Record Late Season Snowfalls

By: Christopher C. Burt , 9:58 PM GMT on April 22, 2011

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Record Late Season Snowfalls

While most of the extreme weather attention (deservedly!) has been on the phenomenal tornado outbreaks this month, I thought I’d buck the trend and discuss record late season snowfalls. In fact while the Midwest was being hammered by violent thunderstorms and tornadoes April 19-20, Green Bay, Wisconsin was ‘enjoying’ its greatest late season snowfall on record with a 10” accumulation. Ironically the snow impacted the same area that was struck by a tornado outbreak just nine days earlier.

The fact is that the greatest snowfalls ever experienced in the world have occurred during the month of April and that for portions of the High Plains and Rocky Mountains April and May usually produce the heaviest accumulating snowstorms.

This blog is a bookend to the blog I posted on November 3, 2010 “Record Early Season Snowfalls”.

Below is the same table I produced last November in the aforementioned blog (then for earliest record snowfalls) but here for the latest on-record-snowfalls:

Latest Measureable Snowfall for Selected Cities in the USA



World-record Snowfalls During April

World Record 24-hour Snowfall at Silver Lake, Colorado

The greatest 24-hour snowfall officially measured in the world was the 75.8” that fell at Silver Lake, Colorado (in the mountains just west of Boulder) on April 14-15, 1921. The storm total was an amazing 95.0” over a 32½ hour period.



Storm precipitation (melted—in inches) total for Silver Lake event from April 1-15, 1921 Map from ‘Monthly Weather Review’, Feb. 1953, p. 39.

World-record Single Greatest Snowfall in the Sierra Nevada

The greatest single-storm snowfall on record in the world was 194” (over 16 feet!) that fell during a massive spring blizzard at the Sierra Nevada railway summit station of Norden over the four day period of April 20-23, 1880. Sacramento, California’s capital city, received a record two-day rainfall of 8.37” during this event.



An historic photo of the Norden station during the winter of 1887.

World-record 19-hour Snowfall and European Record

Europe’s greatest 24-hour snowfall happened at Bessans in the French Alps on April 5-6, 1959 when 67.8” accumulated in just 19 hours (a world record for a 19 hour period).



Bessans, France is a popular ski resort in the French Alps.

Some All-time Single-Greatest Storm Snowfall Records in the U.S.A. that occurred during April and May



The Southern Appalachians have also recorded some phenomenal late season snowfalls including a reported 60.0” accumulation at Newfound Gap, North Carolina on April 2-5, 1987 and, even more incredible, another 60.0” accumulation at Mount Pisgah, North Carolina on May 5-8, 1992!

Some Historic Pre-NWS Late Season Snowstorms


The May 4th Snowstorm in 1774

A general snowfall of around 4” occurred from northern Virginia to southern New England. Both Philadelphia and New York City reported “a considerable quantity of snow”. Thomas Jefferson and George Washington both noted the event in their diaries.

The Great April Fools Day Snow of 1807

Probably the deepest April snowfall in modern history occurred on April 1, 1807 from Illinois to the Mid-Atlantic. The track of the storm was not the usual coastal nor’easter variety that normally produces great snows but rather the low moved northeast from the lower Tennessee Valley and across the mid-Atlantic states and offshore around New York City. To the north of the storm path incredible snowfalls were reported. The westernmost report we have came from Vincennes on the Illinois-Indiana border with an 11” accumulation but it was in Pennsylvania, New York and New England that astonishing snowfall was reported including: 52” at Montrose, Pennsylvania near Scranton; 54” at Utica, New York, 52” at Lunenburg, Vermont; 60” at Danville, Vermont; 48” at Montpelier, Vermont; and 42-48” at Norfolk, Connecticut.

The June 1816 Snows of the ‘Year without Summer’

Most famous of all cold and snowy late season events would have to be the infamous 1816 ‘Year without Summer’ and the snowfall in June that occurred in the eastern U.S. and Canada. On June 6th accumulating snow was observed as far south as the Catskills in New York (where one inch was reported) and highlands of central and northwest Pennsylvania. Snowflakes were seen at sea level as far south as ten miles north of tidewater on the Hudson River just north of New York City. The deepest accumulations were reported in the mountains of Vermont where drifts of 12-18” were measured. Quebec City in Canada reported 12” on level with drifts up to two feet deep.

