COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Fall officially arrives on Sept. 22 at 9:03 p.m. EDT. This is the time of year we start thinking about the upcoming fall foliage season, and planning trips to the pumpkin patch or apple farm.
Surprisingly, the trajectory from early fall to our first snowfall often comes faster on the calendar than we might think. The average date of the first freeze in central Ohio is Oct. 27 in Columbus, and 7-10 days earlier in the colder outlying areas.
Average first snowfall
In the past decade, the Columbus area saw its initial snowflakes on average Nov. 7. A year ago, the earliest snow flurries arrived on Nov. 13, 2021, and left a coating (0.4 inch) the following morning.
The first dusting of snow in Columbus typically occurs around Thanksgiving (Nov. 28), with an inch or more centered around Dec. 7.
These dates are strictly averages, of course, and exhibit a wide range. The earliest snowflakes in recent decades flew on Oct. 4, 2014, but did not show up until Dec. 18 in 1996.
The first 1-inch snowfall coated the ground as early as Oct. 22, 1925, and as late as Jan. 24, 1941 and 1991. Last winter that initial 1-inch accumulation did not come until Jan. 16.
Measurable snow (0.1 inch or greater) is reported on an average of 28 days, based on the the past 30 years (1991-2020) at John Glenn Columbus International Airport.
A typical Columbus winter brings a mean snowfall of 28.2 inches, with January (9.5 inches) and February (7.6 inches) the snowiest months.
Last winter delivered 14.5 inches last winter, about half of what fell in the winter of 2020-21 (27.8 inches). The winter of 2021-22 was very mild at the start; December (7.3 degrees above normal) brought a mere half-inch of snow. You may recall the warm Christmas Day (62 degrees), and a balmy, soggy New Year’s Day (59 degrees, with 1.34 inches of rain).
Winter kicked into gear in the second half of January 2022, which finished 4.3 degrees below normal, with a half foot of snow. A more substantial snow and ice storm hit the region on Feb. 3-4.
In recent years, the total snowfall ranged from a minimum of 9.3 inches in 2016-17 to a sizable 56.4 inches in the harsh winter of 2013-14.