March Madness

Pat Guinan
State Climatologist
Commercial Agriculture/University of Missouri Extension

The March proverb "In like a lion out like a lamb" could not have been more applicable in Missouri than during 1960. For the first 25 days of March, the lion roared over Missouri and much of the Midwest. Frequent snowstorms and unrelenting cold weather turned the entire state into an ice cap. In fact, by mid-March, the entire northern half of the United States had snow on the ground.

Temperatures in the Show-Me state rarely made it above freezing during the first 3 weeks and many locations reported sub-zero weather. Parts of northwestern Missouri saw temperatures dip to -20 to -25F. Maryville had the dubious distinction of reporting a -26 during the morning of March 5th. Snowfall totals were unprecedented and mind boggling. Average snowfall for the month was 24-30 inches over northern and central Missouri, 20 inches over southeastern sections and generally around a foot over southwestern Missouri. Concordia reported the greatest total; a whopping 38.5 inches for the month. Union, MO reported the deepest snow on the ground, 3 feet!!

In the past 110 years of Missouri weather records, March 1960 ranks as the coldest March with a statewide average temperature of 29.9; a remarkable 14 degrees below normal. To put things in perspective, the temperature average was more typical of a January normal. In fact, January 1960 was warmer than March 1960. It is unlikely we will ever experience a March so cold and snowy in our lifetime.

As the proverb predicted, the lamb finally came out during the last few days of the month when the weather became more spring like and temperatures climbed into the 80's. The thaw ensued, but unfortunately led to some major flooding when the heavy snow finally melted.