Can you recall what you were doing on March 18, 2015? You were likely hunkered down inside or possibly outside braving the elements as life in Halifax came to a halt following the largest storm of the very active 2014-15 winter season.
On March 17, 2015, a low pressure system from the Great Lakes moved over the Gulf of Maine and rapidly intensified as it slowly tracked past Nova Scotia. Snow began in Halifax that evening and continued throughout the day on March 18, 2015 before finally
tapering off the following day. Blizzard conditions were reported and strong winds created massive snow drifts across the city.
Halifax Stanfield International Airport recorded 48 cm from the storm but much higher amounts were reported across HRM, according to Environment and Climate Change Canada Meteorologist Ian Hubbard.
“Reports of 63 centimetres in Bedford, 55 centimetres in Fall River. The highest amount that we saw --- and this is from a volunteer weather observer -- was out in the Hammonds Plains area that reported 74 centimetres from this event,” Hubbard said.
The storm’s rapid development near Nova Scotia and its slow speed made it ideal for a large amount of snow to fall in Halifax.
“If this had been a faster storm maybe it would’ve only snowed for a fraction of that time, pushed off and we wouldn’t have been able to see those amounts accumulate as they did," Hubbard said.
"But where it was slow moving and really didn’t stop, or the storm itself didn’t move away from the area until later in the overnight period into the 19th as it headed up towards Newfoundland, that snow just continued to fall and fall over the area."
With streets and sidewalks buried in snow, the municipality implemented a round-the-clock on-street parking ban to allow crews to properly clear streets. Halifax Transit services were suspended at the height of the storm but by March 20, 2015, full transit service resumed and Halifax Transit buses were free to ride for nearly a week to compensate for the lack of available parking and to help keep vehicles off the road.
The storm came on the heels of another storm that brought significant snowfall just days earlier. While the March 18 storm itself was nowhere near the magnitude of White Juan in February 2004, which dumped 95.5 cm on Halifax (Shearwater), the combined snowfall from both storms that week exceeded the amount that White Juan dumped on the city.
Wet, mild start to the season turned very snowy
Winter certainly didn’t make its presence known at the beginning of the 2014-15 season. A total of 7 cm was recorded at Halifax Stanfield Airport between November and December 2014 combined, falling well below the 62 cm average typically reported during the same period. You may also recall on Christmas Day in 2014 when the temperature soared up to 17º and 42 mm of rain soaked the city.
It wasn’t until February and March that we truly made up for the lack of snow at the beginning of the season. 130.8 centimetres of snow was recorded at Halifax Stanfield Airport in the month of February - nearly three times the amount of snow that would normally be recorded during that month. The numbers only got higher in March 2015 with 146.7 centimetres – nearly four times the amount typically recorded.
March 2015 now holds the title of snowiest March on record in Halifax – shattering the old record of 99.8 cm set in March of 1993. February 2015 is considered the second snowiest February on record.
Environment Canada statistics show that following the March 17-18, 2015 snowfall that 93 cm of snow was on the ground at Halifax Stanfield. It wasn’t until April 23, 2015 that the ground was completely free of snow although large snowbanks were recorded in HRM into the month of May.
“It takes time for that snow to either melt from the sunshine or from the rain,” Hubbard said. “That’s why that snow stuck around so long into the month of April and certainly snowbanks possibly even longer in some locations."
Halifax’s winter parking ban was enforced 47 times during the 2014-15 winter season.
HRM exceeded its $20.5 million snow clearing budget by about $10 million while the province spent $20 million more than budgeted on snow clearing costs that season.