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Weather History: March 22: Record temps, storms, wind, snow, floods & tornadoes

Meteorological events that happened on March 22nd:


Heavy snows occurred in parts of Dixie with 10 inches reported at Oconee County, South Carolina.

For the 161st consecutive day, the temperature was below freezing at Muscatine, IA.


The morning low at Chicago IL's dipped to -1°, the latest sub zero reading in the city's history.


The first tornado was recorded in Oklahoma City, OK on this date. It destroyed 14 buildings and injured four people as it passed through the center of town. There was minor damage to the Weather Bureau office, then located at Grand and Robinson in south Oklahoma City.


Arlington Academy in Arlington, GA was struck by an F2 tornado at 8:30am as students and two teachers watched from a window. The tornado was upon them before they realized the danger they were in. At least eight people at the school were killed. Rescuers worked for hours in a driving rain to free the injured.


The mercury soared to 90° at Washington, D.C.; their earliest 90 degree day on record. They would follow it up the next day with 93°, their hottest March temperature ever followed by a record high of 84° on March 24.


A spectacular display of the Northern Lights was visible as far south as Bradenton, FL, El Paso, TX, and Fresno, CA. At Detroit, MI, the display was described "so brilliant as to blot out all stars below first magnitude".


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.


Great floods were at their crest on rivers from Maine to Ohio. Pittsburgh, PA reached 6.1 feet, Harrisburg, PA hit 3.5 feet, and Hartford, CT hit 8.6 feet, a depth greater than ever before. The flood claimed 107 lives and caused $270 million dollars property damage.


The Chicago River overflowed its banks as 6 to 10 inches of rain drenched the city and surrounding areas.


A big snow storm that started on this day ended on March 24. 29 inches of snow fell in Idyllwild, CA of which 22 inches fell on 3/24 alone (the greatest daily March snowfall on record), 26 inches fell at Lake Arrowhead, 23 inches at Palomar Mountain and 18 inches at Big Bear Lake, CA.


A vigorous cold front swept across Denver, CO late in the afternoon with winds gusting to 38 mph creating blowing dust. Snowfall from the storm totaled 4.4 inches at the former Stapleton International Airport. Temperatures dropped from a high of 63° to 18° in just 10 hours and dipped to -3° on the morning of the 24th. High temperatures only warmed to 19° on the 23rd and 18° on the 24th.


Dayton, OH picked up 11.3 inches of snow which stood as greatest 24-hour snowfall until the Blizzard of '78.


A blockbuster coastal storm lashed New York and New England. Norfolk, CT was buried under 33 inches of snow. 24 inches was reported at Pittsfield, MA and 18 inches piled up at Gardner, MA. Snow amounts exceeded 30 inches in the Catskills in southeastern New York. 3 to 5 inches of rain deluged south coastal New England and wind gusts reached 60 to 90 mph. A 450 foot radio tower in Framingham, MA was toppled by the high winds.


Near blizzard conditions paralyzed the northeastern part of Colorado. Strong winds and drifting snow closed many roads; including I-25 and I-70. Power outages were reported across parts of Denver. Snow accumulations of 4-12 inches were measured across parts of the Plains with drifts several feet deep in places. Only 3.5 inches of snow was reported Stapleton International Airport in Denver, CO.


An intense storm produced heavy snow in the southern and central Rockies, and high winds from southern California to West Texas. Wolf Creek Pass, CO received 24 inches of snow, and winds gusted to 69 mph at Ruidoso, NM. Blizzard conditions were reported in parts of eastern Colorado.


Rain and high winds battered the Northern Pacific Coast Region, with wind gusts to 78 mph at Ocean Shores, WA. The high winds uprooted trees and down power lines.

Several cities in the northeastern U.S. reported new record low temperatures for the date while more cities in the central U.S. reported record high temperatures. Southerly winds gusting to 60 mph helped push the mercury at Ottumwa, IA to a record high of 83°.


Several cities in the Great Lakes Region, and three in southern Texas, reported new record low temperatures for the date, including Alpena, MI with a reading of 9°, and Brownsville, TX with a low of 38°.


A surge of arctic air kept temperatures in the teens and 20s during the day in the north central U.S., and heavy snow fell over parts of Montana. Meanwhile, record warmth was reported in the western U.S. and in Alaska. Phoenix, AZ reported a record high of 94°, and the town of Barrow, located along the arctic coast of Alaska, reported a record high of 20°.


On this date through the 22nd, a band of convective snow developed over northern Iowa. Snow began falling during the predawn hours and was falling at a rate of two or more inches per hour over parts of northwest Iowa. The heaviest snow fell in a narrow band extending from Sioux Falls, SD southeast to near Storm Lake, IA where amounts of 8 inches or more were common. Sioux Falls, SD reported over a foot of snow. Other heavy amounts included 10.5 inches in Alton and 14 inches at Sheldon.


Heavy snow fell across parts of New England. 8 inches of snow fell at Danforth, ME with 4 inches at Grand Falls, ME.

Louisiana residents near the flooded Mississippi River met with unwelcome visitors: snakes and alligators displaced by the river. New Orleans officials warned joggers and other visitors to the recreation area along Lake Ponchartrain to watch out for the slithering reptiles. The river, at its highest level since the 1927 flooding, sent residents to shelters and completely surrounded the state prison at Angola, where prisoners labored to shore up the last remaining levee with sandbags.

Stargazers had their best nighttime view of the Hale-Bopp comet as it made its closest pass to the Earth on this date: 123 million miles away. The huge comet is four times larger than Halley's Comet with an icy core up to 25 miles in diameter. The last time Hale-Bopp was visible was over 4,000 years ago.

2.4 inches of snow on this day at Marquette, MI pushed its seasonal snowfall total to 253.4 inches, the city's snowiest season on record up to this time. This record was broken in the 2001-2002 season.


Another winter storm dumped 8-20 inches of snow on southern Quebec Canada closing many highways. More than 40,000 Hydro-Quebec customers lost power, nearly half of those for almost 48 hours.


It was 82° in Idyllwild, CA and 93° in Victorville, CA, each setting daily and March records.


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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