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Exploring March weather on Long Island

It's the month of basketball madness, the Luck o' the Irish, and often wacky weather. Take a look back at Marches past on Long Island, and find out what to expect in 2020!

News 12 Staff

Feb 24, 2020, 3:24 PM

Updated 1,548 days ago

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Exploring March weather on Long Island
Visible satellite imagery of the fourth and final March 2018 Nor'easter. Credit: NOAA
We all know the old adage, "March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb."
This is not always the case for Long Island.
March has yielded a modest average of 4.5 inches of snow, but numerous winters have picked up either the most total snow or the biggest single storm, which will not be hard to do this year. You may remember what happened a few years ago in 2018. A relentless barrage or storms - I call them the FOUR'easters -  dropped a total of 31.9 inches!
As you'll see below, Nor'easters are just as common in the early spring months as they are during the winter, and sometimes more. Nor'easters can produce rain, snow or both. Many strictly snow producers become blizzards, and so the Nor'easter label gets replaced, so to speak. That is why the name may be more likely to pop up in March.
In its truest form, March is the ultimate 'wild card' month - anything can happen, from blizzards to 70+ degree temperatures.
March sees a big temperature jump on average. The month starts out with normal daily highs of 43 degrees and overnight lows of 28 degrees. By the 31st, that rises to 52 and 36 degrees, respectively.
A transitional month like March flashes some incredible temperature swings.
March's all-time warmest day was in 1990, topping out at an incredible 82 degrees! A large Bermuda high pressure system sat off the southeast coast and pumped in the steamy air all the way up the East Coast. Most of Long Island was not complaining. Residents flocked to the local beaches, with 14,000 heading to Sunken Meadow and an additional 25,000 soaking up the sun at Jones Beach.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, the mercury dropped to 0 degrees on both March 18 and 19 in 1967. In fact, that year had such a cold pattern that daily record lows were set four consecutive days - the 16th and 17th as well! 
On top big temperature changes, March will add a lot of daylight as well. By the end of the month, the sun will be out 1 hour and 22 minutes longer. Also consider that because of Daylight Saving Time (begins Sunday March 8), the sunset will go from 5:44 to 7:17!
BIG SNOWS
March 2018 "The Four'easters" - this one probably deserves its own section, but since they combined to leave a lot of snow, we will put it here.
#1 - March 2
While Long Island picked up 2-4.5  inches of precipitation, this one wasn't a huge snow maker as it changed over to sleet and rain. It was more known for its wind and coastal flooding. Bayville and Middle Island reported 78 mph gusts. Tides were 2.5-3.5 feet above normal, which along with a high tide caused coastal flooding for five days after storm. Heckscher, Caumsett and Jones Beach State Parks all experienced major beach erosion. Many roads were impassable, 1,700 flights were canceled at local airports, the LIRR was temporarily suspended, numerous trees toppled and over 130,000 power outages were reported.
#2 - March 7
Less than a week later, the next nor'easter started as rain then sleet turned to snow. 5-9” were reported Island-wide (Oakdale 8.9”, Setauket 8.0”, Roslyn 6.0”) Winds gusted over 50 mph. Precipitation was so heavy that is caused rare thundersnow. Slick roads messed up the evening rush, causing nearly 100 accidents. The LIRR was delayed, and in some cases, suspended yet again. Hundreds of flights were canceled, many schools shut down and around 92,000 power outages were reported.
#3 - March 13
Heavy wet snow (7-15” eastern half of LI, 4-8” western half). Wind gusts over 40 mph, traffic accidents, LIRR delays, flights cancellations, school closures, 1,700 power outages.
#4 - March 21-22
The fourth and final Nor'easter also produced the most snow. It came down at rates of 4-5” per hour. Nassau tallied 8-16", while Suffolk got the brunt with 12-20". (Patchogue 20.1”, Terryville 19.7”, Plainview 16”). Slippery roads let to many injuries, and there were two reported fatalities (one on Wantagh Parkway, one shoveling).
March 1-2, 2009 Snowstorm
12-16" (15.7" Mastic, 14.5" Commack, 12.1" Plainview) numerous accidents, LIRR delays, canceled flights, all schools closed.
March 5-6, 2001 Nor'easter
Slow moving storm system, 4-8" Nassau, 9-16" Central Suffolk, 15" BNL, S. Shore Beach erosion, coastal flooding, flights canceled.
March 20-21, 1958 Nor'easter
A storm that “made a mockery of first day of spring.” 16" BNL, 55 mph wind gust, schools closed, Republic and Grumman closed, 150,000 power outages.
March 18-19, 1956 Snowstorm
25.6" Babylon, 14" Brookhaven National Lab, 14" East End, drifts as high as 5 feet. Thousands of cars were abandoned, and Suffolk was declared a Natural Disaster Area.
March 3-4, 1960 Snowstorm
17.3" Brookhaven National Lab, 23" Suffolk Co. Air Force Base, 21" Bridgehampton, near 50 mph winds. Road and air traffic was crippled, schools closed, businesses disrupted.
March 7-8, 1941 Snowstorm
18.2" NYC, Residents of Fire Island marooned, air and land traffic disrupted, occurred on a Saturday.
March 12-14, 1888 Historic Blizzard
The legendary Blizzard of '88 started the night of March 11 and lasted 72 hours. There was more than 30" of snow on Long Island with drifts to 40 feet, winds 40-50 mph sustained and gusts to 75, and temperatures ranging from from -1 to 11 degrees. The East Coast from Maine to Maryland and Buffalo to Pittsburgh was paralyzed. 330 people lost their lives, 200 in New York City alone. Meteorologists called it a “once in 500 years storm.”
OTHER WEATHER EVENTS
March 29-30, 2010 Rainstorm
Two days of heavy rain caused significant localized flooding. Some notable amounts: Riverhead 8.83", Baiting Hollow 8.03", West Islip 7.28". Additionally, 40 mph winds and 8-10 foot waves caused severe erosion at Lido Beach.
March 13, 2010 Nor'easter
2-4" of rain, wind gusts over 70 mph (Jones Beach 67, Bridgehampton 70), Nassau Coliseum suffered wind damage. Coastal tidal flooding, beach erosion. LIRR and airport delays, 263,000 power outages, many for up to six days. Worst storm since December of 1992. Long Island was declared a major disaster area by President Obama.
March 5, 2008 'Timber!'
Heavy rain followed by high winds brought down an extraordinary amount of trees, some falling on cars and homes. A house under construction in East Rockaway collapsed.
March 16, 2007 Ice Storm
A bad wintry mix encased Long Island in a block of ice. Besides the numerous traffic accidents, people couldn’t get out of their homes or into the ice coated cars!
March 27, 1998
While not the highest March temperature on Long Island, Brookhaven National Lab hit 80 degrees, five days after 5" snow fell with highs only in the 30s!
March 6, 1997 Windstorm
Gusts near 70 mph, five fatalities in the NYC metro area, numerous accidents, 85,000 outages.
March 19, 1996 Windstorm
Downed trees and around 39,000 power outages. The same weather system also produced thunderstorms.
March 13, 1993 "Snowicane"
A vicious coastal storm termed a “snowicane” produced 8-12" of snow (much of which turned to ice) and wind gusts over 90 mph! More than 200 deaths along East Coast, four of which were on Long Island. All airports were closed, extensive beach erosion, and multiple houses lost on Fire Island.
March 4, 1993 Nor'easter
A rain producing Nor'easter also produced gusty winds (69 mph at Westhampton) and tides 4 feet above normal. Hundreds had to be evacuated along the South Shore.
March 13, 1989
The Aurora Borealis could be vivid seen after 1:30 a.m.
March 24-27, 1973 Nor'easter
Three straight days of high winds and high tides washed away about 70% of Gilgo Beach.
March 29, 1970
2-4" of snow on Easter Sunday canceled the New York City holiday parade.
March 6-7, 1962 “Ash Wednesday Nor'easter"
Winds maxed out around 75 mph. 9 foot tides washed away over one hundred homes along the South Shore. It was the most destructive storm since the 1938 'Long Island Express' hurricane. Gov. Rockefeller declared Long Island a disaster area.
March 4, 1940 Ice Storm
Ice and 70 mph winds crippled much of the North Shore. Phones were out, schools/industries closed and many cars abandoned due to slippery roads.
WHAT ABOUT THE HOLIDAYS?

