March 2 Lake Effect Snow Event UPDATED

Updated 1115 am CST Tue Mar to satellite loop 

A single band of lake effect snow effected extreme southeast Wisconsin on March 2.  Snow began falling shortly before midnight on March 1 at Milwaukee International Airport.  The lake effect band continued to intensify and move onshore.  By daybreak 8 inches of dry and fluffy snow had fallen at the airport and by Tuesday, 14.4 inches had fallen.  The band set up immediately over the Milwaukee airport with most locations surrounding the airport receiving lesser amounts. 

Some snowfall totals in the area:

Oak Creek 10-13"
Cudahy: 10"
Franklin: 6-8"
Caledonia: 6.3"
Shorewood: 6"
South Milwaukee: 2-3"
Downtown Kenosha: 1"

The image below is a 6-hr radar loop showing the lake effect snow band remaining nearly stationary for much of the morning, then drifting west late morning into the early afternoon.

NEW:  The link below, courtesy CIMSS/SSEC/UW Madison, is a visible satellite animation of the event.


The image below shows the total accumulated snowfall from the March 2 lake effect snow. The accumulation is generated from radar data. Notice how the higher totals are confined to a very narrow band in Milwaukee County.

Significant lake effect snowfall events are relatively rare on the west side of Lake Michigan.  Conditions must line up perfectly with a northeasterly wind, cold air aloft and open lake waters.  We looked back over the past ten years and found only a handful of snow events that were purely lake effect as the March 2 event.  Feb 13 2007 was the last such event with 5-8 inches of snow falling from Milwaukee southward to the Illinois border.  January 26-27, 2005 and January 9, 2004 both had lake effect snows of 2-7 inches in southeast Wisconsin. 

This snow event will go into the record books in the list of all time calendar day snowfalls. For the calendar day March 2, the 14.2 inches of snowfall at Mitchell International Airport broke the previously record set in 2002 of 9.4 inches.  For the entire snow event Mitchell Field International Airport recorded 14.4 inches, since 0.2 inches of snow fell on Sunday evening just before midnight.  Following is the top 10 list of snowfall for any single calendar day.

1    17.9    3/3/1881
2 16.7 2/10/1960
3 16.0 1/12/1908
4 15.7 1/6/1918
5 14.6 11/5/1896
6 14.4 2/5/1924, 2/20/1898
8 14.2 3/2/2009, 3/14/1904
10 14.0 4/16/1921

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