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Weather History: March 27: Record temps, storms, snow, sand, tornadoes & quake

Meteorological events that happened on March 27th:


An outbreak of tornadoes struck the Ohio Valley and the mid-Mississippi Valley. At least 24 significant tornadoes occurred during this outbreak. One of the twisters, an F4 struck Louisville, KY killing 78 people and causing $4 million dollars damage. At least 55 people were killed when the Falls City Hall was struck, making it one of the highest death tolls on record in a single building from a tornado. There was also extensive damage in the suburb of Jeffersonville, IN. Overall, as many as 120 people perished.


A blizzard struck western Kansas and adjoining states was called the "worst since January 1888". The low temperature of -3° recorded during the blizzard stands as the coldest recorded so late in the season.


Just six days after Alabama's deadliest tornado outbreak, more severe storms broke out across the same area hard hit before. A farm at Lawley, AL in Bibb County was struck by tornadoes on both days. The most powerful tornado of the day was an F3 that touched down about 2:30pm in Bibb County and roared into Chilton and Coosa Counties killing five people.


Winnipeg, Manitoba Canada thawed out as the mercury soared to 74°, their warmest March temperature on record.


A huge snowstorm finally came to an end after blasting the Northern Plains for three days. Dumont, SD reported 60 inches of snow setting the state record for a single storm.


The most powerful earthquake ever recorded in North America struck about 5:36 p.m. on Good Friday at Anchorage, AK. Lasting nearly five minutes, it was the most powerful recorded earthquake in North American history and the third most powerful ever measured by seismograph. It had a moment magnitude of 9.2 and registered 8.4 on the Richter scale and was felt as far away as Houston, TX. A 30-block area of Anchorage, AK was destroyed by the quake and landslides. Two hundred miles to the southwest, some areas near Kodiak were permanently raised by 30 feet while east of Anchorage the head of Turnagain Arm near Portage dropped 8 feet requiring reconstruction and fill to raise the Seward Highway above the new high tidemark. The earthquake generated a Pacific-wide tsunami. The devastating tsunami destroyed many coastal villages in Alaska. The peak wave height at Valdez Inlet was over 27 feet high destroying the village of Chenega, killing 23 of the 68 people who then lived there. 16 people were killed later that night on the coasts of Oregon and Northern California. As many as 131 people died in the disaster, many in tsunamis. Minor damage to boats reached as far south as Los Angeles. Since the entire Earth vibrated as a result of the quake, minor effects were felt worldwide: several fishing boats were sunk in Louisiana and water sloshed in wells in South Africa. Over 10,000 aftershocks occurred within 18 months following the main quake with 11 recording a magnitude of 6.0 or greater. The disaster led to the creation of the Alaskan Tsunami Warning Center.


The temperature climbed to 100° at Wichita Falls, TX. This is a record for hitting the century mark so early in the season and the warmest day ever in March.


A KLM 747 crashed into a Pan AM jumbo jet while taking off from the Airport at Tenerife, Spain. Several factors, including thick fog forming over the airfield led to the fiery disaster that killed 583 people, the worst commercial aviation accident in history.


A major blizzard struck parts of the Rockies and Plains. Both I-70 and I-76 east of Denver was closed for a time. Some areas received 1 to 2 feet of snow with drifts 4 to 8 feet high. Many young livestock perished.


A strong storm system traversing northern Texas pulled very hot air northeastward into southern Texas. Mid afternoon it was snowing and 34° in Amarillo (their high for the day of 42°F was earlier in the morning. Same time, same state, Brownsville reported sunny skies and a temperature of 106°, which broke not only the monthly record high temperature but their all-time record as well. Later that afternoon, Cotulla hit 108° equaling the U.S. record high temperature for March. Even Corpus Christi on the coast hit 101°.


Miramar, FL was deluged with 10.37 inches of rain.


The second blizzard in less than a week hit eastern Colorado and western Kansas. Snowfall totals ranged up to 24 inches at San Isabel, CO. Winds gusted 35 to 45 mph with gusts as high as 50 mph reported at Goodland, KS reducing visibilities frequently to near zero. The high winds piled snow into massive drifts, closing roads for days and killing thousands of cattle. Dodge City, KS reported 5 inches of snow with most of it in 5 to 6 foot drifts. Garden City, KS reported 12 to 14 inches of snow. Snow drifts 30 feet high were reported in northwest Kansas. The blizzard finally ended during the early afternoon on March 29th and had virtually shut down the entire Southwest part of Kansas. Some north south roads were still closed on March 31st in the northern part of southwest Kansas.

Snow and wind closed many highways across eastern Colorado for the second time in less than a week. I-25 was closed south of Denver and I-70 east of Denver for nearly two days. Although Denver only received 4 inches of snow, winds gusted to 40 mph causing delays up to three hours at Stapleton Airport.


Temperatures rose quickly, and dropped just as rapidly across the central U.S. Several cities reported record high temperatures for the date as readings soared into the 80s. In southeastern Colorado, the temperature at Lamar, CO reached 91°. Strong southerly winds gusted to 63 mph at Gage, OK. Strong northwesterly winds, gusting to 61 mph at Goodland, KS, then proceeded to usher much colder air into the area.

In southern California, Santa Ana winds brought 90-degree temperatures all over the region starting on March 25th ending on this date. Borrego Springs, CA soared to 101°, tying a record for March. This also occurred on 3/31/1989. This is also the earliest date in the season that the temperature hit the century mark.


