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Blizzard of 2006: One for the record books

By: Dr. Jeff Masters, 2:48 PM GMT on February 13, 2006

The Blizzard of 2006 is over, but not before dumping an all-time record amount of snow on New York City, 26.9 inches. This bested the total from the infamous "Great White Hurricane" of 1888 (21 inches), and the previous all-time record, 26.4", set December 26-27, 1947. The 26.9 inches at Central Park was the most snow of any location in New York State. Hartford, CT also set its all-time record for snowfall, with 21.9 inches. The previous record was 21 inches on February 11-12, 1983. The western suburbs of Hartford received as much as 27 inches. Snowfall amounts as high as 21 inches were reported in Maryland, eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey, while Massachusetts saw up to 22 inches, New Hampshire, 17 inches, Rhode Island, 16 inches, and Maine, 13 inches. Boston received 17.5 inches and a 2.5 foot storm surge, which caused some minor flooding problems. The storm was Boston's 11th biggest snow on record.

What appeared to be a rather ordinary Nor'easter on the computer model forecasts Saturday, intensified dramatically on Sunday as the center moved out over the warm waters of the Gulf Stream. For reasons we don't understand very well, the blizzard formed an intense band of thunderstorms with snowfall rates of 2 to 4 inches per hour that swept across New York City and much of southern New England. Eleven inches of snow fell in three hours at Central Park between 7am and 10am on Sunday, the kind of "snowburst" one seldom sees except in lake-effect storms in the lee of the Great Lakes. New York City reported lightning and thunder for six hours during the height of the blizzard. Check out this 3-hour radar animation from the New York City radar Sunday 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 common in warm-season thunderstorms, but rarely observed in winter storms.

In Florida this morning, the cold air that pushed in behind the Blizzard of 2006 brought a hard freeze to most of the northern portion of the state, and freeze warnings are posted for as far south as Miami tonight. The Miami Herald reported that on Sunday over 50 people lined up outside the Burlington Coat Factory at a local mall, and thronged the cash registers 15 deep to purchase wool coats once the store opened. While winter will ease up in Florida later this week, the general winter pattern for the rest of February looks to be typical for February, with normal or below-normal temperatures for much of the U.S.

When is a blizzard like a hurricane?
The Blizzard of 2006 had a distinct eye-like feature when it moved offshore over the warm Gulf of Mexico waters and intensified Sunday. Was it exhibiting hurricane-like characteristics? I'll report tomorrow on a study I participated in back in 1987 when we flew our Hurricane Hunter airplanes through one of the strongest Nor'easters ever recorded, to help answer this question.

Jeff Masters
Dude, Where's My Car
Dude, Where's My Car
A man on 6th Avenue in NYC looks for car
Crystalline Entity
Crystalline Entity
This delicate snow flake was the crowning glory of all the flakes I photographed today. It is a true work of art.
Currently 23 inches (58.4cm) of snow covers Central Park in New York City. A nor'easter continues to pound the east coast USA. This image was sent to me by my son who lives in Manhattan. He reports being apartment bound since Friday evening. This view shows his apartment cat "Kimba" taking in the unusual scene from their 25th floor window.

Winter Weather

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

Reader Comments

I think you were first, actually :)

Quite a storm...we got || that close to snow last night, but the dewpoint rose too fast and we got cloud cover before we hit freezing :(
Cyclone, assuming for a moment the tunnels work,they would take a very long time to cool water that far north (given that the GS moves maybe 5 mph), so how would you have known to turn them on a week ago?

Logic > you.
*feels a desperate need to roll eyes*
I was wondering why you would cool the waters when they are already at 40 degrees???

I just thought of something else... You will never stop the snow from falling because it is moisture that makes it snow in the north and rain in the south... Anytime you have a cold front come across like that one did it brings moisture from the gulf and from the eastcoast and that is what you get.... So on that note it would not have stopped the storm!!!

Taco :0)
I am so absolutely tired of the tunnel talk and must wonder if it is merely " tunnel vision "
why wold you want to Kill Snowstorms though????

"This is what the tunnels would prevent from happening to a certain extent" LOl
"reduce the amount of snowfall" AHHH!!!!!!! Never tweek mother Nature I'm trying to work on seeing what would make the Storms MORE intense not less
Don't screw around with nature. There's a balance to the entire planet that must be left alone. It's ideas like these that are altering the natural flow of the Earth. I've even heard these scientific ideas to send airplanes over the top of thunderstorms and "zap" them to stabalize the storm from top to bottom to eliminate severe storms. How f-in' stupid are these people?
17. Inyo
ok, so you stopped all of the blizzards. upstate new york gets a massive drought and there is no water to be had for NYC when summer comes around... good job!
i agree inyo they need the snowpack for water use and for skiers
Blizzard eye redux.