The even Greater Snow of June 1842

It should be noted that June snowfall in the Northeast is not a unique event to 1816. On June 11, 1842 widespread snow fell over northern New York and New England and snowflakes were observed in Cleveland, Ohio; Boston, Massachusetts; and even Harrisburg, Pennsylvania (a low elevation site). Accumulations of 10-12” were common in Vermont, so this event was actually more extreme than the more famous snow of June 1816.

REFERENCE: Early American Winters: Vol 1: 1604-1820 and Vol 2: 1821-1870 by David M. Ludlum, American Meteorological Society, 1966, 1968.

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8. ClimateChange
4:39 AM GMT on August 21, 2012
I know this is an old post, but I was just found it when I was looking up out-of-season snowfalls. Just wanted to point out a little error, the record snowfall in Pittsburgh was May 25, 1925, not May 2, 1925. That was when the official obs were taken downtown by the river too. I'd imagine the North Hills towns probably would have picked up an inch or two. Up to 6" was reported in the northern mountains that day.

Also, the April 19-20, 1901 snowstorm also has the distinction of producing the Ohio record 24-hour snowfall of 30" at the Warren 3S co-op. The two-day total there was 36.5". Up to 42" in Gratiot, Ohio (southeast part of the state) for a storm total; snowfall was continuous for 56 hours near Canton.

Another even later, late season snowstorm occurred on May 21, 1883. 6-12" snowfall was reported in western Ohio from Dayton north, with up to 17.5" reported in Lima.

Finally, snowflakes and sleet were reported at several locations in north Ohio on June 20, 1902. This is the probably the latest trace of snow.
Member Since: September 8, 2011 Posts: 8 Comments: 245
7. SteveRose
11:18 PM GMT on April 23, 2012
@ WeatherHistorian: Re: There was something of a 'little ice age' in the 19th century and I find it interesting that since then no significant widespread snowfalls in the Northeast have occurred in May and June. I'd appreciate any comments from readers to set me straight on this if I'm mistaken.

You may be mistaken. I can't recall the exact date of this 2 day snowstorm, but there was an historic widespread snowstorm during the first or second week in May 1976 which hit Vermont, Eastern NY State, New Hampshire and Massachusetts. I was living in Lowell, MA at the time where 3" of wet snow accumulated, but reports of a paralysing wet snowstorm with widespreash power outages, destroyed crops with up to 14" wet snow came in from the higher elevations of Western Mass. and from Southern Vermont.

What made this snowstorm even more amazing was it occurred following an early East Coast Heat Wave lasting several days in late April 1976 which affected the same area. I recall highs topping out in the mid-90's in New York City and Washington DC.
Member Since: April 8, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 6
6. Christopher C. Burt , Weather Historian
7:04 AM GMT on May 22, 2011
Quoting Neapolitan:
I lived in Lander, Wyoming (listed above) for a while when I was in high school, and the heaviest, wettest snows definitely fell during March and early April. And I saw snow (though nothing measurable) in every month of the year, which begs the question: on which date is the dividing line between late-season and early-season? In my mind, July is late, while August is early; is there something official, or is it location-dependent?


The dividing line is July 1 (technically). But, of course in places like Wyoming snow can fall any month of the year. I remember a snowstorm in the Tetons on July 4th (I think it was 1994).
Member Since: February 15, 2006 Posts: 301 Comments: 280
5. FormerAussie
7:28 AM GMT on May 04, 2011
A small point, but it mattered to us Brits - last year, staff at the Cairngorm ski resort in Scotland, staff skied, at least after a fashion, in every month of the year for the first time. It was probably not fresh snow - more the remains of some phenomenal depths recorded in the winter 09-10, topped up by a very early storm in September. Most years, snow only stays year round on the UKs highest hill, Ben Nevis, a tad over 4,400 feet high - and then only in a small corrie just to the north of the summit.
Member Since: October 10, 2006 Posts: 3 Comments: 56
4. Neapolitan
1:37 AM GMT on April 30, 2011
I lived in Lander, Wyoming (listed above) for a while when I was in high school, and the heaviest, wettest snows definitely fell during March and early April. And I saw snow (though nothing measurable) in every month of the year, which begs the question: on which date is the dividing line between late-season and early-season? In my mind, July is late, while August is early; is there something official, or is it location-dependent?
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13538
3. TomTaylor
7:10 AM GMT on April 26, 2011
Thanks for the blog update!

