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St. Patrick's Day: Known for Wild Weather

UPDATED March 15, 2014

By WeatherBug Meteorologists


St. Patrick`s Day, observed on March 17th, celebrates the life of a man who, legend has it, drove the snakes out of Ireland. Falling just a few days before the vernal equinox, the weather associated with this holiday can vary greatly, ranging from warm and sunny, to a major snow storm.

St. Patrick`s Day falls at the time of year when winter is coming to an end and spring is getting started. Whenever there is a change of seasons such as this, there is a possibility for severe weather to develop. Cold air is still trying to funnel in from the north, while warmer air is trying to push in from the south. Wherever these two air masses collide, there lies a possibility for a storm to form.

The winter of 1891 - 1892 recorded almost no snowfall for the Nashville, Tenn. region. By mid-March, it was thought that any chance of winter weather was over for the season. It`s not surprising that people thought this, given that the temperatures were in the mid 60s to lower 70s earlier in the month.

Things changed on March 13 of that year, as a strong cold front crashed into the South. After about 5 inches of snow fell in the region between March 14th and 15th, this snow began to melt on the 16th as the temperature rose to 39 degrees. Nashville, then celebrated St. Patrick`s Day with a 17-inch snowfall that started in the early morning hours and continued throughout the day. In Memphis, 18 inches of snow fell, while the town of Riddleton, Tenn., received 26 inches! To this day, this storm still holds the daily snowfall record for Tennessee. The storm has been dubbed the "St. Patrick`s Day Snowstorm of 1892."

The Volunteer State is not the only place to celebrate St. Patrick`s Day with a snowstorm. Boston got into the act in 1956. Dubbed "St. Patrick`s big snow," nearby Blue Hill Observatory recorded 12.6 inches of snow.

On the flip side of the scale, severe weather on St. Patrick`s Day is also a sign of an approaching astronomical spring. In fact, the warmer South has seen its share of nasty St. Patrick`s Day weather memories. In 1985, Venice, Fla. was awakened in the early-morning hours by a strong F3-tornado ripping through town. The tornado destroyed 55 homes and damaged 200 others. Two people were killed in the tornado while 45 others were injured.

In 1990, a slow-moving cold front crept across the Southeast, causing torrential rains. In the 24-hour period on March 17, areas across southern Alabama saw up to 16 inches of rain. Mobile, Ala. recorded 10.63 inches of rain that day. Flooding across the Southeast killed 22 people. Elba, Ala. was flooded with anywhere from 6 to 12 feet of water with more than $25 million in damages. Twenty-six Alabama counties were declared disaster areas with more than $100 million in damages.

St. Patrick`s Day is a hliday where everyone is Irish for a day... But as you celebrate the holiday and wear your green, be wary of the skies!

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