ST. PATRICK'S DAY (3/14)
Average high: 47
Average low: 31
Warmest: 69 in 2012
Coldest: 17 in 1993
Most snow: 3.4" in 2017
FIRST DAY OF SPRING (3/19)
Average high: 48
Average low: 32
Warmest: 69 in 2010
Coldest: 0 in 1967
Most snow: 4" in 1992
METS OPENING DAY (3/26)
Baseball opening day is a holiday for many! Yet another signal that warmer weather is almost here.
Average high: 50
Average low: 34
Warmest: 65 in 1976
Coldest: 12 in 1974
Most snow: Trace in 2014
Most rain: 2.16" in 1988
MOODCAST ™   
The emoji that best describes March weather is....
Sometimes, just when you think you have winter figured out and it is coming to and end, March can throw you a curveball - no spring training pun intended! Us forecasters have to be on our toes, because here on Long Island we can realistically get snow anytime through mid-April. While I'm hoping for a straightforward month, I chose this emoji because some Marches have caused us to feel like this!
And of course, with St. Patrick's Day just around the corner, we add on this guy. For all of the powder-lovers out there, it looks like we will need to get some 'Luck of the Irish' this year to get any big snows!
 
PREDICTION FOR 2020

February's forecast was off - the unfavorable pattern from January carried right into February. No Atlantic blocking, a strong polar jet stream and inland storm tracks combined to give us (barring a last second miracle) no measurable snow for only the fourth time on record. This winter either overjoys you or annoys you!
March looks like it will start off on the chilly side but quickly warmup. The first step in finally getting a decent winter storm is cold air, so not great news for powder lovers. You'd think that there's no way we finish the winter in the single digits for snowfall, but, hey, it has happened before! I feel a few minor events, but I just don't see our current pattern changing too drastically this late, so anything major is going to be tough.
Fearless Forecast: 5.4" of snow gets us to a foot for the winter, and that is being very optimistic! Despite the chilly start to the month temperatures will finish 2.5° above normal.


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