Afternoon and evening thunderstorms produced severe weather in the south central U.S. Two tornadoes were reported, with 77 reports of large hail and damaging winds. Baseball size hail was reported at Willow and Bartlesville, OK.

Many cities in the central and eastern U.S. reported new record high temperatures for the date, including Yankton, SD with a reading of 84°.


Temperatures dipped into the teens and single digits in the northeastern U.S. Scranton, PA tied their record for the date with a morning low of 18°.

Record warm readings occurred in the northwest as temperatures warmed into the 60s and lower 70s. The high of 65° at Astoria, OR equaled their record for the date.


Severe thunderstorms were widespread over the Tennessee and Ohio Valleys and the Great Lakes area with more than 300 reports of severe weather, including 28 tornadoes. Four F3 tornadoes struck the state of Michigan. Another F3 tornado injured 18 people and did $12 million dollars in damage in the Nettle Lake area in Ohio. Softball sized hail fell at Portage, MI and a wind gust of 89 mph was recorded at Franklin, WI.

Cold air was drawn down on the backside of the storm. Snow began to fall over the northwestern counties in Iowa shortly after daybreak. Snow amounts were generally between 3 to 6 inches with the heaviest snow occurring in a 40 mile wide area extending from Sioux City northeastward. Thunder accompanied the snow, with 3 inches falling in one hour at the Sioux City Gateway Airport. Visibilities were reduced to near zero by strong northwest winds 25 to 45 mph.

Further south, powerful storms moved through southwest Kansas during the early morning hours bringing high winds and dust storms. The peak wind gust at both Dodge City and Garden City was 84 mph. The winds downed trees, shattered glass, downed fences, rolled trucks, snapped poles, ripped shingles from homes and mangled awnings. A main distribution feeder in the northern part of Garden City was destroyed. Visibilities in some areas dropped to zero. Total damage was $1.5 million dollars

A strong winter storm produced heavy snow in the higher elevations of southern California. Accumulations included 36 inches at Lake Arrowhead, 27 inches at Big Bear Lake (the greatest daily amount on record) and 18.5 inches at Idyllwild. An avalanche isolated 100 people at Big Bear Lake by blocking Highway 18. Tornadoes hit Huntington Beach and rural San Marcos. The tornado in Huntington Beach cut a five-mile swath and blew off roofs of six homes. Dozens of other homes were damaged and 50 mobile homes were severely damaged. In 24 hours, 1.80 inches of rain fell in Escondido, 1.71 inches in Poway, 1.56 inches in Fallbrook, 1.55 inches in La Mesa, 1.52 inches in Ramona, 1.48 inches in El Cajon, and 1.09 inches in San Diego. Golf courses and shopping centers were flooded by the San Diego River in Mission Valley. Flooding damaged Highway 78 east of the San Diego Wild Animal Park.


The Goshen Church Alabama Palm Sunday Tornado Outbreak occurred on this date. What began as a peaceful Palm Sunday quickly changed to a historic day in weather history when a powerful tornado ripped through southern Alabama and Georgia. By the time the storm was over 22 people were dead and 92 were injured. An F4 tornado cut a 50 mile path from Ragland in St. Clair, County Alabama to the Georgia line. The storm touched down near Ragland at 10:51 am. The storm struck Ohatchee, then roared across northeastern Calhoun County, passing near Piedmont and hitting Goshen in Cherokee County. It then struck the Spring Garden and Rock Run communities. The most disastrous damage occurred at Goshen, where the twister struck the Goshen United Methodist Church at 11:37am. 20 people were killed at the church, which did not hear the tornado warning issued 10 minutes earlier by the National Weather Service in Birmingham. A tornado watch had been issued at 9:30 am. Following the tornadoes, Vice President Al Gore pledged to extend NOAA Weatheradio coverage into the areas affected by the twisters, which had previously been unable to receive the alarm signals.


Winds blowing across the Mongolian Desert in China created a major sandstorm that blew into the capital city of Beijing. The 48- minute sandstorm resulted in 16 deaths and 50 injuries.


As residents across the Midwest watched news coverage of the war in Iraq just before midnight, a bright streak across the sky that turned midnight into daylight for several seconds made them think that the United States was under attack. Thousands of panicky calls were received at law enforcement agencies across the area after a meteor entered the Earth's atmosphere, breaking into about 500 smaller pieces. Sightings were made as far south as Nashville, TN and as far north as Michigan.


A rare tornado touched down in the northern German city of Hamburg and overturned three construction cranes, killing two workers and injuring two others. The storm also ripped off roofs and overturned several cars. Power was cut to 80,000 homes.

A Sheila's Brush storm, a fierce spring snowstorm following St. Patrick's Day blew across St. John’s Newfoundland Canada with winds gusting to 50 mph. The storm dumped 11 inches of snow, shutting down most of the provincial capital.


A microburst hit the Fullerton Airport in southern California. Top recorded winds were only 30 mph, but spotters estimated winds of at least 45 mph. An aviation building lost its roof. Another thunderstorm wind gust knocked down a large Eucalyptus tree onto three cars in Encinitas, causing two injuries. A funnel cloud was spotted off the La Jolla coast.


Ideal radiational cooling conditions: clear skies, light winds and dry air occurred as the temperature plunged to 12°, at Redmond, OR to set a daily record low.


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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