Every couple of years I like to go back and visit the topic of spring snowstorms. Unlike Christmas snowstorms, I do not secretly wish for a spring snowstorm. Maybe when I was younger I did, but now I just want nice warm, dry weather to move in. On the positive side, the current medium-range forecasts are not pointing toward the possibility of another spring snowstorm this year. That said, just because I am writing about it doesn’t make me responsible if we do end up getting hit by one!
Looking back at some of the biggest snowstorms we have seen across our region, there are two main time frames in which we see the biggest storms. The first is in November, when cold arctic air first starts to invade southward; the second is in March and April. As warm, moist air begins its yearly push northward, cold air from the Arctic sometimes has a hard time letting go. When the two combine, we can get some truly big snowstorms. To look back at these spring snowstorms I will once again rely on our three main centres — Dauphin, Brandon and Winnipeg — as these locations tend to capture most of the significant weather events that affect our region.
Let us begin by looking at Winnipeg. Over the last 140 years there have been 12 times that Winnipeg has recorded 20 cm or more of snow on a single day in the month of March. The most recent was March 8, 1999, when 20.0 cm of snow fell. The largest March snowstorm I was able to find occurred back in 1935, when 53.1 cm of snow fell between March 3 and 6. Interestingly, the next largest snowstorm occurred at nearly the same time of year (March 4) in 1966, when 35.6 cm of snow fell. Winnipeg has recorded some of its greatest snowstorm totals in April, with five days having snowfall greater than 20 cm. The two largest April snowstorms over the past 140 years have occurred fairly recently. Both of these storms occurred early in the month, with the 1997 storm recording 46 cm of snow between April 4 and 6. Nearly the same amount (45 cm) fell between April 1 and 4 of 1999.
Now, on to Brandon. Since 1890, Brandon has recorded 16 March days with snowfall greater than 20 cm. The most recent occurrence, not including this year’s early-March blizzard, was on March 22, 1995 when 25.3 cm of snow fell. The largest March snowstorm I was able to find was in 1953, when 39.3 cm of snow fell between March 26 and 28. April in Brandon has also seen its fair share of large snowfalls. During this month there have been nine days with more than 20 cm of snow recorded, with the most recent occurring on April 27, 1984, when 29.7 cm fell. The largest springtime snowstorm I was able to find occurred back on April 26, 1961, when a whopping 47 cm of snow fell in just one day! The next-largest spring snowstorm occurred on April 26-27, 1984, when the Brandon region saw nearly 36 cm of snow fall.