By Heidi Sonen and Roscoe Shaw
As we write this, snow is flying through the air and landing on green lawns and fresh flowers. Yes, it is April. No, we haven’t been drinking. It happens around here, especially in the mountains. April snow falls every few years, but usually melts when it hits the warm ground. But sometimes, it comes down hard enough to stick. Our 100+ year weather log has at least 17 different times snow stuck in April.
In the higher mountains of Virginia and especially West Virginia, accumulating snow is actually quite common in early April. But at the 800 feet of elevation of Crozet, it’s much harder to get it to stick.
The most recent significant April snow was April 7, 2007 when an inch and a half coated the ground in the morning before melting. The snow lasted all day on the mountains.
The latest snow in the season that we could find that accumulated was 1.5” on April 20, 1953. Snow fell in Crozet on April 23, 2012, but it refused to stick. Wintergreen got 4” that day.
The heaviest snow here in April was 3” on several occasions including 1959, 1971 and 1990.
What usually causes April snow is bitter cold Canadian air. When the cold air moves over the warm ground, the atmosphere becomes very unstable. On an April afternoon with an arctic air invasion, the temperature in Crozet could be 45 degrees, but the top of Wintergreen would be just 22 degrees. This big drop in temperature with height produces unstable snow showers that are often briefly intense and then followed by sunshine. This is also your best time to see it snow with temperatures in the 40s. I once witnessed brief snow at 50 degrees. This is possible because the air is so cold aloft that a snowflake hasn’t melted yet when it reaches he ground.
The snow is not much of a threat to spring vegetation. The snow actually coats and protects fragile spring growth and usually falls with temperatures above freezing. Much more troublesome are the hard freezes without snow. That is also likely this week, and a couple of 25 degree nights will do real damage.
When March started, the ground was a muddy mess. But we didn’t get any heavy rains during the month and conditions dried out nicely. Overall, only 1.18” fell at our house compared to a normal of almost four inches.
March temperatures were much warmer than normal in contrast to the cold April start. The overall temperature was 5.7 degrees above normal.
- Crozet Mint Springs 1.18”
- Crozet Elementary 1.31”
- Ivy 1.37”
- Wintergreen 1.59”
- White Hall 1.2”
- Nellysford 1.67”
- Waynesboro 1.28”
- Univ. of VA 2.33”
- CHO Airport 1.49”