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Looking Back At The 'Truly Unfathomable' 1997 April Fools' Blizzard

BOSTON (CBS) -- April. . . we've made it! Well, not always. This time of year the flowers are blooming, trees waking up, and sausages are being grilled on Lansdowne Street. But it doesn't mean winter can't still come calling. In 1997 it didn't just ring the doorbell. It barged through the front door with a plow.

It wouldn't have been on the minds of many walking around in late March. From the 26th through the 30th, highs were in the 50s and 60s. On the 31st, some dramatic changes got underway. A cold front ushered in colder air, dropping the region out of the 50s and into the 40s with a cold rain falling. By the afternoon, the raindrops flipped to snowflakes across the interior. And by dinnertime, an inch was on the ground in Boston. For dessert, nature really started to cook up something special.

april fools snow 1997
BOSTON - APRIL 1: A Spring Blizzard rolled into the New England Area, hitting Boston hard with over a foot of snow in most areas. Brian D. Tierney attempting to dig a pathway near the corner of Claredon and Appleton st. in the South End. Brian, made the "Think Spring" sign and placed it in the snow earlier today. (Photo by Dominic Chavez/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Calendars turned from March to April and the snow started stacking up in earnest. Transformers arced, trees snapped, and snowfall rates peaked at 3"/hour as a nor'easter pummeled the region with snow and howling winds. Between just 11 p.m. and 3 a.m., a foot of snow added up in Boston. And by dawn, a truly unfathomable sight greeted New Englanders. Two to three feet of snow had laid waste to trees and power lines, blanketing towns in a thick blanket of heavy wet snow.

The storm total at Logan Airport was 25.4", making the April Fools' Blizzard not just one of the biggest snowstorms the city has ever recorded, but breaking the 24-hour snowfall record which still stands today. In Worcester, it was the largest snowstorm on record at 34.5", until a 2015 storm came along to top it. And the jackpot town in Massachusetts ended up being Milford with a full 3-feet measured. Burrillville, RI came in at 31" and Jaffrey, NH at 27".

april fools totals
(WBZ-TV graphic)

More than just a final farewell from winter, this blizzard would have been memorable in January or February. Winds gusted over 70 mph at the coast, and were strong enough to snap the royal mast of the U.S.S. Constitution in Boston Harbor. Power outages topped 700,000 across the Northeast as the pasty snow damaged numerous lines. Thousands of travelers ended up stranded at the airport, waiting for runways to be cleared.

Not just snow, but the sheer amount of liquid the storm was able to dump on the area was incredible. Hull notched a storm total of 5.32" of liquid equivalent with most towns getting 3-4". A full month's worth of rain and snow in a day.

At the end of the day, it was still April. And so cleanup was quick. Highs were back into the 50s and 60s for the next several days and reached the 70s by April 7th, effectively cleaning up after itself in under a week. Though DPW crews often keep the blades on the plows and homeowners gas in their snowblowers until deep into April now, thanks to this memorable storm.

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