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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.