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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
News >  Pacific NW

Weathercatch: March opens with wintry roar; finally turns more lamb-like

Spokane snowplows clear South Bernard Street following the big March 11 snow storm.  (COLIN MULVANY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
Spokane snowplows clear South Bernard Street following the big March 11 snow storm. (COLIN MULVANY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW) Buy this photo
By Nic Loyd and Linda Weiford For The Spokesman-Review

As we approached daylight saving time last Sunday, some of us wished we could spring our clocks forward to May.

That’s because early March lived up to its reputation and let loose its inner lion in the Inland Northwest. With dense fog, blustery winds, below-average temperatures and loads of snow, the first 10 days of the month were mostly a roar.

The rumbles began on the morning of March 1, when dense freezing fog over parts of the Spokane and Palouse regions significantly reduced visibility and coated the ground with a layer of black ice.

“Roads are slick this morning!” the Pullman Police Department warned in a tweet. “Please slow down and travel safely.”

It was also a chilly start to the month. In Spokane, temperatures ran 9 degrees below normal for that date.

On March 2, an active weather system riding a strong jet stream kicked up blustery winds from the southwest that blew snow across roads and caused isolated tree damage. Winds gusted at 25 mph in Spokane and Pullman, 44 mph in Lewiston and 46 in Moses Lake. Sustained winds ran 15-25 mph.

Each day from March 1 to last Friday ran cooler than normal. But it was the snowfall in Spokane that unleashed the biggest roar during that 10-day period, when a combined 8.9 inches fell on seven of those days.

That’s more than what we saw in January (6.1 inches) or February (8.6) . Spokane averages about 3.5 inches of snowfall during March, so a dump of 8.9 inches when the month wasn’t one-third of the way over is substantial.

This month’s heaviest snow arrived last Friday, when 4.8 inches shattered the previous daily record of 2.8 inches that fell on the same date in 1950.

Snow, ice and slush contributed to 18 accidents on area roadways, according to the Washington State Patrol.

The storm was fueled by a potent atmospheric river that struck California late last week, as moisture from the system’s fringes collided with cold air pooled over the Inland Northwest.

So here we are, only halfway through the month and it’s the snowiest March since 2009. That year, the snowfall total climbed to 9.5 inches for the month. Like we said. Roar.

As spring slowly awakens this week, temperatures in the upper 40s and low 50s have melted off much of the snow. The temperature finally broke 50 degrees on Monday, the first time since Nov. 5. If that seems like a lengthy span, it was – 127 days, to be exact.

Nic Loyd is a meteorologist in Washington state. Linda Weiford is a writer in Moscow, Idaho, who’s also a weather geek.

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