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Mid-Atlantic sets all-time snow records

By: Dr. Jeff Masters, 12:15 PM GMT on February 11, 2010

The second ferocious blizzard in a week to pound the Mid-Atlantic continues to intensify, but has now moved out to sea away from the coast. That's a very good thing, because with a central pressure of 969 mb, the storm is as intense as a Category 1 hurricane. The blizzard brought wind gusts as high as 51 mph at Massachusetts' Nantucket Island last night. The snow has pretty much ended over the Northeastern U.S., but the mighty blizzard dumped 1 - 2 feet of snow over much of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, with a peak snowfall of 27.5" recorded at Ortanna, Pennsylvania. When combined with the 1 - 2 feet of snow still on the ground from last weekend's blizzard, the snow depths in the Mid-Atlantic are reaching ridiculous proportions. This morning, Baltimore reported 35" of snow on the ground, which would break their previous all-time record of 30" on snow on the ground, set on February 13, 1899. The 19.8" that fell on Baltimore from the blizzard was that city's 10th greatest snowfall on record. Philadelphia's 15.8" was its ninth greatest snowfall. The winter of 2009 - 2010 now has three spots on the top ten all-time heaviest snowfall list for those cities. Record keeping began in the late 1800s, and I'm not aware of any major city in the U.S. that has that many record snowfalls in one winter. If there is, I want to hear about it! Washington D.C.'s 10.8" snowfall from the storm missed making its top ten list of heaviest snows, so that city has only two storms from the winter of 2009 - 2010 on the list. The snow blitz that the Mid-Atlantic has endured with the three record-setting Nor'easters of the 2009 - 2010 is truly a rare event that has no parallel in the historic record.

Figure 1. The Nor'easter of February, 11, 2010 in a infrared satellite image taken at 9:40 pm EST. Image credit: NASA GOES project.

Top 10 snowstorms on record for Philadelphia:

1. 30.7", Jan 7-8, 1996
2. 28.5", Feb 5-6, 2010 (Snowmageddon)
3. 23.2", Dec 19-20, 2009 (Snowpocalypse)
4. 21.3", Feb 11-12, 1983
5. 21.0", Dec 25-26, 1909
6. 19.4", Apr 3-4, 1915
7. 18.9", Feb 12-14, 1899
8. 16.7", Jan 22-24, 1935
9. 15.8", Feb 10-11, 2010
10. 15.1", Feb 28-Mar 1, 1941

The top 10 snowstorms on record for Baltimore:

1. 28.2", Feb 15-18, 2003
2. 26.5", Jan 27-29, 1922
3. 24.8", Feb 5-6, 2010 (Snowmageddon)
4. 22.8", Feb 11-12, 1983
5. 22.5", Jan 7-8, 1996
6. 22.0", Mar 29-30, 1942
7. 21.4", Feb 11-14, 1899
8. 21.0", Dec 19-20, 2009 (Snowpocalypse)
9. 20.0", Feb 18-19, 1979
10. 19.5", Feb 10-11, 2010

The top 10 snowstorms on record for Washington, D.C.:

1. 28.0", Jan 27-28, 1922
2. 20.5", Feb 11-13, 1899
3. 18.7", Feb 18-19, 1979
4. 17.8" Feb 5-6, 2010 (Snowmageddon)
5. 17.1", Jan 6-8, 1996
6. 16.7", Feb 15-18, 2003
7. 16.6", Feb 11-12, 1983
8. 16.4", Dec 19-20, 2009 (Snowpocalypse)
9. 14.4", Feb 15-16, 1958
10. 14.4", Feb 7, 1936

Snowiest winter on record for Baltimore, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, Atlantic City, and Wilmington
The snow from this latest blizzard have pushed snow totals for the 2009 - 2010 winter season to a new record for Baltimore, Washington D.C., Wilmington, Philadelphia, and Atlantic City. As of midnight last night, here were the snowfall numbers so far for the 2009 - 2010 winter, and the records they have broken:

Baltimore, MD, 79.9". Old record: 62.5", winter of 1995 - 1996.
Washington D.C. National Airport, 55.9". Old record: 54.4", winter of 1898 - 1899.
Washington Dulles Airport, VA, 75.0". Old record: 61.9", winter of 1995 - 1996.
Wilmington, DE, 66.7". Old record: 55.9", winter of 1995 - 1996.
Philadelphia, PA, 71.6". Old record: 65.5", winter of 1995 - 1996.
Atlantic City, NJ, 49.9". Current record: 46.9", winter of 1966 - 1967.

