Historic blizzard pounds NYC

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:51 PM GMT on February 12, 2006

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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.!

Jeff Masters

"Blizzard of '06" (funkywombat)
Snow piled up in a hurry overnight in west central New Jersey with up to 18 inches reported. This picture was taken through my open kitchen window looking towards the back yard; Hunterdon County, NJ.
Here Birdie, Birdie, Birdie! (leiphasw)
5:30 AM and still snowing. I think the 7 - 12 inch estimate was a bit conservative. This was a 2 second exposure with the side deck lights on.
Here Birdie, Birdie, Birdie!
Now for the Fun Part (goldie)
time to dig out and play!!!
Now for the Fun Part

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123. TampaSteve
7:44 PM GMT on February 13, 2006
And the LORD spake unto cyclonebuster, "Buildest thou the great tunnels in the oceans, and thou shalt have long life and shall multiply your number. So let it be written...so let it be done!"
122. Fshhead
9:20 AM GMT on February 13, 2006
Sorry for your loss....................

cherish every moment the good lord has given me thus far.
Member Since: November 19, 2005 Posts: 9 Comments: 9960
120. HurricaneMyles
5:41 AM GMT on February 13, 2006
Not to be offensive, but you dont portray yourself as a blackhole of knowledge. But like I was saying, unless you bring some substantial proof, like completed formulas something like that, you're probably not going to convince many people. Since you apparently need help doing this, stop trying to convince us and look for them. You just cant do it by going around saying it will do this or that, expecially saying it will stop global warming. Indirectly help lower greenhouse gasses yes; HELP stop the proposed human induced global warming, yes; but when you say "it will stop global warming" you look like a crackpot since you dont elaborate at all. Again, not trying to be offensive, simply giving the point of view of the rest of the world.
Member Since: January 12, 2006 Posts: 5 Comments: 827
118. HurricaneMyles
5:20 AM GMT on February 13, 2006
The problem is the way you are going about it, cyclone. You say and act like these things already work and that they will end all bad things. If you want to the get support you want you have to present your idea in a different way. You cant present new and unual ideas as if is some sure thing. Then when people present real evidence to the contrary shrug it off, while showing hardly any proof to back yourself up.

It obvious no one can, or will help you right now on this board. It would be polite, and appropriate, to chime in now and then with something like "still looking for people to help me with my tunnel idea to weaken hurricanes. e-mail me to..." you get it. Instead you say that "my tunnels with stop hurricanes and tonrnadoes, increase rain but stop flooding rain, and stop global warming." Thats where you lose people. You dont add an "I think" or "they might" or something like that, or else you lose people right there.

You will get much easier acceptance and more constructive conversation if you come into it with a little more humility. Dont say you're sure they will work, as that doesnt convince anyone else since it's obvious you're no Met or Physics major. Say you have a great idea and need help proving it will work. I'm sure someone will contact you if they really believe in the idea and want to help.
Member Since: January 12, 2006 Posts: 5 Comments: 827
116. haydn
5:08 AM GMT on February 13, 2006

I posted before I read your last comment. I have some questions. I'll catch up later.
115. Skyepony (Mod)
5:05 AM GMT on February 13, 2006
Now the last 1/2 of my last message is stuck in Dr Master's Blog...lol
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 322 Comments: 41726
114. haydn
5:04 AM GMT on February 13, 2006
One last comment,

The only tunnels I've built have been snow tunnels. That was in '78 in KY. Rough year for snow. Not enough snow here in SC to do the same thing. I can't imagine 26 inches in one storm. Heat up the hot chocolate and enjoy. Tonight the temp is suposed to be around 22. brrrrr Yes, I'm a wimp at cold temps. I am going to finish off my glass of green tea and be back tomorrow.

Anyone interested in discussing dome houses and hurricanes?

112. Skyepony (Mod)
4:49 AM GMT on February 13, 2006
Wow, Hayden~ Just a moment ago from "no more hurricanes" down was up there in Master's blog under the pick(highlighted in the link to the snow picture's blog). I thought buster had a reply. Totally agree, work on proving it.

Buster ya did nothing with all the different sst, currents & salinity info at the different depths. Looking at that seemed to disqualify some of the locations do to tunnel length to find cool water. & the different current rates from top to bottom? the affect?
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 322 Comments: 41726
111. haydn
4:45 AM GMT on February 13, 2006
Why the idea for tunnels? Are you in an area that is near the coast? Have gone through a hurricane?
109. haydn
4:33 AM GMT on February 13, 2006
On a funny note

I'm going to build a tunnel to the arctic and be completely evil. I'm going to destroy the Gulf stream so that no hurricanes will ever reach the caost. It will be renamed the Cold Stream. I will be called the master of the storm. I repeat "No more hurricanes."


