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The Ides of March are behind us – it’s St. Patrick’s Day and spring is less than 72 hours away.
I’m happy to announce that we are about to experience the earliest spring ever. Sadly, I’m not referring to the weather, rather to the start of the season. This year, the vernal or March Equinox occurs at 12:50 a.m. (1:20 a.m. NDT) on Friday, March 20.
As for spring weather, we know that can be quite a drawn-out affair across Atlantic Canada. Mother Nature doesn’t often turn off the snow guns in March.
We’ve come to expect at least one significant snowfall after St Patrick’s Day. It presents itself with such regularity that it’s been given a name – Sheila’s Brush. According to Newfoundland weather legend, a fierce wind and snow storm that strikes on or after St. Patrick’s Day is known as Sheila’s Brush and usually considered the last of winter.
Sheila is related to Patrick in some way. Depending on the version of the legend, she might be his wife, or sister, or mother, or mistress, or housekeeper. It’s believed the snow that comes on or around March 17 is whipped up by Sheila’s broom – as she brushes away the old season.
There have been many brushes over the years, but one storm sure did prove the truth of this legend. On St. Patrick’s Day in 2008, the second of two powerful back-to-back storms roared across Newfoundland. Schools and businesses were shut down. In St. John's, even public transit was pulled off the road. Roads were completely blocked by snow. Gander got 120 cm of snow – about a quarter of its average annual snowfall – in about a week.
A more recent brush came in 2015. Many of us recall that snow season, but the Maritimes got quite a wallop on St. Patrick’s Day. Snow started to fall on the 17th and continued into the 18th. Halifax ended up with 54 cm of new snow; 35 cm fell in parts of the Annapolis Valley, 30 cm in Sydney, 26 in Charlottetown and 15 in Moncton.
A weak disturbance will race across the region tonight and tomorrow but with little consequence. A developing area of low pressure taking shape over Texas is worth watching; Sheila could be headed this way on Friday!
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Cindy Day is the chief meteorologist for SaltWire Network