Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.
By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:51 PM GMT on February 12, 2006
The blizzard of 2006 has dropped the most snow ever on New York City, a record 26.9 inches as of 4:10 pm at Central Park. The previous biggest snowstorm of all time was 26.4", set Dec 26-27 1947. What appeared to be a rather ordinary Nor'easter on the computer model forecasts yesterday--one that I thought would turn out to be a Category 2 snowstorm on the newly-launched NESIS storm scale for Northeast U.S. snowstorms--has intensified dramatically this morning, and will probably end up ranked as a Category 4 storm on the NESIS scale. As of 7am, Central Park recorded 12 inches of new snow--before an intense mesoscale band of snow with snowfall rates of 2 to 4 inches per hour swept through the city, bringing visibility to zero at LaGuardia Airport. Eleven inches of snow fell in three hours at Central Park between 7am and 10am. This intense band of snow, called a "snowburst", is a result of very unstable air that has organized into thunderstorms. Reports of lightning and thunder have been common today all across the Northeast in association with these snowbursts. Check out this 3-hour radar animation from the New York City radar this morning. You can see a narrow band of extremely heavy snow that stretches from northern New Jersey through New York City and northeastward to Hartford Connecticut. This band has echo intensities of 40 dBZ, which are commmon in warm-season thunderstorms, but seldom observed in winter storms. This narrow band of snow is gradually progressing eastward, and will bring exceptionally heavy snows to Long Island, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts today. Snow amounts of 16-24 inches will be common across New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Eastern Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Rhode Island today.
Over in Massachusetts, the Blizzard of 2006 is expected to cause moderate flooding problems, but nowhere near the scale of the famous Blizzard of 1978. While the blizzard of 2006 is a prodigious snow-producer, its central pressure is not as low as the Blizzard of 1978, and thus its winds are much weaker. The Blizzard of 1978 had sustained winds of 65 mph, while the Blizzard of 2006 can only boast sustained 45 mph winds. The combination of storm tides of 12 feet at Boston Harbor combined with seas between 16 and 22 feet at the time of high tide may produce some structural damage to roads, sea walls, and vulnerable coastal structures around the time of high tide late this morning and early afternoon along the Massachusetts coast.
Down in Florida, the Arctic air mass associated with the Blizzard of 2006 has pushed a strong cold front through the state, bringing the threat of a hard freeze to Florida's citrus groves tonight. Snow flurries are not out of the question in northern Florida tonight and early Monday morning as a weak upper-level disturbance moves through the area. After a long holiday in January, winter has stormed back with a vengance across the eastern half of the U.S.!
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