudy, damp and chilly at times. Snow is not uncommon during April, but amounts are usually not heavy.
On average, April and May are the cloudiest months of the year across New England due to a high occurrence of easterly winds off the cold, moist Atlantic Ocean.
Wildfires can be a potential problem during April. Before the new seasons’ vegetation comes alive, there exists a great amount of dry leaves and grass that can easily catch fire on some of the sunny, dry days that can occur this time of year.
Warm weather during April typically comes in short spurts of a day or two. During these periods, temperatures can shoot up into the 70s and 80s. Don’t get used to it, because a wind switch into the east or southeast can send temperatures tumbling in a hurry.
Weather & Climate is written by Doug Webster, a Hudson resident and senior meteorologist at
Hometown Forecast Services in Nashua.