Wisconsin State Climatology
The STATE TOURNAMENT MYTH
Edward J. Hopkins, PhD.
Center for Climatic Research and Wisconsin State
Originally prepared 13 March 2001
Updated 15 March 2006
A commonly held belief around many areas of the state is that a
major blizzard “always” strikes south central
A review of the weather records for Madison since 1950 was made, focusing on the run of five days that include the WIAA tournament, starting with Wednesday, the day before the start of the tourney when the teams arrive, through Sunday, the day after the final championship game when essentially all the out-of-town teams and fans have departed from Madison. The first games in the three-day tournament have been as early as the 14th of the March and as late as the 20th.
The month of March is one of significant contrasts in
During the last half-century, slightly less than one-third the game days had measurable snow (0.1 inches or greater). While most of the snow that fell were from nuisance storms, only four major snowstorms of 4 or more inches actually fell in Madison during the three days of the tournaments in 1970 (4.3 inches), 1971 (14.5 inches), 1992 (5.3 inches) and 2005 (9.3 inches). As mentioned above, another major storm had hit the capital city during the early morning hours of Wednesday, 17 March 1965, the day when the participating teams arrive, These storms developed over the Plains and brought significant moisture from the Gulf of Mexico. In addition, several other major snowstorms occurred on the previous weekend when sectional games were played in various locations throughout the state, such as in 1950 (6.3 inches), in 1959 (9.7 inches) and during the first part of tourney week in 1951 (5.8 inches). In 1956 and 1957 major snowstorms reached Madison later on Sunday and into Monday after the out of town fans left. The 1993 tourney was bracketed by a 6.8 inch snowstorm one week before and a 5.0 inch storm at the beginning of the next week.
Apparently, memories tend to focus upon those years with extraordinary events, such as times when fans were stranded in Madison or elsewhere because of inclement weather conditions, especially due to heavy snow. To place the three major tournament snowstorms in perspective, one needs to realize that March is a snowy month in Madison, behind December and January in average snow totals. Of the 28 major March snowstorms in Madison since 1950, 11 storms with 4 or more inches have occurred during the first seven days of the month. But on the other hand, the last 7 days of the month have had only two major snow storms.
Special thanks is made to Julie Kage (firstname.lastname@example.org) for supplying the dates of the WIAA tournament from 1950.
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