Animation from the visible satellite of the storm's "wink."

We cant reverse the damage we've already done; assuming humans are the cause of global warming through C02 release. You cant bring back all the C02 we have released into the atmosphere, and I guarantee doing anything that tries to remove C02 from the atmosphere is only going to cause more damage. Nature knows what she needs to do to fix herself. The problem is how are we going to handle what she throws at us, and these tunnels wont doing anything when we are stuck in an ice age.

We should simply go to a policy that pollutes the environment with as little foreign material as possible. Whether it be excess heat, C02, garbage, oil, or anything else, we should do our best to leave nature alone.
That animation misses the best shot of the eye! Right as the sun comes up you can see a near perfect eye! For two frams right after the sun rises the eye is almost completely circular and you can see what looks like the stadium effect. I wish the animation had included those frames.
cyclone only if it melts rapidly likeif the temps somehow got to 60 degrees for a week then yes but a gradual melt is normal
A snow pack like this can lead to flooding now when it melts and cause billions in damage and kill.

ohhh and buster so can the potential damage of meddling with the oceans

I agree with you about tweeking mother nature. Tweek one way and she will seek a way to balance out.


Based on the observation I just made, a tunnel would change the ecosystem of the ocean. Ocean currents have great effects on our weather. The circulation of the currents drive our weather. Tunnels would cause a change to the North Atlantic Gyre. You might say the Gulf stream is the beginning of this circle since it is the place where warm water begins to flow north. If we change this gyre in some way, I don't know if we would like the balance reaction of mother nature. The Gulf stream would be cooler which in turn feeds cooler water in to the North Atlantic current headed for Europe. There is already concern over colder winters in Europe. I found a recap of a study about the topic here.

Do we want to build tunnels to benefit us? Helping ourselves may cause harm to others. Having gone through Andrew, I can see how you passionate about decreasing the destructiveness of hurricanes. I caught the back side of Hugo. The winds were around 60. In the middle of pine trees, that wind is scary. Pine trees blow down quicker than other trees. I too would like to see a way to decrease destruction of storms.

What is a better way to decrease destruction? Let the storms come. One way is to build smarter so stuff is not easily destroyed. This may mean thinking "outside the box".

No, one heavy band of snow caused this storm. Without the one heavy band of snow that dropped 3-5 inches an hour we would have an everyday nor'easter with 10-15 inches of snow. Which would have been nothing out of the ordinary. Whatever caused that single snowband is to blame, and I high doubt it was the SST's 100's of miles to the south and east, since the snowban stayed on the NW side of the storm the whole time.

Your tunnels would weaken hurricanes for sure if they are mathmaticly possible. However, weaken non-tropical storms is completely different since the dont rely on SST to strengthen and throw massive amounts of snow. It depends far more on the individual circumstances surrounding the storm then SSTs that fuel evaporation.
Here's the early morning frames:

Unfortunetly, thats a broken link sfranz. I'd love to see the whole animation, though.
My comment above is not based on the possibility of tunnels. It is a question about the impact on others and global weather systems.
When animation of the eye feature is found, I'd like to see it.
Snowman says "I'm trying to work on seeing what would make the Storms MORE intense not less". Just keep them out of the Midwest. They may look beautiful, but for those of us who need to get around a lot, they are a nuisance. Around here, they are the easiest method to get dead.

And I DO NOT think that the tunnels would be of any help. Our lake effect snow last week came from Lake Michigan and a very uncommon northeast wind.

I have to get back to work. More comments later.

Whoever finds a link to the eye feature please post it. I can't look for one now.
Sorry - the link should be working now.


- Susan
Awesome animation. The first 3 frames are the most defined eye, and its much smaller then the swirl of clouds you see later. I cant wait for Dr. Masters to analize this storm and tell us some in depth info.

Thanks for the link. I too am looking forward to discussion about the eye feature. ....back to work
One final link. This is the slow-mo version of the
early morning frames of the eye feature. I've enhanced
the contrast a little to bring out the features in the dawn light.