We can talk about tunnels till the atomic clock at Denver stops and nothing is accomplished. Cyclonebuster, have you thought about experiments of your hypothesis? I know I'm being funny on purpose. I'm trying to make a point. Please experiment. All jokes aside, until disproven your idea is possible. We on this board would like to see some experimentation to back or disprove your hypothesis. I am not trying be offensive with these statements. I am curious to see if the idea works. Interloper conducted one. I do not consider one experiment disproving your hypothesis to be conclusive. Will you consider doing some experimemts and reporting your results?
108. louastu
4:30 AM GMT on February 13, 2006
It would still take several weeks for water temperature to return to normal, followed by several more weeks of waiting for eggs to hatch, followed by several more weeks of growing, followed by several more weeks of gradual cooling so you don't stun and kill the fish. My best estimate for total time needed would be about 2 months, in which time there could easily be a hurricane, or some other severe storm event.
107. HurricaneMyles
4:15 AM GMT on February 13, 2006
It's possible Snowman. We could have winters that are 100% mild like parts of this winter. Who knows what the true effects of global warming will be. I can say they will differ all across the world. We have had no ice caps before, and we wont have them at all some time in the future; that's about the truest statement anyone has said.
Member Since: January 12, 2006 Posts: 5 Comments: 827
106. TheSnowman
4:09 AM GMT on February 13, 2006
that's what I'm all about really Global Warming Effecting and Increasing Snowfalla nd Snowstorms in NE
103. louastu
3:59 AM GMT on February 13, 2006
You forgot to take into account the species that will not breed without a certain water temperature. Without baby fish, the species in time becomes extinct.
102. HurricaneMyles
3:55 AM GMT on February 13, 2006
Well atleast you didnt say yes, I was expecting you to. But I would say wind shear is just as, if not more, important then SST, at least during the height of the season. You can have 100 degree water everywhere, but if wind shear is too high you wont see any hurricanes.
Member Since: January 12, 2006 Posts: 5 Comments: 827
100. HurricaneMyles
3:49 AM GMT on February 13, 2006
Right and SST's were the only factor in Katrina, Rita, and Wilma.
Member Since: January 12, 2006 Posts: 5 Comments: 827
97. HurricaneMyles
3:40 AM GMT on February 13, 2006
I just want to add one thing, but SSTs near New England are actally LOWER then normal. Just wanted to throw that out and see what cyclone thought. Only the gulf stream shows and hint of warmer then usual water, and that's a couple of hundred miles away. The labrodor current is in full effect near New England, keeping SSTs abonormally low.

Today's snow storm didnt have much to do with SST. In fact I heard from a few sources that the reason they thought this storm wouldnt be so bad is that SST were lower then normal which would make snow harder to form. That one heavy band of snow kinda through estimations for a loop. Without the heavy snowband I figure this is just a regular old Nor'Easter
Member Since: January 12, 2006 Posts: 5 Comments: 827
95. louastu
3:34 AM GMT on February 13, 2006
Cyclonebuster, regardless of whether or not your tunnels would stop storms, it is a proven fact that it would kill off millions of fish and other sea creatures (for proof setup an aquarium and mix in cold water). I don't know about you but i really enjoy seafood.
94. RL3AO
3:31 AM GMT on February 13, 2006
we all knell to cyclones tunnels!

91. TomP
2:52 AM GMT on February 13, 2006
DenverMark: That narrow band of heavy precipitation was constantly moving and wasn't over NYC much longer than it was over anywhere else. It crossed our house (near Newark) a few hours before it hit NYC.
Member Since: February 16, 2004 Posts: 0 Comments: 0
90. Skyepony (Mod)
2:23 AM GMT on February 13, 2006
mail for you Colby
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 322 Comments: 41726
89. Inyo
2:15 AM GMT on February 13, 2006
i still say taking 'affect on major cities' into account for the ranking is dumb.
Member Since: September 3, 2002 Posts: 42 Comments: 916
88. CrazyC83
2:09 AM GMT on February 13, 2006
I believe that central pressure should also be considered as part of the NESIS equation (given about 25% weight). Basically, I would do it as follows:

