7 Cities with Unlucky St. Patrick's Day Weather

Linda Lam
Published: March 17, 2017

St. Patrick's Day has brought some unlucky weather to numerous locations over the years.

This is in part due to the time of year the holiday occurs. March is a month of weather changes as winter transitions to spring. St. Patrick's Day, being in the middle of the month, certainly can and does see a wide range of weather conditions.

(MORE: 5 Reasons March Weather Is Frustrating)

This year is no different, as two low pressure systems are expected to impact the U.S. on the holiday.


St. Patrick's Day Forecast

The first system will bring a mix of snow, sleet and ice to parts of the Great Lakes region. Farther south there is the chance of an isolated severe thunderstorm in parts of Oklahoma, north-central Texas and western Arkansas. Meanwhile, a storm will spread rain into the Pacific Northwest and produce snow in the higher elevations of the Washington Cascades. 

(MAPS: Weekly Planner)

Last year, severe weather hit areas from Texas to the northern Gulf Coast and in the Northeast. Hail was reported in Maine, and damaging wind gusts occurred in parts of southern New England. There were three reports of tornadoes and the Dallas area had by tennis-ball size hail.

Below we have taken a look at seven St. Patrick's Days where the weather was far from lucky, with conditions ranging from record snow to a deadly tornado.

1) Record Snowstorm Impacted Nashville

Nashville was hit by a snowstorm on St. Patrick's Day in 1892. Heavy snow was reported in central and western Tennessee with snow beginning late on March 16. 

Through March 14, only 0.3 inches of snow had fallen in Nashville and it appeared that winter was over. On March 15, a separate system brought 4.2 inches of snow and then the St. Patrick's Day storm came and Nashville reported 17.0 inches of snow with temperatures staying between 28 and 30 degrees. Snow began the evening of March 16, but there was little accumulation until after midnight.  The 17.0 inches of snow measured is the largest snowfall on record.

In Nashville, the street cars did not run and suburban workers had to walk to town. Members of the Ancient Order of Hibernians in America canceled their annual parade. Part of a freight train from Chattanooga derailed near Murfreesboro.

Memphis also received heavy snow with 18.0 inches of snow reported, which is the most snow in one storm and in 24-hours on record for the city. Memphis had a high of 37 degrees on St. Patrick's Day but only reached 29 degrees the next day.

2) Second Greatest Snowstorm Occurred in Denver

The second greatest snowstorm in Denver occurred March 17-19 in 2003. Up until the St. Patrick's Day storm only 17.0 inches of snow had fallen for the season. Then from March 17-19, 31. 8 inches of snow was reported in Denver. This snowfall is only second to the 45.7 inches that fell December 1-6 in 1913.

The snow stranded cars and National Guard troops had to rescue stranded motorists, according to MSNBC.com. About 1,500 highway travelers took refuge in Red Cross shelters and more than 100 roofs collapsed in the Denver and Boulder area.

3) Deadly Tornado Tore Through Venice, Florida

In 1985, during the early morning hours on St. Patrick's Day, an F3 tornado tore through Venice, Florida. Residents of Venice, south of Tampa, were awaken around 3:30 a.m. when the tornado made a path about 3 miles long and 400 yards wide.

The tornado was rated an F3 with wind speeds of 158 to 206 mph. Two other weaker tornadoes were confirmed in southern Florida that morning. (Tornadoes are now rated using the Enhanced Fujita Scale, as engineers and scientists determined that the original F-Scale wind speeds were too high for categories F3 and higher.)

Two people died and 45 others were injured. The tornado destroyed 55 homes and damaged another 220. The New York Times reported that the tornado caused $14 million in insured damage to homes and businesses. The initial damage estimates were more than triple the $5 million needed for the insurance industry to designate the tornado losses as a catastrophe.

One interesting tidbit is that on St. Patrick's Day in 1952, the first tornado "bulletin" (what we now refer to as a watch) was issued by the U.S. Weather Bureau. 

