The many faces of March weather

Published 12:43 pm Saturday, February 26, 2022

By Skip Rigney

The proverb, “March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb,” first appeared in print in 1732. Despite originating in England, which lies farther north than 49 of the 50 United States, it’s often an apt description of both the dramatically different types of weather that can occur in our country in March, but also the general moderation in conditions that usually occurs from the beginning to the end of the month.

Forecasters say March will arrive rather meekly this year in Pearl River County with its first four or five days being fair and mild. Perhaps the lion will make its appearance later in the month.

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In the meantime, here are some local climatological highlights of the first month of spring.

March 1st does mark the beginning of “meteorological spring” in the Northern Hemisphere. At least that is the convenient record-keeping convention adopted by climatologists who compute seasonal statistics and probabilities.

March 2, 1980, certainly didn’t feel like spring as temperatures plunged into the teens across much of the county, and Poplarville had their coldest March morning of the century with a low of 15.

March 9th is the median date of the last freeze of spring in Picayune, March 10th in Poplarville. That means there is a 50 percent chance that a freeze will occur later than these dates based on observations from the last 30 years. The chance of a freeze drops to 20 percent by March 23-25.

Frost can occur with air temperatures in the middle 30s. The median dates for the last frost are March 25-26, and chances don’t drop below 20 percent until April 7-8.  March 13-14 is the anniversary of the 1993 “Storm of the Century,” which moved northeastward from the Gulf of Mexico and affected much of the eastern United States and Canada. Snow fell in Pearl River County and the temperature plunged into the low 20s in the frigid air after the storm passed.

In mid-March 2016 rains in excess of ten inches in the Pearl River’s watershed to our north combined with three to five inches in our county to raise the river to its highest level since the record flood of April 1983.

March 18th is the earliest date during the calendar year that the temperature has reached 89 degrees at the Poplarville Experiment Station. That occurred in 1921. The mercury has climbed to 89 in March two other times, in 2003 on the 25th, and in 1946 on the 31st.

March 27, 1976, an EF-2 tornado touched down north of Poplarville. An EF-1 tornado had touched down earlier that month on March 8th near McNeill.

Average high temperatures for March 1st, based on the past 30 years of data, are in the middle to upper 60s across the county. Average lows are in the lower to middle 40s. By the end of the month average daily highs are in the middle 70s and average lows are around 50 degrees.

As for rain, five to six inches falling on nine days is average for March. However, things can stray far from the average as they did in 1955 when less than half an inch fell on Poplarville during the entire month. Seven years earlier in March 1948, over 14 inches fell in Poplarville and nearly 16 in Picayune.