25 Years Later: A look back at the April Fools’ Day Blizzard of 1997

The storm dropped 20-30 inches of snow for locations away from the coast on April 1, 1997

By: Tim Studebaker

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) – The winter of 1996-1997 had been a relatively typical one in terms of winter weather.  That is, until April Fools’ Day came along, when the ingredients came together in just the right way to create a massive late season winter storm.

Bob Thompson was the Meteorologist in Charge at our local National Weather Service Office at the time.  Thompson says, “The Friday before, there really wasn’t much indication of the storm.  It became apparent in the computer models over the weekend.'”

The storm began as rain on the last day of March, but changed to heavy, wet snow later that night and continued into the first day of April.

Thompson says, “It was, as one might expect on April 1st, a somewhat wetter type of snow.  Consequently, we had a lot of snow loading on trees, branches, wires, and there was a considerable number of power outages.”

The snowfall totals would have been impressive for any winter storm, but were especially impressive that late in the season: 20 to 30 inches of snow fell for areas away from the coast, lower numbers near the water.

National Weather Service Meteorologist Joe DelliCarpini was finishing up his first winter at the Northeast River Forecast Center.

DelliCarpini says, “Keep in mind, when we get into the spring, we’re fighting a higher sun angle, we’re fighting a little bit more warmth.  It’s hard to get accumulating snow.  But, under the right conditions, such as what happened with the April Fools’ blizzard, you could certainly get that with heavy snow rates and most of it falling at night.”

In the days following the storm, the spring sunshine melted off the snow very quickly.  But to this day, the storm serves as a reminder that April might be a little too early to completely let our guard down.

DelliCarpini says, “You can’t really turn your back on Mother Nature until we get into May, in some cases, to say ‘All clear sign from winter weather.'”

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