How does one propose to get tunnels to cool the gulf? While i understand the reasoning (less convection leading to less intense storms), Keep in mind this storm did all of its strengthing off the atlantic coast which isn't as warm as the gulf. Nevertheless have you considered what you are gonna cool it with? is it enviornmentally safe? How are you going to get the tunnels in place? What will you need incase these tunnels rupture? How long will it take? More importantly how much will it cost? Weighing the risks vs the benefits. Have you thought about any of this? Also how can you be sure that any of this is true any statistical data to back it up? Has it been implemented anywhere else? Let me know but as for now i don't think that they will do anything.
A while back, I came across an interesting article about the degredation of European climate around AD 1100; the science seems a little unsupported, but it is an interesting notion; it can be found here. What do you all think?

PS We are still waiting for winter in Southern California.
Wow, intersting read there, geoman. It sounds plausable enough, however there isnt any evidence. You cant really prove something like, but interesting and possible none the less. I bet hurricanes were way more frequent in the Atlantic back then if conditions are as they say. Maybe year round with more warm water in the N atlantic and westerlies farther north.
We had our first hard freeze of the winter last night, down to 28.8 at my house.
Man you guys need a storm to track...good thing I've got one.
I have a picture of the Presidents Day Blizzard of 1979 up
on my blog, note the similar eye like feature. Very cool.

i have updated my blog on the florida freeze
LOL Colby, awesome idea.
And, I have added a special update on tonight's Florida Freeze. I have plenty of forecast lows for central Florida areas.
It's gonna be cold tonight, but too dry for snow :*(
50. Inyo
Unfortunately the pictures don't work anymore but you can see the text info still on a cold-core storm that hit San Francisco in 1993 with a well developed eye here. While warming climates may intensify storms, these 'polar lows' have occurred and will continue to occur occasionally regardless of what the climate does.

Also, if the computer models are correct winter might be finally on its way to southern California. They are predicting highs in the 50s in LA by next weekend with HIGHS in the 20s in the mountains and occasional snow. Since we've already moved back to summer this will confuse the heck out of the wildflowers that are trying to bloom now.

However, the models have been bad this year, i for one hope they are right but am not getting my hopes up yet
I would give anything to see snow in Orlando. Closest I have come is snow flurries in Daytona Beach on January 24th 2003, the last time temperatures were this cold.
We got about a foot of snow where I am, just a couple miles from Phila airport.

I was surprised that this storm was NYC's all-time record but still stopped short of Philly's record of 30.7 inches, which was just set a few years ago (maybe 2003?)

They got the same storm back then that we got. Did we get one of those heavy snowfall bands back then and they didn't? Or were the measurement methods different?
Keeping in mind that NYC and Phila downtown areas are less than 100 miles apart
That storm we were watching off Africa, spent the last two days disapating over the NW side of A
I've been enjoying or sidetrack to summer here in SoCA, but I know we still do need our winter - especially rain! We really need to clean up the air and just the environment in general from all the fires last week. Last I heard was a possibiility of sprinkles on Friday - we'll see!
56. dcw
I think Philly got a big band. This storm was almost a bust - the major bands were only barely onshore, if the low tracked 50 miles east of where it did, it wouldn't have dropped much of anything.
Thanks dcw. We got a foot, which is significant for around here but not extreme. I'm glad there wasn't more.

Later this week it's supposed to go up all the way to 50 degrees! Alright! (I'm just a little worried about a sudden meltdown though)
oops~ incomplete post back there...Well aparently the storm we were watching caused flood waters that have destroyed mud brick houses and other shelters in three camps in the desert region of Tindouf in Algeria. It flooded 50,000 people. 1 death reported, but they have yet to reach one of the 3 camps.
Link ~ the chance for the dust we had last season making a comeback is looking less & less.
This storm and the intense band of snow that contributed to the record total in NYC brought to mind a similar situation that I experienced here in the Denver area once. My job in city parks involves plowing parking lots and bike trails. On this occasion, a little over 10 years ago, the NWS forecast 1 to 3" of snow overnight across the Denver metro area. It snowed very lightly during the evening with less than 1" on the ground by 10 PM. My co-workers and I made the call to come in about 5:00 the next morning, shovel a few walks around our City Hall and Recreation Center and that would be about all that was needed. I went to sleep with only a few flurries coming down. When I woke up at 4:00 AM, to my horror there was a foot of snow on the ground! We all rushed in to work and plowed like maniacs but couldn't get all of it cleaned up in time before the city buildings opened. We got chewed out real good by the boss, but it wasn't really our fault. There was nothing in the forecast that mentioned any possibility of a heavy snowfall. While we had 12"+, areas 10 miles north or south of us only had 2 to 3"! We apparently fell victim to an intense band of snow which sat right over our area. Later,someone who had been up most of the night told me the intense snowfall started just after midnight and came down at the rate of 4" per hour for the next three hours before ending as abruptly as it started. I didn't know about banding in winter storms at the time, but sure do now. In recent years, I always check the NWS forecast discussion to see if there is any possibility of banded precipitation occurring, and we are alert to this. My wife has become accustomed to me not getting much sleep when it snows!! But apparently, the band that stalled over NYC blindsided everyone. This is obviously a big forecasting challenge. BTW, we didn't have any thunder with our storm in north metro Denver.

