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The Blizzard of ‘96: In Retrospect 25 Years Later – The Blizzard of ‘96: In Retrospect 25 Years Later – National Weather Service Heritage – Virtual Lab

The Blizzard of ‘96: In Retrospect 25 Years Later

The Blizzard of ‘96: In Retrospect 25 Years Later

By Chris Stachelski (christopher.stachelski@noaa.gov)

It was the marquee meteorological event of one of the more epic winters ever — a storm that, if you experienced it, still stands out in your memory to this date. You might not remember just how much snow fell, but that there was a lot of it. That it stranded you in place for a time. And then you had to dig on out. And in some places, the storm laid the foundation for another significant weather event in the subsequent weeks. It was the Blizzard of ‘96. Even though many areas have been impacted by it have seen bigger snowfalls in years since (February 2003 from the President’s Day II Storm, the Blizzards of February 2010, the Boxing Day Storm of December 2010, the snowstorms of February 2015 or more recently in January 2016), this storm is widely viewed as the Big One in the modern history of East Coast snowstorms of the last 25 years. It digs up memories akin to those from the Cleveland Superbomb in January 1978, the Blizzard of ‘78 in New England and metro New York City, the Megapolitan Storm of February 1983 and the Superstorm of March 1993 – storms that people still can recall decades later to extreme detail in some cases.

Storm Overview Infrared satellite image of the Blizzard of ‘96 as shown on January 7, 1996.

The storm formed in the Gulf of Mexico on the morning of January 6th. It reached the Georgia Coast by the morning of the 7th then moved northeast toward Cape Hatteras, NC by the evening of the 7th before reaching the waters off of Southern New England the evening of the 8th. The heavy snowfall was largely due to a combination of sufficient moisture aided by cold air pushed south from an Arctic high pressure located north of the storm that generated highly effective liquid precipitation to snow ratios and a highly favorable storm track. Significant and in many cases record breaking snow for either a 24 hour period or single snowstorm occurred with this event from the Ohio Valley to southwestern Virginia to the Washington, D.C. to southern New England urban corridor.

Why Was This Storm So Significant?

At the time it occurred, the Blizzard of ‘96 was said to be the greatest snowstorm in terms of the amount of snow that fell seen by so many people largely because it produced heavy and in many cases record-breaking snowfall in the highly populated Boston to Washington, D.C. corridor in addition to areas in southwest Virginia, eastern West Virginia, and the Ohio Valley. In 2004, the Northeast Snowfall Impact Scale (NESIS) that ranks Northeast snowstorms was developed. NESIS ranks the second most severe Northeast snowstorm on record behind the March 1993 Superstorm or “Storm of the Century” as it was commonly called then. However, the March 1993 was more of a significant snowstorm for the spine of the Appalachians with lesser amounts toward the more heavily populated urban corridor of the Northeast. It is exceedingly tough to have a snowstorm produce over a foot of snow from Washington, D.C. to Boston due the storm needing a favorable track. Often, snowstorms that are significant events in the Washington, D.C. area tend to be lesser events in southern New England such as in February 2010 or in the case of February 2015, significant in southern New England but not in the Washington, D.C. area. 

Was It Really A Blizzard?

For many, technically no. Officially, a blizzard means that the following conditions are expected to prevail for a period of 3 hours or longer – sustained wind or frequent gusts to 35 miles an hour or greater and considerable falling and/or blowing snow (i.e., reducing visibility frequently to less than ¼ mile). This event often failed to have the wind reach the criteria long enough in most areas. But, given the Blizzard Warnings issued for the event, the common usage of the name “Blizzard of ‘96” before, during, and after the event has stuck since, even in the meteorological community despite it not being technically correct in most locations. In today’s National Weather Service, issuing Blizzard Warnings based on the impact of the snow rather than the meteorology would be seen as an example of impact-based forecasting and warnings versus the old legacy strictly criteria based issuance as was often common in the 1990s.

What Was Forecasting and Data Collection Like Back Then?

