March Weather Madness

While the NCAA Basketball Tournament continues through the next couple of weekends, the weather in the western Great Lakes with the storm on March 22nd-23rd has certainly attempted to cover all of the bases. While North Central Wisconsin dealt with two rounds of wintry precipitation, folks down across Iowa & Nebraska dealt with severe storms & tornadoes.

It isn't out of the ordinary for powerful storm systems this time of year, which by all means is a time of transition weatherwise. Take into consideration that a big baroclinic zone (large contrast in temperature) was seen over a small area just south of the Badger State with the latest storm. We had temperatures running in the lower to mid 30s in Southern Wisconsin while residents in Des Moines, IA and Springfield, IL were caught up in spring-like 60s & 70s during the day.


This turned into the battleground for not only low pressure to track east along from Tuesday to Wednesday, but also spawned at least 5 tornadoes (with 16 tornado damage reports through 8pm on Tuesday 3/22) and 40 large hail reports.  Needless to say the next day 3/23 there was more severe weather, including a destructive EF2 Tornado that hit western PA in the town of Greensburg.  Here's a link to the NWS Pittsburgh for more on that twister including a dramatic shot of the tornado on the western horizon.


Back in our area, wave #1 of the snow and sleet amounted to 1-2" of slushy snow that started to melt on area roads as the day wore on. Although temperatures were running close to freezing, the radiational heating from the sun hidden behind the clouds still managed to do it's job. However as the second wave of moisture surged northeast into the Wisconsin River Valley Tuesday Night, it packed more of a punch. The main reason is that this snow, mixed at times with sleet, had previously been a part of a strong area of heavy rain and storms that produced severe weather in Iowa. Instead of being in the liquid form, it was snow, and yes even some of the thunder and lightning continued to accompany the activity as it rolled through.

Needless to say, when it snows heavily at night, it is much easier for the snow to not only stick to the roads, but it is also better for it to pile up. Thus why many locations along & northeast of Highway 29 had a plowable to substantial amount of snow on the ground, plastered to the trees and road signs, and making travel hazardous on Wednesday morning. But unlike the storms of earlier in the winter, this snow will not only start melting again during the daytime, but also is packed with a higher moisture content. Great for snowballs & snowmen building, not so for shoveling. I've talked about this before with a previous storm a few weeks ago.  No less, here's the two day snowfall map for the area from the NWS Green Bay.

The days ahead will remain chillier than average with highs in the 20s to 30s. Certainly down the road into April, there are going to finally be days when the mercury surges through the 50s and 60s, along with bouts of cooler weather and :::gasp::: perhaps more snow. But as we have experienced before in spring, the tide can turn quickly to severe storms in the Badger State as well. We did have damaging winds & hail with thunderstorms back in late April 2009. I'm not saying that is going to be the case this year, but we've always got to be prepared for just about anything. Thus the weather madness of March and April that is the theme for the northern half of Wisconsin.

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