MARCH 2013





A severe blizzard swept over northern Japan with at least nine people dying as a result of the weather. The storm unleashed high winds, heavy snow and blinding whiteouts, the worst of which happened on the island of Hokkaido on the 2nd. More than 30 cm of new snow fell at the Wakkanai Airport in northernmost Hokkaido. Sustained winds reached at least 52 mph with higher gusts. The trigger for the blizzard was a severe winter storm that strengthened as it tracked eastward, directly over Hokkaido on Saturday. The storm also unleashed a blizzard on southern Sakhalin Island, Russia. A hill town in northern Honshu, Sukayu, claimed a staggering snow depth of 5.5 metres, or 18 feet. The report showed houses all-but buried beneath the burden of snow.  


A high-speed Japanese bullet train derailed in northern Japan in heavy snow. The train was carrying approximately 130 passengers and crew, although there are no reports of injuries. The train was only traveling at about 20 kph at the time of the accident, which only led to one car derailing. The current snow depth in Akita prefecture (where the crash occurred) ranges from about 18 inches at the coast to 90 inches in the mountains to their east.




Government offices are closed as the East Coast braces for a blizzard that dumped heavy snow on Midwestern states in recent days. Schools were shut and more than 1,500 flights cancelled at Washington DC and Baltimore airports, though by late afternoon on the 6th little snow had accumulated. On Tuesday, Chicago saw heavy snowfall with about 10in reported in some areas. The governor of Virginia declared a state of emergency after about 170,000 people lost power in the state. On Tuesday, schools were cancelled across Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois, and as much as 9in of snow was reported at Chicago's busy O'Hare airport by midnight.


Several southern states are cleaning up after powerful winds and massive hail hammered the region. Mississippi's insurance commissioner says the wind and hail storm that hit the state could result in 35,000 to 50,000 insurance claims. A lot of the damage was in the Jackson area, where hail as big as baseballs pounded some spots. The National Weather Service confirmed one tornado in Georgia and two in Alabama. Authorities also reported that a man was killed in Polk County, Ga., after a tree fell on his vehicle.




Easter Sunday brought the month of March to a close with severe storms across the Deep South and Texas. Severe thunderstorms with a history of producing hail and damaging winds continued to race southeastward across the central Gulf Coast in addition to southeastern and central Texas well into the evening. Golf ball-sized hail slammed the home early on Sunday morning. At 8.20 p.m. CDT a thunderstorm that passed through south Texas; west of Corpus Christi reported hail was as large as baseballs across both Duval and Jim Wells Counties.



Dry weather conditions have hit the main maize growing areas in South Africa, wilting the crop and dashing prospects for better yields this year. South Africa's provinces of Free State and North West, which together produce more than half of the country's total maize crop, have been the hardest hit by the dry conditions in recent weeks after good rains earlier in the growing season.




South Australia has been experiencing unusually hot and dry conditions for many months. The dry spell extends back to April 2012, particularly in central and northern South Australia, with many locations experiencing record low falls, less than 50 mm in the last 11 months (April to February). Oodnadatta recorded only 11.0 mm in that period, when they would typically expect to receive 164 mm, and Mount Barry only 8.8mm compared to an average of 150 mm.  For the state as a whole, the rainfall was less than half of average (49%) during April 2012 to February 2013, and the third driest such period after 1982 and 1928. For cropping areas in South Australia it was the driest April to February period since 2006, and the 11th driest such period since 1900. The dry conditions developed as a La Nina event ended in the Pacific, and Indian Ocean waters to the northwest of Australia cooled, with weak and sporadic tropical activity through summer also contributing.





