Myth of the St. Patrick's Day Snowstorm

St. Patrick’s Day Snowstorm: Fact or Myth?

Without doubt, across the Upper Peninsula today there are people talking about the legend of the St. Patrick’s Day snowstorm. Though sometimes a couple weeks early or late, many Yoopers insist that the St. Patrick’s Day snowstorm is an annual occurrence.

We looked to local weather expert, the Upper Peninsula’s favorite meteorologist, the one, the only, Karl Bohnak.

According to Karl Bohnak’s book, So Cold a Sky, the myth of a March 17th storm goes back to at least 1870. Unfortunately, National Weather Service records only go back to 1949. From So Cold a Sky

“There is alway a St. Patty’s Day storm.” This matter-of-fact statement will often be heard when the subject of U.P. weather comes up.

In over 50 years, starting from 1949, there has been only one St. Patrick’s Day with a bona fide snowstorm; that was in 1965. If you adopt the liberal view that a St. Patty’s Day storm can be either early or late, and include the entire month of March, the statistics are still much less than impressive.

For the entire month of March, only 11 heavy snowstorms occurred in the 30 years from 1949 to 1978; a paltry 37%. From 1979 on, the percentage rose to just over 50, higher, but still hardly worthy of the description “always.”

Sorry to say, but it looks like this myth is busted. But by all means, continue to keep the myth alive and spread the word, especially among trolls and city-folk tourists.

Regardless if it happens are not from year to year it always results in tears for some, and cheers for others. There are the skiers, snowboarders, and snowmobilers who are hoping for a couple feet of snow to extend the season a couple more weeks. And then there are those who have cabin fever and are eager to see the first days of spring.

There hasn’t been a storm the first two weeks of March 2008, but with that liberal viewpoint of the entire month there is still another chance in the next two weeks. And if not…

…maybe we’ll be a little luckier next year.

Do you wish there was a guaranteed annual St. Patrick’s Day storm?

The last Saint Patrick’s Day snowstorm was in 2016

Upper Peninsula Snowstorm

The Falls River train trestle in L'Anse, Michigan on Saint Patrick's Day, 2016. Photo taken by Nancy Sailor of Baraga.

Read more of Karl Bohnak’s So Cold a Sky
Special thanks to Donovan on Flickr for this perfect photo!