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Weather History: March 19: Record temps, storms, snow, wind, dust & tropics

Meteorological events that happened on March 19th:

This is the first day Death Valley National Park reaches 90° for a high temperature.


The highest March temperature in Oklahoma City, OK was set when the temperature soared to 97°. Dodge City, KS also set a March record with 98°. Denver, CO set a daily record high of 81°.


An Oklahoma snowstorm dumped over 11.3 inches at Oklahoma City and 11 inches at Tulsa.


Suffocating dust storms occurred frequently in southeast Colorado between the 12th and the 25th of the month. Six people died, and many livestock starved or suffocated. Up to six feet of dust covered the ground. Schools were closed, and many rural homes were deserted by tenants.


An F4 tornado moved through Fosterburg, Bunker Hill, and Gillespie, IL, killing 33 people and injuring 449 others. 2,000 buildings in Bunker Hill were damaged or destroyed. Total damage was $3.6 million dollars.

Another tornado skipped from Ohio City to Landeck to Columbus Grove, OH. Two altar boys were killed when the twister hit a Catholic church in Landeck and the steeple fell into the church after the walls were ripped away. Another person died in a barn north of Vaughnsville. Another F4 twister struck Washington and St. Francois counties in Missouri. These tornadoes were part of an outbreak that produced seven different tornadoes and were responsible for a total of 37 deaths and 507 injuries.


Timberline Lodge reported 246 inches of snow on the ground (20.5 feet), a record for the state of Oregon.


Boston, MA endured its second major snowstorm in three days with 19.5 inches at the Blue Hill Observatory. 20 inches fell at Putnam, CT and Boston, MA received 13 inches. Traffic was paralyzed. This storm was a part of the snowiest March ever in southern New England until 1993.


An extremely heavy, wet snow fell from Virginia to New England. Totals ranged as high as 17-30 inches. 49 people died in storm related accidents. 800 people were trapped along the Pennsylvania Turnpike near Morgantown, WV. 38 inches fell at Morgantown in 24 hours and 50 inches total in 3 days, a Pennsylvania state record.


A major storm dumped heavy snowfall of 7.7 inches at Stapleton Airport in Denver, CO where north winds gusting to 45 mph caused blowing and drifting. Many highways were blocked with damage to telephone lines along the South Platte River. The storm started a rain and changed to heavy wet snow which froze on the lines causing them to break. The storm was responsible for two deaths across eastern Colorado.


39 inches of snow fell at Cape Whittle, Quebec Canada, the greatest one day snow total in the history of the province.


High winds buffeted the front range foothills in eastern Colorado causing damage in Boulder and Jefferson counties. A freight train was derailed near the entrance to a canyon 20 miles west of Denver when some empty cars were caught on a curve by a wind gust. Two small planes were heavily damaged at the Jefferson County airport. Winds gusted to 105 mph at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, 62 mph in downtown Boulder, and 80-90 mph at the Boulder airport. Stapleton Airport in Denver reported a gust to 49 mph.


A strong frontal passage produced a wind gust to 80 mph that caused extensive damage to buildings at Langley Air Force Base just outside of Hampton, VA.


The high of 93° established the record high for the month of March at Garden City, KS.


A major winter storm produced blizzard conditions and 10-20 inches of snow in northwestern Kansas and southern Nebraska through the 19th. A severe ice storm occurred in parts of northeastern Kansas with 1 inch ice accumulations common. The 1,400 foot radio tower for KLDH-TV near Topeka buckled and then collapsed from the weight of a three-inch coating of ice. This ice storm ranks as one of the worst ever to hit Kansas.


A wind gust of 153 mph was recorded in Scotland's Cairngorm Mountains, the highest ever recorded in the United Kingdom.


A storm in the western U.S. produced rain and snow from the northern and central Pacific coast to the northern and central Rockies. Heavier snowfall totals included 13 inches at Clear Creek, UT, 12 inches at Snow Camp, CA and Glacier Park, MT, and 10 inches at Kayenta, AZ. Wind gusts reached 54 mph at Winslow, AZ.


Several cities in California and Nevada reported record high temperatures for the date as readings soared into the 80s and lower 90s. Los Angeles, CA reported a record high of 89°.

Several cities in south central Texas reported record low temperatures, including El Paso, with a reading of 22°.


Several cities reported new record low temperatures for the date as cold arctic air settled into the Upper Midwest for Palm Sunday, including Marquette, MI with a reading of -11°.


Rather wintry weather in the eastern U.S. replaced the 80 degree weather of the previous week. Freezing temperatures were reported in northern sections of the Gulf Coast States, and snow began to whiten the northern and central Appalachians. Up to eight inches of snow was reported in parts of western Virginia.


A vigorous storm that started on the 17th and ended on 20th produced one to eight inches of rainfall in lower elevations of southern California and up to 14 inches of precipitation in the mountains. 6.17 inches fell at Mt. Wilson and four inches fell in Santa Barbara. Two to five feet of snow fell in the mountains. On this date, one foot of snow fell at Mt. Laguna, and six inches fell at Palomar Mountain and Cuyamaca. Schools and roads closed in the mountains, including I-8 from Alpine to Imperial County. Local flooding and mud slides resulted. A tornado in the East City Heights neighborhood of San Diego caused property damage. A tornado in the San Carlos area of San Diego caused extensive damage. Pine trees were ripped out by the roots, palm and cottonwood trees were snapped in half. Cars were smashed by falling objects, debris and patio furniture was strewn throughout neighborhoods, including a refrigerator. A car was moved 60 feet by a falling palm. Another tornado moved through Lakewood and Bellflower. Strong winds created large waves and surf. A 33 foot sailboat was blown aground and destroyed at Pt. Loma.