Approximately 47,300 homes lost power in Normandy due to snowfall that hit the north and west of France. North Cotentin was particularly affected. By 3:30 p.m., 25 cm of snow had fallen with gusts up to 100 km/h on the coast. Seine-Maritime prefecture received 15-25 cm of snow on Monday night, with locally 30 cm,. In Belgium, the snowstorms caused massive traffic disruptions, with vehicles backed up on 1,600 kilometres of roads due to snowdrifts and ice. Buses and trains were cancelled or delayed in Brussels and other towns  Long traffic jams because of snow and ice also snaked along motorways in the southern Netherlands, hampering travel to and from Belgium after an unseasonal fall of more than 10 cm of snow overnight. Forecasters predicted that cold weather records were set to be broken again after Monday, the coldest March 11 in the southern Netherlands since 1928. The high-speed Eurostar train service connecting London with the French and Belgian capitals and the Thalys line linking Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam in the Netherlands and Cologne in Germany were both suspended. Heavy snow in several parts of Germany caused travel disruption, with 161 flights cancelled at Frankfurt airport, Europe‚Äôs third busiest. Public transport in Berlin was affected with several regional trains cancelled or severely delayed. There were also a spate of crashes on icy German roads with several people seriously hurt and one death, according to police. Frankfurt had about 12 cm of snow. In Britain, drivers were trapped for more than 10 hours as ice, snow and freezing winds descended on southeastern England on Monday and Tuesday. Police, rescue services, snow ploughs and gritting lorries battled to help the stricken motorists in temperatures as low as -3C.

Freezing conditions are continuing to disrupt transport in north-west Europe, although heavy snow has eased. Large parts of northern France have been placed on ice alert, with officials describing the situation as "very complicated". Frankfurt airport had to cancel more flights on Wednesday, after hundreds of passengers remained stranded overnight. Meanwhile the Eurostar high-speed train has resumed its service between London, Paris and Brussels but with delays. The cross-Channel train had been forced to suspend all travel on Tuesday after a severe snowstorm struck France, Belgium, Germany and the UK. French soldiers were mobilized to help workers restore electricity to about 80,000 homes in the country's north-east, left without power after the snowstorm. The severe weather forced the Channel Tunnel's closure between England and France, causing a huge backlog of freight traffic as hundreds of lorries remained stuck on the M20 motorway in Kent. The Channel Islands have experienced some of their worst conditions in decades.


Tanks have been deployed to reach snowbound motorists in Hungary as cold weather causes transport chaos across eastern Europe. T-72 battle tanks trundled along icy roads, while thousands of people waited in cars on the M1 motorway from Budapest to Vienna. Many had been stuck on the road since Thursday evening. In Bulgaria, a woman was killed when high winds brought down scaffolding in the town of Gabrovo. Heavy snow paralysed parts of south-eastern Poland, where police were redirecting heavy lorries for fear they would get stuck At least 19,000 households were left without power in eastern Slovakia after high winds damaged the grid and lorries backed up on a road Melting snow caused flooding in Kosovo, with reports that a girl of 10 was drowned.


Unusual cold and snow made for a memorable month of March 2013 in the UK and much of Europe. The month as a whole was coldest in what amounts to essentially the northern half of Europe, where average monthly temperature was at least 2-4 deg C below normal. In Germany, one city, Leipzig, registered a mean reading more than 5 deg C below normal. So cold was March that it, in some spots, the month that normally ushers in spring was the coldest month of the winter season, even undercutting January. Significant March cold also stretched over much of France, Spain and Italy to the northern Balkan region. Exceptional falls of snow covered parts of the UK, the Low Countries, Germany, France, Austria, Poland, Hungary, Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and more.




Landslides triggered by heavy rains killed at least 24 people in the mountains above Rio de Janeiro and prompted Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff to call for tougher action to eradicate precarious dwellings. Firemen recovered the bodies of three children who were swept away by floods in the worst hit neighbourhood called Quitandinha, a suburb of Petropolis, where dozens of homes were demolished by the landslides. Most of the dead, including two civil defense rescuers, were buried under landslides caused by 420 mm of rain that fell on the mountainous region in just 24 hours, almost double the rainfall average for the month of March in the area.




Record snow fall followed by a rise in temperatures has caused flooding in some parts of Moscow. The heaviest March snowfall for 50 years saw almost a month's worth of snow fall in 24 hours. Authorities say they have cleared 300,000 cubic meters of snow since Wednesday, with a predicted drop in temperatures expected to turn what is left of the melted snow back into ice.



The snow depth in Moscow, Russia on the 26th was 76 cm their highest March snow depth in more than 20 years. The Moscow Times reported that Moscow is having their coldest March since the 1950s. Colder temperatures there this spring have prevented the birds from migrating north from their wintering grounds.




A blizzard sweeping across the Canadian plains on the 21st caused a chain of traffic wrecks involving a bus, semi-trailer trucks and cars south of Edmonton, Alberta, sending about 300 injured travelers to hospitals. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police closed part of Highway 2, the main road between Edmonton and Calgary.


Jim G. Munley, jr.

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