53ºF

Shoveling out of an early March snowstorm 40 years ago today

The storm dropped 6-12″ of snow on our region

Mar 1-3, 1980 snow totals
Mar 1-3, 1980 snow totals

ROANOKE, Va. – Because snow has been hard to come by this winter, we’re looking back at a storm from around this time 40 years ago. March snows are not at all rare. In fact, 11% of our average annual snow comes within the month of March. Marginally cold air and moisture from an active jet stream can sync up and produce some big ones around here.

March 1-3, 1980 was no exception. The air, at first, was marginally cold for snow. On the 1st of the month, highs were in the 30s. (Nighttime lows reached record levels at times during this stretch.) This would be enough for your heavy, wet snow to fall and accumulate. As the storm gathered steam over the Southeast, 6-12″ of snow fell on our area (see graphic above) with higher totals to the east.

When looking at archived weather maps, it’s clear to see how this thing was able to put down so much snow. The dip in the arrows on the map below indicates a trough, which is usually a sign of colder air and an active storm system. This trough was tilted in a “negative” fashion, meaning that the bottom of it is farther southeast and the top of it is farther northwest. This is an indication of a strengthening/digging storm. Its position relative to the Atlantic Ocean allowed more moisture to be pulled into the Carolinas and Virginia.

What the early March snowstorm of 1980 looked like thousands of feet up
What the early March snowstorm of 1980 looked like thousands of feet up

While we’ve seen these kinds of systems this winter, we’ve not had to cold air to mesh and get a significant snowstorm. As Justin McKee has written in recent days, this is a big part as to why our area has seen one of its least snowy winters on record.

Outside of the chance for mountain snow and a few flakes in the NRV, Roanoke Valley and Highlands this Friday, the chance for snow appears to be minimal throughout the next week.


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