A heavy snowstorm blanketed North Germany, South Denmark and parts of Sweden. In Germany, Flensburg reported 6.3 inches snow and Eggebek with 7.1 inches.


Dawson Creek, British Columbia Canada shivered as the temperature plunged to -35°, the coldest temperature ever for this date in the province of British Columbia.


One of the worst blizzards since records began in 1872 struck the Denver metro area and Colorado’s Front Range began with a vengeance. Denver International Airport was closed stranding about 4,000 travelers. The weight of the snow caused a 40-foot gash in a portion of the roof forcing the evacuation of that section of the main terminal building. Winds gusting to 40 mph produced drifts six feet high in places around the city. Snowfall in foothills was even more impressive. The heavy wet snow caused numerous roofs of homes and businesses to collapse. The estimated cost of property damage alone, not including large commercial buildings, was $93 million dollars, making it the most costly snowstorm on record for the area. In Denver alone at least 258 structures were damaged. Up to 135,000 people lost power during the storm and it took several days for power to be totally restored. Mayor Wellington Webb of Denver said, "This is the storm of the century, a backbreaker, a record breaker, a roof breaker." Avalanches in the mountains and foothills closed many roads, including Interstate 70, stranding hundreds of skiers and travelers. The Eldora Ski area 270 skiers were stranded when an avalanche closed the main access road. After the storm, a military helicopter had to deliver food to the resort until the road could be cleared. Two people died in Aurora from heart attacks after shoveling the heavy wet snow. The National Guard sent 40 soldiers and 20 heavy duty vehicles to rescue stranded travelers along a section of I-70. Thousands of residents in Jefferson County were trapped in their homes for several days. Two homes burned to the ground when fire crews could not reach the residences. The storm made March 2003 the snowiest March on record, the fourth snowiest month on record and the fifth wettest March on record. The total of 22.9 inches is the greatest 24-hour total in March. The storm also broke 19 consecutive months of below normal precipitation for Denver.

31.8 inches of snow was recorded at the former Stapleton Airport in Denver for its second greatest snowstorm on record (the greatest was 37.5 inches on 12/4-12/5/1913) with up to three feet in other areas in and around the city and more than seven feet in the foothills.

Higher amounts included: Fritz Peak: 87.5 inches, Rollinsville: 87.5 inches, Canin Creek: 83 inches, Near Bergen Park: 74 inches, Northwest of Evergreen: 73 inches, Cola Creek Canyon: 72 inches, Georgetown: 70 inches, Jamestown: 63 inches, Near Blackhawk: 60 inches, Eldora Ski Area: 55 inches, Ken Caryl Ranch: 46.6 inches, Aurora: 40 inches, Centennial: 38 inches, Buckley AFB: 37 inches, Southwest Denver: 35 inches, Louisville: 34 inches, Arvada: 32 inches, Broomfield: 31 inches, Westminster: 31 inches, Boulder: 22.5 inches and Cheyenne, WY: 18.5 inches with drifts over 7 feet high..

This storm was the result of a very moist intense slow moving Pacific system which tracked across the four corners and into southeastern Colorado which allowed a deep easterly upslope to form among the front range.


Strong northerly winds associated with surface low pressure intensified as it moved into the Central Plains which brought heavy wet snow to the eastern foothills and northeastern plains of Colorado. The hardest hit areas included the foothills of Boulder and Gilpin Counties. Storm totals included: 15 inches at Rollinsville, 14 inches at Aspen Springs, 12.5 inches at Nederland and 5.7 inches in the Denver Stapleton area. Strong winds gusting over 30 mph, heavy snow and poor visibility forces the closure of I-70 from Denver east to the Kansas state line.

Cyclone Larry, the most powerful storm to hit Australia in 3 decades, slammed onto the Australian coast south of Cairns in the town of Innisfail with estimated sustained winds of 115 mph with gusts to 150 mph devastating sugar and banana plantations and leaving thousands homeless. Damage totaled a half billion dollars. Miraculously, no lives were lost and no serious injuries were reported. At one point, Category 5 Larry packed wind gusts to Category 5 strength of 180 mph.

The Australian Tropical Cyclone Intensity Scale is based on estimated maximum wind gusts, which are a further 30-40% stronger than the 10-minute average sustained winds. This is different than the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale which uses 1-Minute Maximum Sustained winds

Australia’s Cyclone Intensity Scale

Category Sustained (mph) Gusts (mph)

Tropical Low <39 <56

Category 1 39 – 55 mph 46 - 77

Category 2 56 – 73 mph 78 - 102

Category 3 74 – 99 mph 103 - 139 (Severe Tropical Cyclone)

Category 4 100 – 124 mph 140 – 174 (Severe Tropical Cyclone)

Category 5 >124 mph >174 (Severe Tropical Cyclone)


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

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