Snow measured in feet, not inches: historic Nor'easter pounds New England

By Dr. Jeff Masters
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Published: 4:50 PM GMT on February 09, 2013

A historic Nor'easter roared through New England overnight, bringing snowfall measured in feet, not inches, hurricane-force wind gusts, and serious coastal flooding. The snow was heaviest in coastal Connecticut, where snowfall rates of 6"/hours were recorded, and an astonishing 40" piled up in Hamden. An all-time snowfall record was set in Portland, Maine, where 31.9" fell, and numerous cities in the Northeast recorded top-ten snowfall amounts, including Hartford, CT (2nd all-time with 22.3"); Worchester, MA (3rd all-time, with 28"); Providence, RI (8th all-time, with 17"); Concord, NH (2nd all time, with 24"), and Boston, MA (6th all-time, with 21.8.") NOAA's latest Storm Summary has a full list of snowfall amounts.

Here are the seven snowstorms of greater than 20" since 1936 for Logan Airport (figures from today's storm are not final yet):

1. February 17-18, 2003 27.5"
2. February 6-7, 1978 27.1"
3. February 24-27, 1969 26.3"
4. March 31-April 1, 1997 25.4"
5. January 22-23, 2005 22.5"
6. February 8-9, 2013 21.8"
7. January 20-21, 1978 21.4"


Figure 1. Not driving anywhere today! Snow buries cars in New Haven, CT at the Premier Hotel & Suites on Long Wharf on February 9, 2013. Image credit: wunderphotographer phototex.

The great storm, dubbed "Nemo", bombed out to a central pressure of 971 mb at 7 am EST Saturday, February 9. This is the type of central pressure one sees in Category 1 hurricanes, and Nemo generated numerous hurricane-force wind gusts along the coast, including a 76 mph gust at Boston's Logan Airport. Significant wave heights of 30' were measured in Massachusetts Bay, and 35.4'at the Cape Ann Buoy 44098, off the east coast of Massachusetts. Here are the hurricane-force wind gusts (in mph) measured so far in Nemo:

Connecticut:
WESTPORT 82
PORTLAND 81

Massachusetts:
CUTTYHUNK 83
HYANNIS 77
BOSTON LOGAN AIRPORT 76
BEDFORD 75
BUZZARDS BAY 74
MARSTONS MILL 74

New Hampshire:
MOUNT WASHINGTON 81

Maine:
BROOKLIN 75

New York:
PLUM ISLAND 75


Figure 2. Satellite image of Winter Storm Nemo taken at 4:31 pm EST Friday, February 8, 2013. Image credit: NASA/GSFC.

Serious coastal flooding hits Massachusetts
The high winds from the storm drove a damaging storm surge into the coast of Eastern Massachusetts Friday night and Saturday morning. Hardest hit was the coast of Cape Cod Bay southeast of Boston, where major flooding forced residents of low-lying areas to evacuate. A storm surge in excess of four feet inundated roads, damaged coastal buildings, and caused severe beach erosion. Officially, the surge peaked at 4.21' in Boston early Saturday morning. Unofficially, this is fourth greatest storm surge measured in Boston since record keeping began in 1921. Fortunately, the surge hit as low tide was approaching, and the "storm tide"--how how the water gets above the high tide mark, due to the combination of the storm surge and the tide--only reached 2.86' above high tide (MHHW, Mean Higher High Water) in Boston. Nemo's storm tide did not make the top-ten list of high water levels in Boston.

Top unofficial top-five storm surge (not storm tide) events in Boston's history, given as height above normal tide:

4.88' on October 30, 1991 during the "Perfect Storm" Halloween Nor'easter
4.57' on October 29, 2012 during Hurricane Sandy
4.34' on February 6, 1978, during the Blizzard of 1978
4.21' on February 9, 2013, during Winter Storm Nemo
3.69' on February 14, 1940, during the Valentine's Day Nor'easter of 1940

The 1938 hurricane and March 18, 1956 Nor'easter had storm surges less than two feet at Boston. The Christmas Night Storm of 1909 caused severe coastal flooding, but tide gauge records in Boston don't begin until 1921.

The official top ten storm tides since 1921 at the Boston tide gauge, relative to MHHW, are:

1. 4.82' - February 7, 1978 (Blizzard of 1978)
2. 3.92' - January 2, 1987
3. 3.86' - October 30, 1991 (Perfect Storm)
4. 3.76' - January 28, 1979
5. 3.75' - December 12, 1992

Links:
NASA has a nice satellite animation of the storm, spanning a day.

Our news page:
http://www.wunderground.com/news/

Our winter Storm page:
http://www.wunderground.com/winter-storm/nemo-2013.asp

A few impressive 24-hour videos from wunderground webcams:

Bellingham, MA:
http://www.wunderground.com/webcams/steved281/1/video.html?month=02&year=2013&filename=current.mp4

Woonsocket, RI
http://www.wunderground.com/webcams/Traj/1/video.html?month=02&year=2013&filename=current.mp4

Hartford, CT
http://www.wunderground.com/webcams/N1PSJ/1/video.html?month=02&year=2013&filename=current.mp4

Lexington, MA
http://www.wunderground.com/webcams/zach34298/1/video.html?month=02&year=2013&filename=current.mp4

Jeff Masters

Storm Nemo (FreelanceCT)
Cars buried in snow. Snow Sculpture!
Storm Nemo, by FreelanceCT
We Found Nemo! (ceocrocker)
Although the storm is far from over, it is time for the first session of snowblowing the driveway. Upon opening the garage door, we found Nemo waiting for us!
We Found Nemo!, by ceocrocker
Blizzard Nemo (stoneygirl)
Heavy snow here in Massachusetts. Crazy winds that are howling like a hurricane. Heading for 2 feet of snow as we speak. Totally wild here.
Blizzard Nemo, by stoneygirl
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About The Author
Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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Snow measured in feet, not inches: historic Nor'easter pounds New England

A historic Nor'easter roared through New England overnight, bringing snowfall measured in feet, not inches, hurricane-force wind gusts, and serious coastal flooding. The snow was heaviest in coastal Connecticut, where snowfall rates of 6"/hours were recorded, and an astonishing 40" piled up in Hamden. An all-time snowfall record was set in Portland, Maine, where 31.9" fell, and numerous cities in the Northeast recorded top-ten snowfall amounts, including Hartford, C...

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