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Weather History: March 12: Record temps, storms, snow, fire & ’93 Superstorm

Meteorological events that happened on March 12th:

Crepuscular rays refer to an optical effect that you have probably seen many times. Crepuscular rays are streaks of light or bands of sunlight shining through breaks in clouds along the horizon. There will often be a streak of light next to a shadow where the clouds continue to block the sunlight. This gives an eye pleasing pattern of light streaks alternating with bluish streaks. The effect is also referred to as "the sun drawing water" or "Jacob's ladder".


One of the most vicious blizzards ever to strike the nation was in progress, paralyzing southeastern New York State and western New England. When the storm finally ended on the 13th, Saratoga, NY was buried under 58 inches of new snow and 50 inches was recorded at Middletown, CT. New York City received 20.9 inches of snow and Albany, NY reported 46.7 inches. Snow drifted as high as 30 feet, to the second stories of many buildings. Winds of up to 70 mph accompanied the snow, creating blizzard conditions. The train system was paralyzed. The icy and wind swept Brooklyn Bridge was closed. Over 400 people were killed, 200 of them in New York City. Record cold followed the storm.


The record low air pressure of 972 millibars or 28.70 inHg at Chicago, IL was set during a storm that produced heavy snow, a thick glaze of ice, gales, and much rain that caused $800,000 dollars damage.


The St. Frances dam near Santa Paula, CA burst before midnight, killing 450 people as a flood tide of 138,000 acres of water rushed down the San Francisquito Canyon.


Utah's largest earthquake occurred in the Hansel Valley north of Salt Lake City. Measuring 6.6 on the Richter scale, the earthquake caused damage in Salt Lake City and Ogden. The Wasatch Fault in Utah is rated as the seventh most dangerous fault in the United States.


On this date through the 25th, a series of suffocating dust storms blew across southeastern Colorado depositing up to six feet of dust. Six people died, and many livestock starved or suffocated. Schools were closed, and many rural homes were abandoned.


On this date through the 13th, a blizzard raged from eastern Wyoming into the Black Hills of western South Dakota, while a severe ice storm was in progress from northeastern Nebraska to central Iowa. The ice storm isolated 153 towns in Iowa. Dust from the Great Plains caused brown snow, hail and muddy rain over parts of Wisconsin and Michigan.


A tremendous four-day storm raged across California. Wind gusts of 90 mph closed mountain passes, heavy rains flooded the lowlands, and in 60 hours, Squaw Valley, CA was buried under 96 inches of snow.


A large tornado outbreak spawned tornadoes in the Great Lakes and Midwest, including 9 in northern Indiana and extreme southern Michigan.


The wind at Paris, TN jumped from calm to 76 mph in just one second. Several planes broke away from their tiedowns.


Unseasonably cold weather prevailed in the southeastern U.S., with gale force winds along the Mid-Atlantic Coast.

A storm in the Pacific Northwest produced rain and gale force winds. Crescent City, CA received 2.27 inches of rain in 24 hours.


A powerful storm produced high winds and heavy snow in the Upper Mississippi Valley and the Upper Great Lakes Region. Winds gusting to 70 mph produced snow drifts six feet high in Minnesota, and sent 12 foot waves on Lake Superior over the break-walls of the ship canal at Duluth, MN.

A violent hail storm struck Kathmandu, Nepal, during a soccer game at the National Stadium. About 80 fans, seeking shelter from the storm, were trampled to death as the stadium doors were locked.


An early season heat wave continued in the southwestern and central U.S. Many cities reported record high temperatures for the date. Wichita Falls, TX, which six days earlier reported a record low of 8°, reported a record high of 95°. Childress, TX was the first spot in the country in 1989 to hit the century mark.

A geomagnetic storm struck the Earth on this date. The province of Quebec Canada was plunged into darkness as power grids were overwhelmed by currents set up in power transmission lines. Phone systems and air traffic control systems went dark. Some places would be without power for a week.


Unseasonably warm weather prevailed from the Southern and Central Plains to the Southern and Mid-Atlantic Coast, with afternoon highs in the 70s and 80s. Many cities reported record high temperatures for the date. Many of the records were topped by 15 degrees or more and some of the records broken had been set 100 years ago or more. Downtown Baltimore, MD was the hot spot in the nation with a record high of 95°, which smashed their previous record for the date by 19 degrees. Other record highs included, 86° at BWI/Marshall in Baltimore, MD, 89° at Washington, D.C. & Richmond, VA and 90° at Raleigh, NC. From the 11th through the 15th, 283 record high temperatures were set.

During this warm spell in the nation's capital, the famous cherry blossoms bloomed around March 15th, which was the earliest in history. After six days of record warmth, 1 to 6 inches of snow fell 12 days later across parts of the Mid-Atlantic.


