March Snowstorm Buries Niagara


The weather was no picnic in Welland after winter storm dumps 38 cm of snow (photo Patricia Martel)

 By Rob Paola

After one of the warmest Februarys on record in Niagara that featured very little snow, winter has come back with a vengeance in March with one of the heaviest March snowfalls on record.  Snow began to fall around midday on Monday Mar 13th and continued through Tuesday into Wednesday morning of the 15th before tapering off.  By the time the last flakes fell, storm snowfall totals ranged from 20 to 50 cm across Niagara with the highest amounts in the St Catharines and Niagara Falls areas. In Welland, 38 cm of snow was reported making it the heaviest March snowfall since 2014, and the 5th heaviest March snowfall on record.

Snowfall totals March 13 -15th 2017
St Catharines… 40-50 cm (estimated)
Niagara Falls …. 40-50 cm (estimated)
Brock University .. 40 cm
Welland …. 38 cm* (estimated)
Ft Erie …… 30 cm
Grimsby …. 25 cm
Pt Colborne …. 20 cm

Buffalo NY… 50 cm (19.6″)
Niagara Falls NY … 58 cm (23.0″ estimated)
Rochester NY … 68 cm (26.7″)

(*NOTE: The 38 cm in Welland is an unofficial snowfall report from a local observer in the city. Official snowfall records are no longer kept for Welland.  The automated precipitation gauge at Welland airport recorded only 11.3 mm of melted snow during this event. This shows the importance of having actual snowfall measurements from human observers, since automated sensors cannot measure snowfall accurately.)

How this storm rates with other March snowstorms in Niagara
In Welland, 38 cm would make it the 5th biggest March snowstorm in the city since records began in 1873. A look at past weather records shows some of Niagara’s biggest snowstorms have occurred in March.  In Welland, the top March snowstorms of all time are as follows:

Top March snowstorms – Welland (since 1873) 
1.  102 cm ……Feb 28 – March 2 1900 (Welland’s biggest snowstorm on record)
2.   61 cm ……. March 17 1936
3.   42 cm ……. March 12 2014
4.   41 cm ……. March 7-8 2008
5.   38 cm ……. March 13-15 2017

 The St Patrick Day’s snowstorm of March 17 1936 dumped 61 cm (24 inches) of heavy wet snow on the city with up to 65 cm recorded in Niagara Falls. The storm caused considerable travel disruptions in Niagara, and even led to a roof collapse of the Peace Bridge Arena in Fort Erie, home of an early Buffalo Bisons hockey team. (also see St Catharines museum link on St Patrick’s Day storm)   The biggest March snowstorm on record in Niagara is likely the massive winter storm that struck the area on Feb 28 to March 2 1900 when 102 cm of snow (40″) was recorded in Welland, including 81 cm (32″) on March 1st alone, Welland’s biggest snowfall on record.  So don’t let mild winter weather fool you.. March can still deliver a wicked winter punch!

(Editor’s note: Rob Paola is a former ‘Welland boy’ who works for Environment Canada in Winnipeg, but still enjoys keeping a close eye on the weather picture in Welland and Niagara. Here is the link to his blog: )


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