Looking back at a remarkable month of snow and cold in the West
March 13, 2019; 6:16 AM
On the day Punxsutawney Phil made his prediction for an early spring, it felt like it in Great Falls, Montana, where the mercury climbed to 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
It's fair to say that the prediction for an early spring did not pan out there. The temperature in Great Falls didn't rise above freezing for over a month, not getting back above the 32-degree mark until March 7. That set a record (32 straight days) for the longest stretch of days remaining below freezing.
— NWS Great Falls (@NWSGreatFalls) March 8, 2019
Montana is no stranger to the cold, but the average high at the end of February in Great Falls is just above 40 degrees. This February, temperatures were not even getting above zero some days late in the month. The city ended the month of February 27.5 degrees below average, a remarkable number for an entire month.
The crazy cold didn't stop in March either, when Great Falls had a high of 8 below zero and a low of 32 below on the 3rd. The average temperature for the day was 20 below zero, which was 50 degrees below the normal of 30 above zero.
The anomalous cold certainly wasn't confined to Montana. Seattle recorded its snowiest February on record with 20.2 inches at Sea-Tac airport, as well as its third-coldest February.
Here are some graphs of February snow and temperatures at SeaTac. The snow graph shows this month and the previous snowiest Februaries in comparison. On the temperature graph, you can see how it has been below normal almost every day of the month, especially the highs. #wawx pic.twitter.com/0o5wKPoMO8
— NWS Seattle (@NWSSeattle) March 1, 2019
Spokane, Washington, fell to 1 below zero on the morning of March 1, which was only the sixth time in recorded history that the temperature dropped below zero in March.
California also did not escape the cold, as Los Angeles had a stretch of 41 days with high temperatures that were less than 70 degrees, which was the fifth-longest streak on record. That streak finally ended on Monday.
The cold was accompanied by snow on a couple of occasions in Las Vegas, which included a rare snow day for Clark County Schools on Feb. 22. Snow fell in some of the hills in the Los Angeles area, including Pasadena and West Hollywood.
Snow has buried ski resorts in the Sierra. Squaw Valley has received 596 inches of snow this season, with 315 inches falling just in February, which was the most that had ever fallen in one month there. The resort announced just in the past week that it will remain open through July 7.
Many resorts in the Sierra have had snow come up to the level of the chairlifts.
With all the snow that we've received this season, chairs become closer to the ground with every storm. Operations teams need to dig out chairs for clearance before being able to open them. This photo was taken this morning of our Patrol Team digging out KT22 above the fingers. pic.twitter.com/RLfVivbLjl
— Squaw Alpine Mtn Ops (@squawalpineops) March 7, 2019
Flagstaff, a city that is no stranger to snow, picked up 40.3 inches of snow from a storm in late February, which was a record for a single storm in the city.
Avalanches have also been a problem all across the West in recent weeks, even burying major highways in some parts of Colorado.
The past month and a half have been very memorable for many areas, but it has finally calmed down for at least a little while.
It will stay largely dry across the West through the rest of the week and through the weekend. A more active pattern will likely develop next week, but we'll talk more about that over the weekend.
The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of AccuWeather, Inc. or AccuWeather.com