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Another Big Storm but with a (Relatively) Small Punch

By: Christopher C. Burt, 8:32 PM GMT on February 18, 2013

Another Big Storm but with a (relatively) Small Punch

Just one week after the massive blizzard of February 8-9 the Northeast saw another powerful winter storm bomb off the Atlantic Coast producing blizzard conditions on Cape Cod, Maine, and portions of Maritime Canada. In fact, the latest storm (on February 16-17 and dubbed “Plato” by the Weather Channel) was synoptically more intense than “Nemo” but did not produce nearly as much snow.



A satellite comparison of the February 8-9 storm (“Nemo”) with the February 16-17 storm (“Plato”). Amazingly, both storms appear to have developed an eye-like center in roughly the same location. Given, that the storm last weekend was technically more intense than that of a week earlier, it is surprising that its affects onshore were not nearly so extreme. Satellite composite put together by NWS-Portland office and posted on their Facebook page.

This past weekend’s storm passed about 50 miles further east of the New England coast than the February 8-9 event, thus sparing the populated New York-Boston corridor the worst of the snow. Cape Cod and Maine saw the greatest snow accumulations and highest winds, although even there the storm was less intense than “Nemo” a week earlier. On Cape Cod 6.5” was measured at Brewster and 5.0” at Hyannis. On February 8-9 snow totals ranged up to 15” on the Cape. Surprisingly, Nantucket (which I thought would get hammered with a foot or more of snow) received a paltry 5.0”, about the same as some suburbs of Boston. Winds gusted to 58 mph on Nantucket and true blizzard conditions developed there and on Cape Cod for a brief period of time.



Blizzard conditions occurred on Sunday across portions of Cape Cod. This scene was captured in Osterville during the peak of the storm. Photo by Jim Preston/ Cape Cod Times.

The same may be said for parts of Maine where the storm’s heaviest snow accumulations were measured. Robbinston, in coastal Washington County, received the most snow in the state with a 13.5” accumulation. Other top amounts were 12.0” at East Machias, and 8.5” at Eastport. Not very impressive for a storm of this intensity. The central pressure of the weekend storm fell as low as 956 mb (28.23”) as it approached Nova Scotia, Canada midday Sunday. This compares to “Nemo”’s estimated lowest pressure of about 970 mb.



This barograph trace illustrates how quickly the storm intensified this past weekend. It is from a buoy off the coast of Nova Scotia. The storm intensified from 990 mb to 956 mb in just 12 hours Sunday morning, a drop of 35 mb. Another case, like “Nemo”, of bombogenesis. Image from NOAA/NWS/NDBC.

For sure, conditions in the Maritime Provinces of Canada were worse than those experienced anywhere in the U.S. Northeast. Snowfall was still not very impressive, however, with peak accumulations of 27 cm (10.6”) at Moncton, New Brunswick, 18 cm (7.1”) at Gander, Newfoundland, and just 15 cm (5.9”) at Sydney, Nova Scotia. Halifax, Nova Scotia (where the barometric pressure fell to 958 mb (28.29”) only 4 cm (1.6”) of snow fell. The center of the storm passed almost directly over Halifax and most of the precipitation fell as rain.

On the other hand, extremely high wind gusts were observed. Wreckhouse, Newfoundland reported a peak gust of 170 km/h (106 mph). Grand Etang Island, Nova Scotia saw a gust to 161 km/h (100 mph).

All and all, the most impressive feature of the weekend storm was its rapid intensification and extraordinary central pressure. It is a bit surprising (given the storm’s intensity) that more severe conditions were not observed onshore.

Christopher C. Burt
Weather Historian

Barometric Pressure Extreme Weather Mini Blog Winter Weather Blizzard

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

Sydney on Cape Breton Island at the top end of Nova Scotia saw the barometer go down to 95.28 Kpa at midnight on the 17th. Also, how extraordinary is this "tropical hurricane eye" formation? I found this photo rather good. 
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