The 1st day of spring doesn’t mean it's the last of the snow

By John Roach, AccuWeather staff writer
March 17, 2019, 7:18:54 PM EDT

Spring snow

A spring nor'easter targeted the Northeast on March 20-21, 2018 with strong winds and up to a foot of snow in some parts of the region. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

March 20 is the first official day of spring and the start of warmer weather... in theory, at least.

Winter historically hasn’t stopped cold turkey on March 19, as several substantial snowstorms have hit cities across the United States on March 20 and the surrounding days.

Will it happen this year? A storm system that initially looked to possibly affect the Northeast now “looks like it will be a suppressed system and not turn up the coast,” said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Brett Anderson.

According to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Kristina Pydynowski, the Northeast will turn milder for the first day of spring.

That wasn’t the case last year for the mid-Atlantic states and New England. The March 20-22 nor’easter, nicknamed the "FourEaster" because it was the unprecedented fourth nor’easter in three weeks, covered cherry blossoms with snow in Virginia and dropped 8.4 inches of snow in New York City, 7.6 in Philadelphia and 4.1 in Washington, D.C.

Washington Weather Jacquelyn Martin/AP

Snow covers budding cherry blossom trees, Wednesday, March 21, 2018, at the tidal basin in Washington during a snow storm on the second day of spring. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

More than 4,000 flights were canceled, 100,000 people lost power and a state of emergency was declared in New Jersey, Delaware and for parts of New York and federal and state offices across the region were closed as a result of the storm.

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In other years, South Dakota seems to be a particular target on March 20, as areas of the state received up to 18 inches of snow on that date in 2008 and up to 20 inches of snow in 1982.

But perhaps the two most memorable snowstorms around the first day of spring occurred in 1958 and 1956.

The 1958 storm on March 20-21 was the biggest spring snowstorm to occur after the spring equinox in New York City, according to records dating to 1869. The city received 11.8 inches of snow; Philadelphia got 11.4, and, amazingly, Morgantown, Pennsylvania, was walloped with 50 inches of snow.

The 1956 storm from March 18-20 brought snow to most of the mid-Atlantic states. In New York City, Philadelphia and Trenton and Atlantic City, New Jersey, snow fell for 31 to 35 straight hours with those cities receiving 12 to 13 inches overall.

It was one of the most severe and deadly snowstorms in southern New England history, as more than 160 people were killed and many towns were dealing with snowdrifts of up to 14 feet.

While the U.S. may be spared from a snowstorm on the first day of spring this year, it's wise to remember what Mark Twain said: "In the spring I have counted 136 different kinds of weather within 24 hours."

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