Cat 1 - 990+ mb, Cat 2 - 980-989, Cat 3 - 970-979, Cat 4 - 960-969, Cat 5 - <960.
Member Since: September 19, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 142
87. theboldman
2:07 AM GMT on February 13, 2006
Member Since: September 8, 2005 Posts: 25 Comments: 2
86. Inyo
1:25 AM GMT on February 13, 2006
Snow measurements definitely vary based on how the measurements are taken... out here there is a lot of confusion based on ski reports because some of the resorts used to report the amount of snow as how much had fallen, not how much was present.. and of course, snow gets squished or melts. so Kirkwood used to get ridiculous 'base' amounts of 300+ inches... they do get a TON of snow but it tends to be wet and compact.
Member Since: September 3, 2002 Posts: 42 Comments: 916
84. DenverMark
12:19 AM GMT on February 13, 2006
Snow measurement sure has varied over the years and from one place to another. But it sounds like the total in Central Park was measured accurately. Given the banded nature of the precipitation, it's not surprising that much more was measured in Central Park than some other nearby locations. So it goes into the books as New York City's greatest snowstorm ever, fair and square.
Member Since: February 11, 2006 Posts: 125 Comments: 6988
83. RL3AO
12:01 AM GMT on February 13, 2006
While the Fujita and Saffir-Simpson Scales characterize tornadoes and hurricanes respectively, there is no widely used scale to classify snowstorms. The Northeast Snowfall Impact Scale (NESIS) developed by Paul Kocin of The Weather Channel and Louis Uccellini of the National Weather Service (Kocin and Uccellini, 2004 ) characterizes and ranks high-impact Northeast snowstorms. These storms have large areas of 10 inch snowfall accumulations and greater. NESIS has five categories: Extreme, Crippling, Major, Significant, and Notable. The index differs from other meteorological indices in that it uses population information in addition to meteorological measurements. Thus NESIS gives an indication of a storm's societal impacts. This scale was developed because of the impact Northeast snowstorms can have on the rest of the country in terms of transportation and economic impact.

NESIS scores are a function of the area affected by the snowstorm, the amount of snow, and the number of people living in the path of the storm. The diagram below illustrates how NESIS values are calculated within a geographical information system (GIS). The aerial distribution of snowfall and population information are combined in an equation that calculates a NESIS score which varies from around one for smaller storms to over ten for extreme storms. The raw score is then converted into one of the five NESIS categories. The largest NESIS values result from storms producing heavy snowfall over large areas that include major metropolitan centers.

Explanation of the NESIS system
80. hurricanechaser
11:28 PM GMT on February 12, 2006
Hey everyone,

I thought I would give one last quick update for the night regarding the historical significance of this storm as to how it ranks on the new winter storm scale just released to the public the past couple of weeks.

Based upon the five specific parameters used to categorize these storms, this history making and record setting event appears to be a category three storm event on the scale that goes from 1 to 5. Interestingly, the lowest ranking on the scale of one is still considered a notable event. As is the case with the hurricane scale, a category three storm qualifies it as a "major" storm as well.

This storm has brought snowfall over a very large area across the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern states affecting tens of millions of people. The vast majority of this large region received snowfall totals ranging from 6 to 15 inches. However, a smaller area including the major cities of New York and Boston for example saw snowfall totals in the 20-28 inch range.

As a result, the large spacual covrage of the more moderate snowfall combined with the very heavy snowfall in the large metro cities alluded to above, qualify this storm as most likely a category 3 storm. It is posssible that it could be classified as a category four once all the data is compiled, but category 3 is most likely.

It is important to note that category 3 is a very significant classification on this new scale and it would be ranked much higher on the scale had it affected a larger area with snowfall totals in the 15-20 range.

On the other hand, this classification is all relative to the areas most heavily impacted and with that in mind, it is the greatest snowstorm in recorded history for New York City and for that one location it most certainly achieves a category five distiction.:)

I hope everyone has a great night and stays warm and safe.:)

Your friend,
77. turtlehurricane
11:07 PM GMT on February 12, 2006
i have updated my blog
Member Since: July 22, 2005 Posts: 227 Comments: 469
76. KatrinaRitaWilmaZeta
10:53 PM GMT on February 12, 2006
are we now at cat 5 for the snow storm?
75. DenverMark
10:45 PM GMT on February 12, 2006
St.Simons - I find that interesting, too. The NWS measures snowfall more frequently than cooperative observers do, I think it's once every six hours as compared to once or twice a day for many co-op observers. This would result in higher reported totals at NWS sites due to less settling between observations, as compared with the co-op sites. In the past (such as 1888 or 1947) snowfall was measured less frequently, maybe only once a day. This points up another problem with our data and comparability with past storms. Also, when ASOS was commisioned at the first-order stations in the mid-90s, the NWS didn't even measure snow at some locations for several years before adding human observers to measure snow again (this happened at some stations here in the West more than in the East). So NYC has a new "official" record, but did they really have more snow than in 1947? Food for thought.
Member Since: February 11, 2006 Posts: 125 Comments: 6988
73. RL3AO
10:33 PM GMT on February 12, 2006

26.9 inches in Central Park!!!!

26.9 Inches in NYC

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Dr. Masters co-founded wunderground in 1995. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990. Co-blogging with him: Bob Henson, @bhensonweather

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