These are some pretty cool records, gonna have to check out this blog more often

In other snowfall record news, the Sierra Nevada mountains in the US also had what will likely be one of the snowiest years in recorded history. I am generalizing here since there aren't many weaver stations in the Sierra Nevadas, however one popular ski resort, Mammoth Mountain, absolutely obliterated it's previous snowfall record for one season. And the season isn't even over yet!

Avg season at mammoth mountain since 1970: 342.5 in
Previous record snowfall for one season (2005-2006): 578.54 in
New record snowfall for one season (2010-2011): 636.5 in

Link
Member Since: August 24, 2010 Posts: 19 Comments: 4357
2. Christopher C. Burt , Weather Historian
1:55 AM GMT on April 24, 2011
Quoting rlk:
A couple of other interesting Boston-area storms:

1) April Fool's Day Blizzard of 1997 -- 33" of snow in Worcestor (largest snowstorm on record), 25.4" in Boston (at the time, the third largest storm on record, and the greatest 24 hour accumulation). Very heavy, wet snow; temperature mostly near freezing. Blizzard conditions were attained for the requisite 3 hours, but it was mostly falling snow (the wet snow didn't blow around very much). It took about a week for it to melt out.

2) April 6, 1982 blizzard -- 13" of powder in Boston followed by a cold wave. I was more impressed by this storm than by the 1997 one; this was a classic January noreaster, and later in the season to boot. Temperatures were in the low-mid 20s while the snow was falling, so it was a dry snow. A major arctic blast behind the storm sent the temperature down to 16 the following morning (lowest so late), and the high that day was 25 (lowest on record in April, and lowest daily record high since March 23 -- about 2 weeks later than the high temperature had ever been that low). The cold wave was accompanied by strong winds and near ground blizzard conditions. This one was a blizzard by any reckoning.

3) April 28, 1987 -- 4" of slush in Boston, a lot more at higher elevations.


Thanks for this. I didn't bother to post late season record snows in the 'modern' USWB-era (as I did in my Nov. 3 blog about early season snowstorms) because late season snows are too numerous to report upon which, curiously is not the case in early season snows. So I just chose a handful of very early reports that have set the standard (plus we have no records for the Midwest or West prior to 1850). There was something of a 'little ice age' in the 19th century and I find it interesting that since then no significant widespread snowfalls in the Northeast have occurred in May and June. I'd appreciate any comments from readers to set me straight on this if I'm mistaken.
Member Since: February 15, 2006 Posts: 301 Comments: 280
1. rlk
8:52 PM GMT on April 23, 2011
A couple of other interesting Boston-area storms:

1) April Fool's Day Blizzard of 1997 -- 33" of snow in Worcestor (largest snowstorm on record), 25.4" in Boston (at the time, the third largest storm on record, and the greatest 24 hour accumulation). Very heavy, wet snow; temperature mostly near freezing. Blizzard conditions were attained for the requisite 3 hours, but it was mostly falling snow (the wet snow didn't blow around very much). It took about a week for it to melt out.

2) April 6, 1982 blizzard -- 13" of powder in Boston followed by a cold wave. I was more impressed by this storm than by the 1997 one; this was a classic January noreaster, and later in the season to boot. Temperatures were in the low-mid 20s while the snow was falling, so it was a dry snow. A major arctic blast behind the storm sent the temperature down to 16 the following morning (lowest so late), and the high that day was 25 (lowest on record in April, and lowest daily record high since March 23 -- about 2 weeks later than the high temperature had ever been that low). The cold wave was accompanied by strong winds and near ground blizzard conditions. This one was a blizzard by any reckoning.

3) April 28, 1987 -- 4" of slush in Boston, a lot more at higher elevations.
Member Since: January 30, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 97

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About weatherhistorian

Christopher C. Burt is the author of 'Extreme Weather; A Guide and Record Book'. He studied meteorology at the Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison.