Thoughts on that big March snow

The National Weather Service in Burlington reported the late winter nor’easter dubbed “Stella” delivered about 30 inches of snow to the Charlotte area breaking the March 15 daily maximum snowfall record with a total of 12.1 inches, up from 1940’s 4.1 inches. Photo by Lynn Monty.

I hope you’re not too sore from all that snow shoveling after one of the most intense snowstorms in Vermont, New York and Quebec history.  Snow continued to pile up along the western slopes of the Green Mountains into last Thursday morning, leaving a whopping storm total of 58 inches at the Bolton Valley Ski Area. That’s almost five feet!

Although this snow isn’t fully going away any time soon, the March sun is our friend, at least if you want to see some of the snow disappear. The sun is getting stronger this time of year, and you’ll see some of the snow banks retreating bit by bit. Sunny corners where the heat collects will get some melting, too. And the snow will keep settling, so it won’t seem so deep.

The bottom line: The skiers can keep enjoying their powder for a while, but we valley dwellers will see a little bit of the snow disappear, even if much of it remains. We definitely won’t get another tremendous snow, but with all this snow on the ground, a few people are probably asking: Are we at risk for spring flooding?

The answer is, we’re a little bit more at risk than we were a week ago, but I definitely wouldn’t panic. Spring flooding in Vermont usually comes when ice breaks up in rivers or heavy rain falls on warm days on a melting snow pack.

As in any season, we’ll get flooding if we get a sharp warmup with lots of rain. But if there’s a nice orderly freeze/thaw cycle, then don’t worry.

Some people might remember March 2011 when we got a snowstorm almost as big as the one we just had this week. Frequent, damaging flooding occurred that spring, and Lake Champlain rose to record heights, causing lots of destruction on the shoreline.

The difference is that, in 2011, there was already a lot of snow on the ground with a high water content in the mountains even before that snowstorm hit. Then we had record amounts of rainfall in April and May. Inevitably we had a lot of flooding.

There’s not nearly as much water locked up in mountain snows this March as in 2011. And I sincerely doubt we’ll break rainfall records this spring, though I suppose anything is possible.

My advice? Don’t worry unless the weather changes in a way that favors high water.

Matt’s Weather Rapport is written by Vermont-based journalist and weather reporter Matt Sutkoski. Look to Matt’s Weather Rapport for expert analysis of weather events, news, the latest on climate change science, fun stuff, and wild photos and videos of big weather events. Also check for his frequent quick weather updates on Twitter.