Memorable Blizzards - Are We Overdue?

By: By Joseph D’Aleo, CCM, AMS Fellow on Intellicast (from
By: By Joseph D’Aleo, CCM, AMS Fellow on Intellicast (from


It was an El Nino year that had delivered lots of snow for New England but was rather mild and lackluster in many areas. Then came this mid-March blockbuster that was well predicted by the computer models days in advance and was being hyped in the media as a storm likely to be historic. Unlike many other storms, this storm lived up to the hype. With a level of confidence they had never experienced, forecasters began using terms like “of historic proportions” to describe the impending storm. In turn, this allowed, for the first time, officials such as the governors of New York and the New England states to declare states of emergency prior to the first snow flake falling on their states and take actions to mitigate potential disaster.

The storm became one of the most intense nor’easters to ever strike the Eastern United States. Record low pressures, wind speeds, low temperatures and mountainous snowfall amounts were more than enough for this storm to gain the status of “Storm of the Century” early in its existence. Indeed, this storm was monumental, killing over 250 people and cancelling 25% of the United States’ flights for two days.


The winter of 1995/96 was a record breaker for many of the big cities of the east and central United States. A very weak La Nina winter with very strong repetitive Atlantic blocking situation produced a continuous series of moderate snowstorms and one blockbuster storm called the Blizzard of 96. The Blizzard of 1996 was incredibly massive and truly historic in its scope. All-time snowfall records were widespread, including 24.9 inches in Roanoke, Virginia; 30.7 inches in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; 27.8 in Newark, New Jersey; and 14.4 inches as far away as Cincinnati, Ohio. Every city along the northeast megalopolis, from Washington to Boston, received between 17 to 30 inches of snow. While other storms have been bigger in any given city, it appears that there has never been a greater snowfall event for such a large, highly populated area of the Eastern U.S..

The storms came at a steady stream from November to May. By the time, it had warmed enough to produce mainly rain, all-time seasonal snow records were set in many locations. By the end of the 1995-1996 winter season, New York City had experienced 16 snowstorms and recorded more than 75 inches of snow. In many cases, seasonal snowfall exceeded 250 or even 300% of the normal. Read much more on these two storms and the record setting winter of 1995/96 here. The two premier storms affecting the northeast ranked number 1 and 2 on the Northeast Storm Impact list compiled by Paul Kocin and Lou Uccellini in their AMS monograph on Northeast Snowstorms.

A week from Monday(November 10), we will post a story on two major storms in what was an all-time record snow year in 2007/08 in other spots.

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