For comparison, the average snowfall amounts for a season for these cities ranges from 16 - 22". This winter's snowfall amounts are similar to what Anchorage, Alaska and Portland Maine typically receive (about 70"). All this comes with the end of winter still more than a month away--and more snow is likely to fall yet this winter. The latest runs of the GFS and ECMWF models show yet another Nor'easter hitting the D.C./Baltimore/Philadelphia region next Monday. However, next Monday's storm is likely to be much weaker than the last two Nor'easters, with perhaps 2 - 8 inches of snow falling. It is too early to be confident of this prediction, though, and it is possible that the storm will miss.

The extreme amounts of snow on the ground in the Mid-Atlantic will melt only slowly over the coming week, as temperatures are expected to climb only into the low to mid-thirties. That is a good thing, because a sudden thaw could create significant flooding problems. The latest long-range forecast from the GFS model predicts continued below-average temperatures for the mid-Atlantic region for at least the next week, with a possible significant thaw occurring the last week of February.

A new winter storm takes aim at the Deep South
A powerful and fast-moving low pressure system is developing over the Gulf of Mexico today, and will pull in a significant amount of Gulf moisture over the very cold air mass in place over the Deep South today and Friday. A band of moderate snow will develop over Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, bringing 4 - 6" of snow to the southern portions of those states. Florida's Panhandle will see mostly rain, but some snow is expected to mix in, with accumulations around an inch possible in the extreme northwest Panhandle near the Alabama border, away from shore. Among the major cities likely to get 2+ inches of snow are Mobile, Jackson, and Montgomery. The record heaviest snowfalls for those cities are 6", 11.7", and 11", respectively.

Snow avalanches in Afghanistan kill 172
The U.S. isn't the only part of the world with heavy snow problems this winter. Heavy snow in Afghanistan triggered avalanches Monday that killed at least 172 people traveling along the road over 12,700 foot high Salang Pass through the Hindu-Kush Mountains, according to media reports. The death toll makes this avalanche one of the ten deadliest in world history. The ten deadliest world avalanche disasters, as compiled using Scientific American and the book, Natural Disasters and How We Cope, are:

1) 218 B.C. Avalanches decimate Hannibal's army as it crosses the Alps with elephants. Twenty thousand soldiers and many elephants are lost.

2) 1970. The Huascaran Mountain, Peru avalanche of May 31, 1970. A magnitude 8.0 earthquake caused a huge chunk of snow-covered glacier to collapse and roar down the mountain, killing up to 20,000 people.

3) 1916. A series of avalanches during a WW I battle kills at least 10,000 Austrian and Italian soldiers over a 48-hour period. Many of these avalanches were triggered by artillery fire.

4) 1962. Huascaran Mountain, Peru avalanche of January 10, 1962. Avalanches from heavy snows killed up to 4,000.

5) 1618. Plurs, Switzerland: the Rodi avalanche buries the town of Plurs, claiming 2,427 victims. Note: since this avalanche occurred in August, it is likely that is was actually a rock avalanche, and therefore does not belong on this list. Thanks go to Randy Head for pointing out this error that has made it into many Internet locations.

6) 1951. A January avalanche in the Alps' The "Winter of Terror" kills 275.

7) 1991. Bingol, Turkey: an avalanche hits several towns, killing 255 people.

8) 1954. Vovarlberg disaster of January 12, 1954, killed 225 in the Austrian Alps. Nine hours later, a second avalanche killed 115 survivors and rescue workers.

9) 1979. Lahaul Valley, India. A series of avalanches bury the valley, leaving at least 200 victims .

10) 2010. Salang Pass, Afghanistan avalanche kills 166.

The worst avalanche in U.S. history is the Wellington, Washington avalanche of March 1, 1910, which killed 96 people on a train and at a train station.

Jeff Masters
Top Hat
Top Hat
Maryland or Alaska??
Maryland or Alaska??
The view coming up our driveway!My dog Cody walking up the driveway!
Frosted Forest
Frosted Forest

Winter Weather

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