Forecasting was much different in the mid-1990s versus today. The National Weather Service was in the middle of a nationwide modernization, moving offices to new facilities, closing some older, smaller offices and bringing into the operational world much of the newer generation of technology used today such as Doppler Radar and the Automated Surface Observing System or ASOS. However, graphical capabilities at offices were more limited with AFOS used as the primary system for composing products and reviewing meteorological data. Products were all hand typed. Model data was more limited in terms of models, parameters and visual display capabilities. The internet was in its infancy on a mainstream use using dial-up connectivity on a desktop computer, if available. Phone calls from storm spotters and the public and government officials, along with radio and television news, were the primary source of on-the-ground reports in real time, with hard copy newspapers used as follow up after the fact. Smartphones and social media were unknown. There were fewer reports, less visual evidence from the area, and a lot more interpolation of data, especially on overnight shifts.  

Impacts of the Storm

Snow flurries even fell as far south from this system as Florida – stretching from Tallahassee to just north of Tampa in New Port Richey sending a touch of winter to a place many go to escape it. But the bigger snows the storm was noted for fell much further north, reaching as much as 48 inches in Snowshoe, West Virginia. In the most severely impacted areas, transportation was crippled for days, municipalities struggled to clear the snow and find places to put it, mail service was briefly halted from Atlantic City, NJ to Albany, NY, numerous roofs caved in from the weight of the snow damaging structures, schools and businesses closed for days, and newspaper delivery — along with other supply delivery — was halted. Many people were stuck at roadside rest stops. Along the coast, flooding occurred and the onshore flow resulted in the bizarre site at Atlantic City, NJ of hundreds of clam shells washing ashore into mounds on the beach. The snowpack in many areas reached over 2 feet and, with additional snows and cold following the storm, laid on the ground until a warm up later in January with a heavy rainfall that took place and resulted in major river flooding.

Some Selected Snowfall Totals

Boston, MA

18.2 inches

Providence, RI

24.0 inches

Hartford, CT

15.8 inches

New York City (Central Park), NY

20.2 inches

Islip, NY

17.0 inches

Newark, NJ

27.8 inches

Philadelphia, PA

30.7 inches

Harrisburg, PA

22.2 inches

Avoca (Scranton), PA

21.0 inches

Wilmington, DE

22.0 inches

Baltimore, MD

22.5 inches

Washington, D.C. (National)

17.1 inches

Dulles Airport, VA

24.6 inches

Roanoke, VA

24.9 inches

Charleston, WV

23.3 inches

Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Airport, OH 

14.4 inches

As always, the story of the Blizzard of ‘96 is best told by those who experienced it firsthand, either as an aspiring meteorologist or National Weather Service employee. The Blizzard of ‘96 had a profound impact on the lives of those in the meteorology community even beyond the forecast operations desk. As noted in the Service Assessment conducted by the National Weather Service following this event:

“The storm had a major impact on NWS employees and demonstrated the dedication and commitment of our workforce. Field and NCEP personnel worked around-the-clock with little relief. People brought extra food and sleeping bags to their respective offices and remained at these offices or in nearby hotels for 48 hours or longer. Sixteen-hour shifts and three hour commutes were common. People took extraordinary efforts to get to the office. In some cases, four wheel drive vehicles were used to ferry people to their offices while at least one employee cross-country skied to work. All this occurred during a Federal Government shutdown when most Federal employees were furloughed. Nonetheless, NWS employees continued to serve and ensure public safety around-the-clock without the assurance of paychecks. This conscientious ‘can do’ attitude of NWS employees likely contributed to the amazingly low death toll for an event of this magnitude.”Cooperative observer Bonnie Phillips measures snow at the Charlotteburg Reservoir, NJ
cooperative site.

Below are the stories from a number of current and now retired National Weather Service employees who were inspired by or worked during this event and told from their personal perspective. We personally thank each of them for sharing their experiences of this event 25 years later as a way of preserving the significance of this event for years to come. It was a remarkable event for many meteorologists that either inspired their career in this profession, solidified it, or served as a benchmark moment in their career with the agency. 

