Rains in Philly set 2 records, and flood warnings remain in effect

Anthony R. Wood, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in Weather News

PHILADELPHIA — March days around here have been snowier, icier, colder, warmer and certainly more traumatic, but none has been as wet in Philadelphia as March 23, 2024.

By midafternoon, 3.09 inches of rain had been measured officially at Philadelphia International Airport, the highest total for a March day in 150 years of record keeping. It also was a daily record, the National Weather Service reported, by plenty.

Although the rains shut off earlier than had been predicted, the totals — generally 2 to 3.5 inches — came close to the forecasted amounts, and several flood warnings and advisories remained in effect, along with a wind advisory in effect until 8 a.m. Sunday for gusts to 50 mph.

Cold winds will be an unwelcome challenge for the estimated 12,000 people expected to participate in the half-marathon/7K Philadelphia Love Run, which gets underway at 7:30 a.m. Sunday And it won’t be pleasant for the spectators. Lingering gusts up to 30 mph are expected, with wind chills in the upper teens and low 20s.

However, the winds are “going to be a saving grace for areas north and west,” said Bill Deger, senior meteorologist with AccuWeather Inc. Temperatures out that way are forecast to drop below freezing early Sunday, but the winds are likely to dry out the streets before they can ice over, he said.

Also, he said, the region likely was catching a break with the fact that the trees haven’t yet leafed out, which would have made them more susceptible to wind damage and, thus, power outages.

“It tends to be more of an issue when there is more weight on the trees,” he said.

Downpours resulted in several road closings, but weren’t especially disruptive. The airport reported that 18 departing or arriving flights out of 700 had been canceled, said spokesperson Heather Redfern, or about 2.5%. SEPTA detoured some buses during the heaviest rains, said spokesperson Andrew Busch, but didn’t suspend any services.

The weather service said no major flooding had occurred or was expected.


Warnings for potential minor flooding included one for the Schuylkill at Norristown, which was forecast to crest just above flood stage early Sunday, and for the Rancocas Creek, in Burlington County. The Wissahickon and Pennypack Creeks in Philly sloshed over their banks, as did the Chester Creek, in Delaware County, and the Brandywine Creek, in Chester County.

The rain totals in Philly topped the old daily record for March rainfall, 2.79 inches, set back in 1912. It also was way over the old record for a March 23, 1.36 inches, set in 2015.

Deger said the storm, which tracked right along the coast, mined moisture from two familiar sources.

“It tapped into moisture from the Gulf of Mexico, and as it moved up the coast it took a little more from the Atlantic,” he said. Sea-surface temperatures in the North Atlantic have been running well above normal, increasing the available moisture supply.

At least the Love Run participants will have a sunny and dry race, but Deger says it’s likely to be tougher on the spectators than the runners. The winds will die down later on, and temperatures will top out at 50, a few degrees below normal.

Rain chances increase again Wednesday, and on Thursday: That’s when the Phillies are scheduled to host the Atlanta Braves in the season opener.


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