High winds blasted southwest Kansas. Dust storms blackening the sky reduced visibilities to as low as zero in some areas. Wind gusts hit 89 mph at Garden City and 67 mph at Dodge City.

Cruz Bay on St. John in the Virgin Islands set their all-time lowest temperature with 55°.


An incredible blizzard known as "The Superstorm” struck the eastern United States on this date through the 15th. The storm was described as the most costly non-tropical storm ever to strike the U.S. doing an estimated $6 billion dollars in damage. The storm was as strong as a hurricane in terms of winds and low pressure. The pressure dropped to an incredible 28.35 inHg or 960 millibars when then storm was located over the Chesapeake Bay. Boston, MA recorded a wind gust to 81 mph, the strongest wind they had recorded since Hurricane Edna in 1954. In addition, as the storm was intensifying over the Gulf of Mexico, a wind gust to 99 mph was recorded by an offshore oil rig. It dumped incredible amounts of snow from Alabama to New England. The snow amounts were significant everywhere, but for places like Birmingham, AL, the 17 inches recorded brought the city to a standstill for three days. Mount Leconte, NC recorded 60 inches of snow. Practically every weather station in West Virginia established a new 24 hour snowfall record during the event. Syracuse, NY was buried under 43 inches of snow. 270 people were killed during the storm and another 48 lost at sea. The storm also brought a 12 foot storm surge and 15 tornadoes to Florida, where 51 people were killed. Air travel was brought to a halt as every major airport from Atlanta north was closed during the height of the storm. During the late evening into the early morning hours of the 13th, a vicious squall line swept through Florida and spawned 11 tornadoes resulting in five fatalities. Thunderstorm winds gusted to 110 mph at Alligator Point and 109 mph at Dry Tortugas. Extremely high tides occurred along the western Florida coast. A 13 foot storm surge occurred in Taylor County, Florida, resulting in 10 deaths with 57 residences destroyed. A 5 to 8 foot storm surge moved ashore in Dixie County. Over 500 homes were destroyed with major damage to another 700 structures.


A flash flood swept down normally dry Fortymile Wash in Nye County, Nevada following up to three inches of rain. A man was carried 50 feet down the rain swollen wash near Yucca Mountain after attempting to cross the flood in his pickup truck. Luckily, he was rescued escaping injury.

The country of Bahrain had its wettest day on record. 2.67 inches of rain fell on a region whose annual average rainfall is only 3.1 inches. The total rainfall for March of 5.49 is Bahrain's wettest month since 1902.


The barometer rose to 30.75 inHg at St. Louis, MO to establish their all-time highest barometric pressure. High pressure records for the month were also established in a number of other Midwest cities. The reading at the center of the high pressure cell was 31.12 inHg over South Dakota. The reading of -7° at Kansas City, MO is their latest sub-zero reading.


Severe thunderstorms struck eastern India, resulting in 14 deaths and 200 injuries in the state of West Bengal. Strong winds and hail uprooted trees, flattened hundreds of homes, killed thousands of cattle and poultry and damaged crops in the West Bengal state.


High school senior Matt Suter survived being blown 1,307 feet by a tornado at Fordland, MO. The twister ripped open his grandmother's mobile home and tossed Suter into the night, launching him over a barbed wire fence and eventually dropping him on the soft grass in an open field. He suffered only a head wound from being hit by a lamp.

A supercell thunderstorm, which had originated in northern Oklahoma during the late morning hours, moved northeast across central Illinois during the evening. This storm produced a number of tornadoes across the state, including one that was on the ground for approximately 65 miles, from the southeast tip of Pike County to Springfield. Over 1,000 buildings in the Springfield area were damaged or destroyed. Further north, severe thunderstorms produced a measured wind gust of 107 mph at the Quad City Airport near Moline, IL destroying a hotel under construction and damaging many nearby homes and businesses. A downburst produced 95 mph winds at Atkinson, IL

An emergency flare at a gas plant near McDonald, NM started a wildfire that grew to nearly 100,000 acres. Sustained wind speeds of 35 to 45 mph with gusts to 84 mph and very low relative humidity values contributed to the rapid growth and spread of this fire. These high winds occurred as strong upper-level low pressure approached southeastern New Mexico. The fire began around 10:30am MST and was visible on satellite by 11:00am MST. News reports in later days indicated that the final acreage of the burn area was 92,390 acres.

Snow accumulating as much as 8 inches, closed Prague's Ruzyne Airport in the Czech Republic.


The record low temperature for Minnesota for March was set as the temperature dropped to -35° at Embarrass and Babbit. St Cloud also set a new daily record low of -15°.


Check out my colleague Weather Examiners:

Baltimore, MD area weather with Tony Pann at

Orlando, FL area weather with Dr. Steve Oliver at

Houston, TX area weather & the weekly Weather America Newsletter with Larry Cosgrove at

NOAA Headlines Examiner with Dr. Steve Oliver and IPR at

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