Long Islanders counting down to March 20 need to heed these three words from meteorologist Geoff Bansen: “late season snow.”
Surely, you have not forgotten last year with its four March storms, or as Bansen calls them, the "FOUR-easters."
Yes, the sun is getting higher, and yes temperatures are becoming milder, making for a backdrop more conducive for rain than snow, said Bansen, News 12 Long Island digital meteorologist.
'It comes in like a lion, but doesn’t always go out like a lamb here on Long Island.'Meteorologist Geoff Bansen
However, “March is truly the ‘wild card’ month,” he said, “and anything can happen, from blizzards to 70 degree temperatures.”
He reminds us of last March and the blocking pattern of high pressure that parked to the north of the area, diverting the jet stream and storm after storm after storm our way. Add cold temperatures to that picture, and “you have yourself a recipe for late season snow.”
“March is a zany month,” he said. “It comes in like a lion, but doesn’t always go out like a lamb here on Long Island.”
Still, Bansen's early assessment offers hope for everyone, even those who lean toward opposite ends of the month. Snow lovers should look for below-normal cold to start the month, as “I say our best chance of a big snow is through mid-month.”
Those praying to avoid the shoveling and slip-sliding, can then take heart because, he says, “after that (fingers crossed) decent chance you can stick a fork in winter.”
WHICH EMOJI BEST DESCRIBES MARCH WEATHER?
Bansen chose the "helpless" emoji to represent March.
"Because March can make us feel helpless. Winter never gives up!" he said. But another March emoji also came to mind he said, the "exploding head," because that's "us meteorologists trying to forecast March sometimes!"
WHAT'S NORMAL, WHAT'S NOT
March sees a big jump on average, with the month starting out with normal daily highs of 43 degrees and overnight lows of 28 degrees at Long Island MacArthur Airport. By month's end, that's 52 degree highs, with 36 the low.
On average, the month sees 4.44 inches of precipitation.
But, it’s recorded as much as 9.41 inches in 2010.
And as little as 0.99 inches in 2012.
Normal is 4.5 inches of snow.
That blockbuster year, 2018, brought 31.9 inches.
We scoured our archives — and memories! — and here are some of the most notable weather events and how Newsday covered them at the time.
Having already designated last March a major snow machine, let’s start off with a different kind of wild.
March 13, 1990 82 degrees
Newsday headline writers had some fun with “How Sweat It Is” for the 1990 story reporting that “across Long Island the weather skipped a season and winter felt the warm breath of summer on its neck with the beginning of a heat wave that weather forecasters said should keep things unseasonably warm though the weekend.”
Sun lovers in short-sleeve shirts hit the golf links, with those in more “minimal apparel” heading to beaches — some 14,000 at Sunken Meadow and 25,000 at Jones Beach.
“This is really weird,” a forecaster said. “A Bermuda high sitting off the southeast coast is pumping hot air all up this way. We’ve got record highs all along the East Coast.”
Long Island was not complaining.
March 23, 1977 50 mph wind gusts in the forecast
March takes 1st place in the windiest month category, with an average wind speed of 10.6 mph.
Back in 1977, wind gusts of more than 50 mph were forecast for March 23, and “were expected to go a long way toward drying out Long Island from the 1.3 inches of rain” that had fallen the day before. Already northwest winds of up to 40 mph had downed plenty of trees and power lines, meaning lots of outages.
Bansen also recalls such a day from his high school years: “A chilly March rainstorm was immediately followed by incredibly high winds. The rains loosened the soil, and the winds toppled numerous trees, many of which were older and very large.”
Two main things account for these blustery conditions, he said. There’s “a bigger temperature contrast” between warmer air masses to our south and much colder ones to the north, and when they come in contact, the “resulting pressure difference can make for some windy days.”
In addition, “stronger winds from the upper atmosphere” can be dragged down to the surface as warming air rises and mixes with colder air above.
March 3-4, 1960 A harrowing storm
The storm was devastating, Newsday reported in 1960, as the more than 23 inches of snow that fell March 3 to 4, “blinded and snarled” Long Island, “taking six lives, stranding thousands and creating head-high drifts.”
As fast as plows cleared roadways, the 40 mph winds pushed snow right back again.
With employers closing early, commuters jammed Long Island Rail Road platforms mid-afternoon, making for an early rush hour. Some train delays ensued, blamed on the overcrowding.
Sheltering from the cold and snow, one man was holed up in a heated waiting room when, hearing what he thought was his train, he dashed across the tracks and was struck and killed. Other deaths came about from what appeared to be exertion from the likes of shoveling and pushing through the high drifts.
Back in the days when Newsday cost 5 cents an issue and phones were not mobile, the telephone company reported the good news that, as the snow was dry and not of the wet, heavy variety, the phone lines were staying put.
Newsday also pointed to “things that always happen when it snows,” with photos of a mail carrier out on the job, a snowball maker and a man on skis heading down a hill.
HERE'S WHAT NEWSDAY READERS REMEMBER:
Mark Raskin, of Huntington, remembers the March 13, 1993 blizzard – also known as the “Storm of the Century” for its massive impact on the East Coast. Parts of Long Island saw between 10 and 20 inches fall over the weekend, according to the National Weather Service. Raskin’s son’s bar mitzvah was scheduled for the 13th, a Saturday.
“On the 13th, it snowed somewhere in the 20-inch range. We had to postpone the event til the next day. Several who couldn’t make the Saturday party, called to attend Sunday. We ended up with more in attendance Sunday than we expected Saturday. Friends still talking about it almost 26 years later.”
NOTABLE DAYS AND HOW THEY'VE FARED
Daylight saving time, March 10
Normal is 45 degrees for a high, but the day did warm up to 73 degrees in 2016 and had a record low of 10 degrees in 2005. The most snow on that day was 4 inches in 2017. And don't forget that your clocks "spring" ahead an hour — get it?
St. Patrick’s Day, March 17
Normal high is 47 degrees, but the day did warm up to 70 degrees in 2003 and fell to a record low of 8 degrees in 1967. The most snow was 2.3 inches in 1993.
First Day of Spring, March 20
Normal is 48 degrees for a high, but the day did hit 71 degrees in 2012 and had a record low of 15 degrees in 1967. The most snow was 5.3 inches in 2015.
Records are based on data for Long Island MacArthur Airport going back to September 1963.
Source/research: Northeast Regional Climate Center; Newsday librarians