Mount Shasta finishes out snowiest March on record, ever

Skye Kinkade
A police car sits nearly buried in drifts of snow in front of the Mount Shasta Police Department on Thursday, March 24.

With nearly eight feet of snow falling in downtown Mount Shasta over the past two weeks, this month will go down in history as the snowiest March on record.

Over the course of ten snowy days, decades-old records were crushed, schools around the area were closed, community events were canceled, spring sports were postponed, and some residents nervously began shoveling off their rooftops.

A total of 98.1 inches of snow fell over the course of the month – 93.7 of those inches between March 17 and 28 – shattering the previous record of 88 inches in March of 1904, said Mount Shasta’s national weather observer Frank Christina.

“After St. Patrick’s Day, things just went berserk,” Christina commented. “Every single day we had measurable precipitation... some days we had two inches of water falling in a combination of snow and rain.”

Though this month probably won’t break the record for the wettest March ever, we are coming close, Christina said. In March 1995, a total of 18.86 inches fell. So far this month, we’ve had 16.89 inches of precipitation.

“It’s unlikely that these small storms coming up will give us the two inches we need to break the record, but it has been very wet,” Christina said.

The normal precipitation for the entire year, which is  measured from June to June, is 38 inches. As of March 22, Mount Shasta had seen more than 40 inches of precipitation.

Records ‘crushed’

On the morning of Friday, March 25, Mount Shasta residents woke up to 40 inches of snow accumulated on the ground – an all time record for any day in March, Christina said. The old record, set on March 1, 1969, was 38 inches.

“Records are being broken left and right,” said Christina. “This was a monumental storm, especially for so late in the year.”

More than 13 inches of snow fell on Sunday, March 20, the first day of spring. Though that wasn’t a record, the 21 inches that fell on Thursday, March 24, was. The old record for that day, set in 1937, was 19 inches.

The very next day, Friday, March 25, was also a record-breaker. The 15 inches of snow that fell broke the old record of 6.5 inches for that day in history, set in 1945.

“These are very old records that were broken,” Christina said. “It’s absolutely astounding.”

Sensors maxed out

At the Old Ski Bowl, the snow depth sensor sits at about 240 inches above the ground. As of Monday afternoon, it was buried, according to the Mt. Shasta Avalanche Center’s Spring newsletter.

“Taking settlement and wind into account, we probably received close to 12 feet at 8,000 feet in the last 12 days... this is bad news for accurate data but great news for the upcoming spring skiing and summer climbing seasons.”

Skiers, snowboarders rejoice

At the Mt. Shasta Ski Park, nearly 22 feet of snow have been measured at the top of Douglas, and there are currently 102 inches at the base.

In celebration, the Park has extended their season for an extra weekend.

After closing on April 17, as planned, the Park will reopen April 22-24, said marketing director Jim Mullins.

“This is the most snow I’ve seen at the Park in the five years I’ve been here,” Mullins added.

Poor visibility, power fluctuations and generally unsafe conditions led to the Ski Park’s annual Rail Jam being rescheduled. Originally slated for Saturday, March 26, the Rail Jam will now take place this Saturday, April 2.

Though “inundated” with snow, Mullins said the Park remained operational every day, however, they did close the Coyote lift and cancel night skiing for safety reasons.

Snow related rescues

The extreme conditions led to some snow-related rescues in the area.

On Sunday, March 20, Siskiyou County Sheriff's Deputies search and rescue team helped Astra Leopold, 65, get out of her home near McCloud where snow was approximately eight to ten feet deep, according to a press release.

Because there is no electricity at her home, Leopold relies on a generator that only holds enough fuel for 22 hours. When she ran out, search and rescue volunteers hiked in to the trapped woman and transported her and her pets to a friend's residence.

Also on March 20, the Sheriff's Department rescued two “extreme campers,” Mark Fritzke, 54, of Bayside, Calif. and Michael Egan, 49, of Arcata, Calif. According to a press release, the men were snowed in at the Gumboot Lake area in their Volvo, which was immobilized in deep snow.

A Snowcat was needed to rescue them.

Keeping roads safe

Mount Shasta public works director Rod Bryan said all of the city’s nine full time public works employees, plus some extra helpers worked hard during the storm, plowing snow to clear roads and keep town safe.

He reminded motorists to not park their cars on the streets while snow removal operations are taking place.

“Things are getting pretty tight out there,” Bryan said Friday morning as the snow kept falling. “There’s a lot of snow, and it’s hard enough to move it without having to go around cars.”

Bryan added that as the snow slowed down, they could begin removing large berms that accumulate in the center of the roads.

Generally these berms are removed at night, Bryan said. The extra snow is loaded into dump trucks and brought to the Roseburg Property at the south end of town, where they are left to melt.

California Highway Patrol sergeant Adam Battle said this weekend was a busy one.

“We assisted numerous motorists who were slipping and sliding on the snow and helped out with snow chains,” he said.

The Mount Shasta CHP office took six collision reports over the weekend – two with moderate injuries and four non-injuries, Battle added.

Where the shovel meets the roof. Tim Warden wasn't going to let his roof cave in on him during the wild March, 2011 snowstorms. "I can't let the snow build up any longer; it's already half as tall as I am. Time to start digging!"