4) Anchorage, Alaska Set Snow Record

Anchorage, Alaska, recorded its  all-time record daily snowfall on St. Patrick's Day in 2002. Snow began late on March 16 and continued into March 17 with snow falling at a rate of more than 2 inches an hour at times. The Alaska Journal of Commerce referred to it as the "St. Patrick's Day snow massacre."

On St. Patrick's Day, 22.0 inches of snow were recorded, and this observation became the highest snowfall total recorded on any calendar day. The previous record was 15.6 inches set on December 29, 1955. The snowfall total for the March 16-17 snowstorm was 26.7 inches. 

Some flights had to be diverted to Fairbanks International Airport and two airliners collided on a taxiway, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

According to the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Anchorage, Alaska, this was a unique storm regarding intensity and duration of the snowfall, as well as the limited spatial extent of the heavy snow amounts. The locally heavy snowfall amounts were produced by a quasi-stationary snow-band.

5) Extensive Flooding Took Place in Elba, Alabama

Heavy rain brought flooding to parts of the Southeast leading up to St. Patrick's Day in 1990. In southern Alabama, 8 to 16 inches of rain was reported which produced record and near-record flooding along several rivers. Some notable rainfall totals include:

  • Mobile, Alabama, where 10.63 inches of rain fell in 24 hours
  • Montgomery, Alabama, which received 10.9 inches on March 15 and 16
  • Columbus, Georgia, which measured 7.22 inches March 15-17

Flooding was reported throughout much of Alabama with $100 million in damage statewide. Across the Southeast 22 people died, including 13 in Alabama. Extensive damage occurred to streets, roads and bridges and several major highways were closed. Over 6,000 people were forced to leave their homes.

Some of the worst flooding was in Elba, Alabama, on the Pea River where a crest of 43.28 feet occurred (moderate flood stage is 32 feet), making it the second highest crest on record. According to the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Birmingham, a levee constructed around Elba was overtopped by a small stream creating a 175-yard break in the levee that quickly flooded the town. More than 1,500 people were evacuated with no loss of life. Of the city's 140 businesses, 130 were either destroyed or severely damaged. Over 1,000 homes in the area were also flooded.

The Alabama River at Montgomery crested almost 30 feet above flood stage, causing widespread street, residential and commercial flooding. Over 500 homes were evacuated in the Montgomery area.

6) Heavy Snow Impacted Buffalo, New York 

A snowstorm dumped heavy snow on Buffalo, New York on St. Patrick's Day in 1936. On that day, 18.0 inches of snow was recorded with an additional 1.5 inches falling on March 18. 

The 18 inches that accumulated on St. Patrick's Day set a daily snowfall record for the date. The melted snow yielded 2.62 inches of water which also set the record for the most precipitation for March 17.

The National Weather Service Forecast Office in Buffalo, New York reported that the snow was so deep and heavy that street car service had ceased by mid-afternoon. Conditions made traveling very difficult. Actual property loss was around $100,000 including collapse of buildings and damage to automobiles. The extra cost of snow removal was about $175,000.

7) Washington, D.C. Saw Its Snowiest St. Patrick's Day

Craig Hyatt, left, and his wife Shannon Hyatt, both from Toronto, look toward the Jefferson Memorial after a St. Patrick's Day winter storm, Monday, March 17, 2014 in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Winter Storm Wiley in 2014 impacted parts of the central U.S. on March 16 and then the Mid-Atlantic on March 17 . Washington Dulles Airport received 10.1 inches of snow, and as much as 13.7 inches fell in Virginia and 11.0 inches in Maryland. Reagan National Airport reported 7.2 inches from March 16-17.

(MORE: Winter Storm Wiley Photos)

This was the snowiest St. Patrick's Day on record for Washington, D.C., setting daily snowfall records at both Dulles International Airport (with 4.5 inches on March 17) and Reagan National Airport (with 3.9 inches on March 17). This is notable considering D.C.'s period of record dates back to 1884. Federal government offices were closed due to the snow and the main runway at Reagan International was closed for a few hours on the morning of St. Patrick's Day.

MORE: Green Landmarks - St. Patrick's Day


The Weather Company’s primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment and the importance of science to our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.

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