March 2011 continued our string of old-fashioned winter months with colder than normal temperatures and above normal snowfall, which continued to please winter sports enthusiasts.
The average high temperature was 28.6 degrees and the average low was 19.8 degrees, giving us an average of 28.6 degrees, which is 1.3 degrees below normal. This was the sixth consecutive month with below normal temperatures. The highest temperature of 55 degrees, was recorded on March 17 and the lowest temperature of -8 degrees was recorded on March 3. There were two days with readings below normal, which is about average for the month.
Melted precipitation for the month was 6.52 inches, which is 3.13 inches above normal and the second most on record. The wettest March was in 2001 when 7.36 inches was recorded and the driest was in 1988 when only 0.92 inches was measured. Our seasonal total is now 11.71, which is 3.02 inches above normal. There was measurable precipitation on 11 days with the greatest amount of 3.04 inches falling on March 6 and 7.
Snowfall, for the second month in a row, was the greatest departure from normal with 28.8 inches falling, which is 13.4 inches above normal and the third most on record. The greatest March snowfall was in 2001 when 59.2 inches fell, making it the snowiest month on record. March 2001 was also the wettest March on record. The least snowiest March was last year when only 0.2 inches was recorded. Our seasonal total is now 91.3 inches, which is 17.1 inches above the normal of 74.2 inches. There were two large snowfalls, one of 15 inches on March 5 and 6 and also one of 10 inches on March 10 and 11.
The river reached its highest level of 12.19 feet on March 12 at 2 p.m. and its lowest level of 3.41 on March 5. On Sunday, March 15 the river gauge registered a height of 11.74 feet at 1:30 p.m. and by 2 p.m. it had dropped to 6.91 feet, indicating that the ice jam, which had been on the minds of uneasy residents along the river since March 8, had finally begun to move downstream. It reached Riparius about 2 p.m. and easily passed under the bridge, leaving some large blocks of ice along the river bank, but doing no damage. It was watched by dozens of spectators and personnel from several fire departments. The last large ice jams to come through Riparius were on Feb. 20,1981 when the campground here in Riparius was flooded and on March 22, 2003. On that date, the old bridge, which had been moved upstream and placed on temporary piers to allow the present bridge to be built, was hit by the ice and large chunks were left on the deck of the bridge. The engineer in charge of the project at the time was afraid that the bridge was going to be swept away but fortunately it was not. It should be noted that the "record" height of 12.19 feet recorded this month was due to an ice jam restricting the flow of the river whereas the previous record height of 12.14 feet was recorded during a winter thaw Dec. 31, 1948 when the flow rate was 23,900 cubic feet per second or 191,200 gallons per second. The lowest gauge reading was 1.91 feet July 27,1934 when only 114 cubic feet per second passed the gauge in North Creek. The river did drop to 1.95 feet Sept. 6, 1999 - the lowest in the last thirty years.