Meteorological events that happened on March 21st:
The Jefferson Flood hit the Connecticut Valley. The flooding was the greatest since 1692. The Federalists named the flood for the new President, who they blamed for the disaster.
One of the major snowstorms in Mid Atlantic history dumped 15-20 inches of snow in Philadelphia, PA, 32 inches in 16 hours on Georgetown, DE, and an average 30 inch snow at New York City. This snowstorm would rank as the third largest snowstorm since 1843. The winter of 1868 set major snowfall records that would not be equaled for over a century in parts of the northeast. Locations around New York City reported 80-89 inches during the winter, Boston: 83 inches, Middletown CT: 96 inches.
More than 40 inches of snow stopped traffic at Montreal, Quebec Canada. Trains were delayed, and mail carriers resorted to snowshoes.
A major outbreak of tornadoes occurred from Mississippi eastward to South Carolina and northward to Indiana into the next day. Nearly all the deaths occurred in Alabama making this the worst tornado day in the state's history. 31 twisters touched down across Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia and Tennessee. 10 twisters were ranked F4. A total of 268 people were killed and over 2,100 were injured. Damage totaled $5 million dollars.
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.
The Connecticut River at Hartford reached its highest stage ever at 37 feet above flood stage during what was called, “The Great New England Flood of 1936”. Before, the river had never reached 30 feet.
Antarctica is the windiest place in the world. Port Martin averaged 40 mph winds throughout the year. On this day, the winds averaged 108 mph.
Killer tornadoes ravaged Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee, and Mississippi. The outbreak was the worst in Arkansas history. 31 tornadoes reported in Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri and Kentucky. 17 tornadoes were rated F2 or greater in intensity with 7 of those rated F4. 13 tornadoes were reported in both Tennessee and Arkansas. Judsonia and Bald Knob, AR were hit by one of the F4 tornadoes. The only building left standing at Judsonia was a church, the rest of the town devastated by the one and one half mile wide twister. 50 people were killed and 325 were injured. Damage was set at $3.5 million. Another F4 tornado tore up Bolivar and Henderson, TN with 38 killed and 157 injured. A total of 202 people were killed and 1,226 were injured with 3,500 homes were destroyed.
It rained for 36 straight hours in Memphis, TN, before the rain changed to snow and accumulated to 16.1 inches before ending 20 hours later.
A line of storms moved across the Mid-Atlantic States mid-day to early afternoon causing unusually widespread wind damage and tornadoes. Over 20 people were injured and 2 were killed. An F2 tornado moved one mile south of Crumpton, Queen Anne's County, MD, destroying one structure and causing damage to another. An F3 tornado struck Stroudsburg, PA, causing a half million dollars in damage. Philadelphia, PA reported a wind gust of 67 mph.
A winter storm in the Northern Plains Region produced blizzard conditions in western South Dakota. Winds gusted to 70 mph at Rapid City, SD, and snowfall totals ranged up to 20 inches at Lead, SD. The high winds produced snow drifts six feet high.
Bitterly cold weather prevailed across the northeastern U.S. Portland, ME reported their coldest spring day on record with a morning low of 5°, and an afternoon high of just 21°. Marquette, MI reported a record low of -15°.
Snow blanketed the northeastern U.S. early in the day, with 6 inches reported at Rutland, VT.
Morning and afternoon thunderstorms produced large hail and damaging winds from southwestern Mississippi to southwest Georgia.
The first full day of spring was a cold one for the eastern U.S. Freezing temperatures damaged 62% of the peach crop in upstate South Carolina, and 72% of the peach crop in the ridge area of South Carolina. Elkins, WV, which a week earlier reported a record high of 82°, was the cold spot in the nation with a morning low of 16°.
It snowed 24 inches at Palomar Mountain in California, the second greatest daily snowfall on record (and the second greatest snowfall for March; 25 inches fell on 3/18/1991). 1.98 inches of rain fell in La Mesa, 0.81 inch fell at Lindbergh Field. Mud slides, road washouts, and power outages were reported at Rincon Indian Reservation.
Intense snow squalls associated with a stalled cold front and a "norlun" instability trough buried Kennebunkport, ME under 14 inches of snow in only four hours. Goose Rocks Beach reported an amazing two feet in the same time period. Portland, ME recorded 4 inches of snow in just one hour with a total of 11.4 inches. Nearly 6 inches of snow fell in one hour in the Beverly, MA area, resulting in a 27-car pile up on route 128 and the closing down of the route for 1.5 hours.
Record high temperatures occurred in parts of the southern Plains including Hobart, OK with 93° and Harrison, AR with 86°.
In South America, heavy rains triggered flooding and landslides throughout Ecuador leaving 13 people dead and more than 6,000 people homeless.
A late season cold low pressure system brought one of the most unusual spring days to the Las Vegas, NV area. This system brought rain, snow, hail, thunder, and even reports of cold air funnel clouds across the region. Snow levels dropped to near 2,200 feet during the day. Some of the significant snowfall totals included: 15 inches at Mt. Charleston, 8 inches at Spring Valley State Park, 6 inches on Mountain Springs Summit just west of Las Vegas and 5 inches in Pioche. Temperatures in Las Vegas fell from the low 50’s to the middle 40s during the afternoon.
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