March 24 was one of the latest snow-free dates of the last 10 years, reports Jesse Ellis from the Southeast Fire Centre weather service office. (Trail Times photo, April 2, downtown)

West Kootenay winter ends with a whisper

March snowfall well above norm, but the month was dry with less than half the average precipitation

Last month fit right into the old weather lore of, “March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb.”

Read more: Spring has sprung in the Kootenays

Read more: Grassfire warnings in Kootenay Boundary

A new record low of – 18.1 C was set on the third day, setting the stage for a month that, as-a-whole, wound up being two degrees colder than the average.

“Clear and calm conditions the night of March 2 and early morning hours of March 3, resulted in particularly cold temperatures that bottomed out … shortly after sunrise,” local forecaster Jesse Ellis noted in his month-end report.

“Not only did this set a new record daily minimum, as did the next two nights, but it also broke the monthly record low last set in 2009,” he added.

“March 3 will also go down as the coldest temperature of winter 2018/2019.”

After the first few weeks of freeze, a strong ridge of high pressure dominated the large-scale pattern the rest of the month.

With the exception of a few seasonal blasts of snow, the mixed bag of highs and lows brought little rain. In the end, the month was drier than usual, with only half the average 63 millimetres (mm) of precipitation.

The most significant storm occurred over two days beginning March 11, when a frontal system product 15+ centimetres of new snow. A milder front brought 11 mm of rain the final week that, combined with this previous event, accounted for 87 per cent of March’s total precipitation.

While snowfall totals came in at 47 per cent above the norm, rainfall was less than a quarter of normal.

“(This was) mostly in the form of snow as temperatures hovered below seasonal normals most of the time,” Ellis said.

Signs of a new season began showing around March 20, the first day of spring. The warmest day was 18.9 C, set on March 30.

“The initial bands of rain on March 24, in combination with milder temperatures in the days leading up to it … helped melt off the last of the valley bottom snow at the Castlegar airport,” Ellis summarized.

“This is one of the latest snow-free dates of the last 10 years, mainly due to colder than average temperatures and above average snowfall through February and March.”

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Downtown Trail on March 12. (Trail Times photo)

March 12 in downtown Trail, after 15 centimetres of fresh snow. (Trail Times photo)

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