During March, West Michigan typically turns the corner putting winter in the rear view mirror. As we set our sites on spring, the typical high temperature warms from 38.0 degrees on March 1, to 51.2 degrees on March 31. Overnight low temperatures take a 10 degree rise going from 22.6 degrees to 32.0 degrees.
Looking at the entire climate record, March takes the top spot for large swings in temperature with 100 degrees separating the record high of 87 degrees and low of minus13 degrees.
March is typically a rather dry month (third driest behind February and January) with only 2.37 inches of precipitation. The average snowfall decreases, for the first month of spring, down to 8.3 inches.
Daylight saving time begins on Sunday, March 13, at 2 a.m. That’s when we “spring forward” our clocks one hour and lose one hour of sleep. Don’t forget to replace the batteries in your smoke detectors. You’ll notice a big change in the sunset time. On March 1, it is at 6:33 p.m. EST, by the end of the month the sunset jumps to 8:08 p.m. EDT.
Actual and potential sunshine continue to increase during the month. We gain almost an hour and thirty minutes of daylight and even the percent of possible sunshine increases. In March we typically see 48 percent of possible sunshine, that’s more than twice what we observe during our cloudiest month of December.
This year the astronomical season of spring begins on March 20, the vernal equinox is at 12:30 a.m. EDT. March is likely to be warm and dry, with that trend continuing into May. The attached slideshow has more March weather information.
There are some interesting weather events for March and I’ll just highlight a few of them from the National Weather Service Archives. To see the complete list, ‘Subscribe’ to the Grand Rapids Weather examiner for a daily email of historical events.
March 2, 2002, a strong low pressure center moves across the Ohio Valley bringing record snows to Lower Michigan. Grand Rapids has 13. 9 inches and Muskegon 10.5 inches, both set records for their snowiest March day on record.
March 5, 1976, thunderstorms move over cold air near the ground to produce one of the worst ice storms in history across Wisconsin and Lower Michigan. From 2 to 5 inches of ice builds up on trees and power lines, resulting in hundreds of thousands of people without power, some for as long as ten days.
March 8, 2000, temperatures soar into the upper 70s across Lower Michigan, with some places hitting 80 degrees. The 78 degrees at Grand Rapids is a record high for the date and for so early in the season.
March 12, 1976, a tornado outbreak struck from Michigan to Alabama. At least four tornadoes hit Michigan with nine people injured. Two tornadoes hit Jackson County, with damage to several homes and businesses. One person was injured in Ottawa County as a tornado moved from north of Holland to north of Hudsonville.
March 14, 1904, a snowstorm drops up to a foot of snow across Lower Michigan with record daily snowfall of 10.5 inches at Grand Rapids, 10 inches at Lansing and 8.0 inches at Muskegon. This snow would contribute to some of the worst floods on record in southwest Lower Michigan when it melts off during the last week of the month.
March 17, 1943, heavy rains and melting snow result in flooding across southwest Lower Michigan. The Childsdale Dam on the Rogue River gave way. Several families were evacuated from Comstock Park near Grand Rapids.
March 21, 2008, a record 6.6 inches of snow fell at Grand Rapids on the first day of spring. Muskegon had a record 7 inches, while 8 to 14 inches of snow fell south of a line from Holland to Jackson.
March 22, 1938, temperatures soar into the 80s during one of the warmest March days in Lower Michigan. Grand Rapids ties their record high for the month at 82 degrees and Lansing sets a record for the date of 81 degrees.
March 24, 1904, tornadoes hit Muskegon and Grand Rapids. In Muskegon, five homes were unroofed or torn apart on the lake front at Harrison Street. In Grand Rapids, ten people were injured as the tornado damaged a church and several barns.
March 28, 1904, heavy rain and temperatures in the 50s during the last week of March combined with the melting of a deep snowpack to cause some of the worst flooding on record along the Grand and Kalamazoo Rivers. About half the city of Grand Rapids is underwater as the river reaches an all-time record crest of 19.6 feet, which was 2 feet higher than the previous record and 4.6 feet above flood stage. Water covered half of the city and flood waters reached 2,500 houses and 14,000 people. Many people suffered from hunger and exposure. Several factories and between 200 and 300 business were flooded. Loses totaled 1.8 million dollars. Lansing has the worst flood in 135 years of record. Battle Creek is also inundated by floodwaters.
March 28, 1920, one of the worst tornado outbreaks in U.S. history strikes from Wisconsin to Georgia, killing more than 150 people. In Michigan, at least a dozen people were killed and hundreds of homes were either damaged or destroyed. The worst hit areas in Michigan included Saint Johns in Clinton County, Maple Grove and Orangeville in Barry County, and Fenton in Genesee County.
March 30, 1977, a tornado struck four miles north of Hart in Oceana County. It injured three people as it destroyed four trailers and damaged a business.
March 31, 1923, March goes out like a cold lion. In West Michigan, record lows were in the single numbers with lake effect snow showers.