Thanks Skyepony, I like hearing about what's going on in areas that don't usually get any attention. I was really hoping that that storm would sort of make the desert bloom or something, very sorry about what actually happened.

And Cyclonebuster I DON'T want to hear about what your tunnels would have done, or not done. It's starting to resemble spam.
Denvermark, my sister and her family are in Boulder, whereabouts are you?
phillyfan, we live in Thornton and work in Northglenn, just east of I-25 and about 12 miles north out of downtown Denver. My mother grew up in south Jersey and I have an uncle and two cousins who live in Palmyra. Our favorite place on the Jersey shore is Ocean City.
*feels a desperate need to roll eyes*
OMG I think we have had enough...

:0) taco
I just don't understand why one would want to prevent storms from happening. We have them for a reason. As with the increased frequency of storms as a reason to contol them; either nature is trying to tell us something, or she's just in an intense storm cycle. Either way the storms are useful.
Case in point, 2005s record breaking season helped finally bring in the question of overpopulation on the coasts, finally turned the tide against a very uncaring (to anyone not rich) administration, and upped the debate on both sides on the global warming theroy.
Yes, the damage and death that resulted is catastrophic, but maybe it should be seen as a lesson that we are being taught. Nature can and will be more damaging if we continue to disrespect the very planet that gave us life.
Also, I think it very obivous to both sides of the global warming debate that its probably not a good idea to do what we've doing to earth. How could anyone not concede that over consumption of nonrewable resources, overpopulation, overfarming, and pollution has a negative effect on our very finite and fragile planet? So even if co2 emissions somehow don't cause global warming, there are adverse effects of what we are doing (if not the co2 itself) but for the machines and factories used that create co2. They produce other byproducts that are potientially(and many already and obivously) harmfull to our planet.
Not to mention that hurricanes use up a tremendous amount of energy, and thus moderate global warming.
Cyclone, how in the world are you going to be able to cause upwelling over such a vast area? I mean a hurricanes track covers hundreds if not thousands of square miles. Your idea just doesn't seem fesable to me. And if you do manage to accomplish it, what effect will such a huge upwelling on the rest of the environment? what about the marine life? The fishing industry? Please provide us some hard data.
Fantasy Hurricane Adrian is now at 70kt - get in on the fun!
Hi DenverMark, thanks! I am across the Delaware river in Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia airport. I worked in Cherry Hill for a while, many years ago. I like Ocean City. My folks go down to Avalon every year.
One of the worst things we continue to do to our coasts is to destroy one of natures solutions to the problem of destructive storms: costal wetlands. Instead of talking about tunnels, how about discuss ways to restore a pretty darn effective way to buffer storms.

The fact is, we have known that this natural barrier protects us, and to remove it would be potientially catastrophic. The Everglades and the mississippi delta come to mind as prime examples. The destructive and ignorant act of knowingly disrupting these wetlands by developers and goverment officals for namely the sake of money is just one sad example of what we do to every part of the land we live on. We've known better for some time and its sad that we haven't done better as a species on this matter, given the some of the stellar and amazing things that humans are capable of doing.
Hi everyone here is a question that is in my mind

One question in my mind is could the La Nina Pattern we are in could have influenced this type of snow fall?

Also it was 91 degrees today. It should cool down 10-20 degrees tomarow. By the end of the week mybe is we are ever so lucky there might be a pattern change for next week for the southwest. Mybe phoenix and los angeles pick up on some rain. it looks like its going to be to little to late this season.
91 dang
ahhh its one of cyclones tunnels LOL

ahhh its one of cyclones tunnels LOL

that is funny
Cyclonebuster..How are your tunnels going to stop the effects of baroclinic forcing, upper level disturbances and other things that are not associated with SSTs?? I have lurked awhile and seen this idea...And marveled at how bad of a idea it is (the tunnels). We simply cannot change sea surface temps and expect things to be a'ok...For every action there is a equal and opposite reaction...
And thanks stormchaser77 for the aknowledgement...I agree with you that more funding is indeed needed in the meterological sciences... More research and knowledge of climate and weather is the most effective way to understand and react to natures forces.

