The memorable winter of 2014 continues over the Eastern U.S., where an intensifying Winter Storm Pax has dumped up to a foot and a half of snow. Snowfall rates of 3" per hour have been observed in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and New York this morning. A band of super-heavy snow set up over northern New Jersey, with some reports of 3 - 4" of snow falling in just 30 minutes. As of 9 am EST, over a foot of snow (12.3") was observed at the Baltimore Airport, 7" at New York City's Central Park, and 11" in Washington D.C. at American University. The 8.8" of snow so far today in Philadelphia makes the winter of 2013 - 2014 the 5th snowiest on record there, and the first time since record keeping began in 1884 that Philadelphia has had four separate six inch or greater snowstorms in a winter. From the 10 am EST Thursday NWS storm report, here are the top snowfall totals from Pax:
West Virginia, 19", Cherry Grove
Virginia: 18", Winchester
Maryland: 18", Frewerick, Damascus, Glyndon
North Carolina: 15", Saluda
Delaware: 13.4", Newark
New Jersey, 11.8", Pittsgrove Twp
Alabama: 10", Cullman, Hunstville
Georgia: 9.8", Summerville
New York, 9.8", Commack
South Carolina: 8", Heath Springs
Kentucky: 7", Harlan, Lunch
Tennessee: 6", Erwin
Figure 1. Satellite image of Winter Storm Pax at 9:45 am EST Thursday, February 13, 2014. Image credit: NASA GSFC.
Thirteen Deaths, 700,000 Without Power
At least thirteen deaths are being blamed on the storm, including car crashes on icy roads that killed seven people in Texas on Monday and Tuesday. As of 10 am EST on Thursday, approximately 700,000 customers were without power, with 470,000 of these in Georgia and South Carolina. Freezing rain amounts up to 1/2" were common there, and the ice storm was the worst to affect Georgia since 2000, when a January ice storm knocked out power to approximately 500,000 customers. However, only a few locations in the Southeast recorded 0.75 - 1.0" of ice, and the catastrophic ice storm that was feared did not materialize. The worst ice conditions from the storm generally rated a "3" on a scale of 1 to 5 of the Sperry-Piltz Ice Accumulation Index. The impacts expected from a level 3 ice storm: "Numerous utility interruptions with some damage to main feeder lines and equipment expected. Tree limb damage is excessive. Outages lasting 1 - 5 days."
Figure 2. The Sperry-Piltz Ice Accumulation Index. Image credit: Sidney K. Sperry, spia-index.com
Too Warm in Sochi
Thursday was another warm, sunny day in Sochi, Russia, home of this year's Winter Olympics. The temperature rose to 62°--an unseasonably warm day for February. The unusual warmth caused numerous problems for skiers and snowboarders, and we can expect continued issues with excessive warmth as high temperatures rise into the low 60s again on Friday and Saturday. Beginning on Sunday, temperatures will cool down to more seasonable levels, with highs in the low 50s. Temperatures in the mountains above Sochi are typically 10 - 20 degrees colder than what are observed in the city. The New York Times has an interesting editorial, The End of Snow?, describing how a warming climate will make it increasingly difficult to hold Winter Olympics games.
Video 1. I appeared on Democracy Now this morning to put this winter's extreme weather into context.
Figure 3. Screen shot of the new hazard reporting feature of the wunderground iPhone and Android app.
New Wunderground Hazard Reporting Feature launched today
Wunderground users, we have a request: if you spot hazardous weather or road conditions in your locale, share them with other members of the wunderground community, using the wunderground iPhone or Android app. Users will have the option to submit hazards that include: flooding, power outages, road debris and high surf, as well as, winter weather conditions such as slippery roads, white outs, and street plowing. In addition to submitting hazard reports within the app, users can also share current severe weather alerts or screenshots of selected hazards with friends and family via SMS text, email, Facebook or Twitter. Previously submitted sky and hazard reports can be easily accessed as a layer within the app’s interactive weather map, known as WunderMap®. As hazardous conditions can only be reported for one’s current location, app users can be sure they are viewing weather information within their immediate proximity. The new hazard-reporting feature comes in response to the success of our initial crowd-reporting feature launched in December of 2013, which allows users to verify observed sky conditions. Over one million sky conditions reports were submitted in two months.