I've been reading these blogs for some time and haven't seen any sort of positive reaction to the hurricane season of 2005. Things aren't so black and white on this issue and we should feel grateful that we have this chance to learn and to find a saner way to living on this planet.

Here in minnesota, we haven seen subzero nights since early december. After the warmest january on record (avg temp 28.6) we are finally getting a good cold week of arctic air. You might find it crazy that I, or numerous other minnesotans are happy for lows below minus 10, but to many, it just doesn't right to go through such a warm winter. There is a definate pride of being able to survive extreme cold in the winter. Go anywhere and say you are from minnesota, and people alays ask, "how do deal with the cold," or something to that effect. Here, on any given below zero day and outsider would be amazed how it looks like business as usual to most. Scores of runners on the lake, kids walking to school, bikers commuting (minneapolis has the highest percentage of bike commuter in the usa) show the attitude of accecptance of where we live and the need to be outside in nature. Also, for living with these usually long frigid winters we get the most pleasent summer to enjoy.

The last several (albiet not consectuctive) winters have been more like the climate of nebraska or missouri. While it doesn't prove climate change alone the rapid change in climate that potientially is happening is slightly unnerving and could be harmful.

So every snowstrom and cold snap makes us a little less worried that soon, we may not have our character building winters that we treasure.

That being said, this saturday it is forcast to be about minus 7 when I do one of several weekly training rides I do as a road bike racer during the winter. On that day ill probably do 30 to 40 miles. I'm sure I won't be the only one, either.

i hop this look lol is is the one you got to see dos any one see a vay good eye
oops me try one mor time lol

you all have to see this
Wow, that's amazing looking....
Wow, that's amazing looking....
Twas the picture I was talking about earlier. Near perfect eye with what appears to be the stadium effect. Amazing to look at, expecailly in a Nor'easter =)
Happy V-day, everyone. It warms my heart to have the pleasure of the friends I've made on this site. Stay warm! Woof!
Hi,atomicskies - I'm an old midwesterner, from the Chicago area originally. While Chicago isn't Minnesota, we had some really good winters back there in the '70s, especially 1978-79. What I miss most in Denver is the lack of good cold winter weather. Being on the lee side of the mountains, we usually have downslope "chinook" winds and temperatures in the 50s or 60s, broken by the occasional arctic front that can bring a few days of cold weather. But it never lasts long. Yeah,it can snow a lot but that's usually in March and April and melts off fast. It's very difficult to get gulf moisture into Denver in mid-winter, so we don't have much snow now, we get it in the spring. This winter has been bone dry down here and the wind blew for weeks on end from Christmas until the last week or so. At least the mountains have a good snowpack in northern Colorado (not so good in southern Colorado which is typical of La Nina). BTW January was not a record breaker here, only the 8th warmest since we are usually mild here.
At least we're expecting some snow here later this week and some fairly cold days in the teens and 20s. I'm ready!! Well, off to work I go.
Cool pic, KRWZ...love that eye...

Happy V-day, everyone!
cyclonebuster: The odds of severe weather here in Tampa is pretty much ZERO today...we're sitting under a huge mass of cold, dry arctic air...it got down to below freezing last night...it's 49 right now on the way to a high of 61 today and 72 tomorrow...ahhhhh...I love Florida!!!
Steve, high of 61? Kansas City's high today may be 68! lol. we'll freezing drizzle by Thursday.
In minnesota we definately get our fair share of "chinook-like" flucuations, usualy most extreme in April. I can remember a few years back where the high of 91 degress was followed by 6inches of snow barely a day later. However, its not as often as those mountain winds you guys get in denver. That must break havoc on the bodys ability to acclimate!
rwdobson: freezing drizzle??? UGH! We'll be pushing 80 by Thursday here...it'll be good to get back to normal...

I'm a little late on this but....THAT WAS THE NOR' EASTER?? That looks alot like Wilma when she came up here but a lot closer than Wilma.......
I'm supprised that wasn't Hurricane Alberto...Looks like time for NYC is running out before a hurricane does hit....