  • “I was interested in weather well before this event going back to the 1980s due to everything from thunderstorms to flooding to Hurricane Gloria. I lived in northern New Jersey in a town named Wanaque on the western slope of a mountain by East Coast standards around 500 feet in elevation. We had a bunch of big snowstorms in recent years in the 90s – the Nor’Easter of December ‘92, the March 1993 Superstorm and the winter of 1993-1994 which at the time was considered the most severe winter in this area since the late 1970s. The winter of 1995-1996 was different. I recall standing outside of high school in early November one afternoon and seeing a burst of snow flurries – which was a little unusual for that early in the season. The accumulating snows that season started in late November and kept right on going into December. My last true White Christmas I ever experienced was in 1995. Then came January. We had snow going to this event already on the ground. I remember there being a forecast for snow in the days before, and then amounts went up. Saturday my parents and I came home from the store and put the television on to see what the forecast was. Totals had been increased and over a foot was being forecasted. Off to the grocery store they went. The next morning, it was extremely cold. Newark Airport tied a record low at the time that morning, January 7th, which was very unusual to see before a snowstorm in New Jersey. Forecasted snow amounts had increased further and Blizzard Warnings had been issued. We had yet to take down our Christmas decorations outside and went outside to remove them before they became encased in snow for a while. The snow ramped up the night of the 7th and continued into the 8th. By late in the afternoon on the 8th, the snow let up that we ventured into our garage and my parents and I stood in amazement at the snow as seen in the forthcoming photos. It was literally a wall. We were stranded. Shrubs were buried and the street was impassible and could barely be made out. All you saw was snow. My dad remarked “I only recall maybe once seeing this much snow before” which “was when I was a kid we had a lot of snow one year the day after Christmas”. My dad grew up in the Newark, NJ area and looking back at the records he was correct as the longtime snowstorm of record for metropolitan New York City was the storm of December 26-27, 1947. I was impressed that he could recall that nearly 48 years later, but realized that for a child to remember that sort of snow this many years later, it really put this storm as well as that one into perspective and that I witnessed a big snowstorm. It was still snowing into the evening of the 8th. The next day I trekked out with a ruler and attempted to measure how much snow fell. I looked at about a dozen different spots that looked the best and carefully lowered a yardstick down to not punch through all the snow and measured an average of 29.9 inches. The depth on the ground at that point was around 34 to 35 inches in the most representative spots with higher drifts. It was staggering and at that point, the deepest I ever saw. It was in many areas of northern New Jersey the deepest snowpack since February 1961 and a value not exceeded since. I never saw this much snow on the ground until I went to the West Coast years later in the Cascades and Sierra. And it was a good thing we took our Christmas decorations down when we did because many people had them up for weeks until the snow finally melted for good later in January – nearly a month after Santa left for the North Pole. We got more snow that winter and all the way through mid-April. Everyone was ready for summer that year and a number of people actually put their homes up for sale that spring in this area due to the severity of the winter and moved to warmer climates.” —Chris Stachelski, NWS Eastern Region Headquarters   
  • “I had just started working in the State College forecast office in June 1993. This was after working in the Binghamton, NY office for 6.5 years. 1996 was very similar to the first winter here (1993-1994). I was down at the Farm Show in Harrisburg, PA the day before the 1996 blizzard. Upon coming back up over the mountain to State College. The next day I went to church, it was snowing hard and windy. I came to work after the storm ended. Roads were taken care of well. Back then we got a lot of calls with spotters calling in reports. Also I don’t recall seeing many reports of wrecks on area roads. Temperatures were on the cold side, compared to storms of late years. I did not go back to the farm show that Sunday or Monday, but heard they allowed folks to spend the night there. In the last few years, we get less calls from folks. We still get some media calls. This year has seen a large increase in the reports of wrecks, even in good weather. This past storm we just had featured decent clearing of the roads.” — David Martin, NWS WFO State College, PA
  • “I remember it very well. I was working at TDL in Silver Spring, MD at the time, but you may recall that just as this snow storm began we had come out of a two week long Government Shutdown. Then the D.C. area was shut down for 3-4 more days because of this winter storm. My home at the time was in Harpers Ferry, WV, but more properly on the Blue Ridge mountains in a little community right on the WV/VA line called Shannondale, about 10 miles southeast of the actual town of Harpers Ferry. Being that I worked at headquarters, I was off for the Christmas Holidays and made the fortunate decision given the prospect of the snow storm and the government shut down to stay with my parents who lived in McKinney, TX. I was originally scheduled to return to D.C. the day the historic snow storm began. I found out that it was so bad in my home neighborhood back in WV that they had to get the National Guard in there to plow the roads because the developer of the area where I lived had no functioning snow removal equipment. My house there in WV received 42 inches during the first storm with another 6 inches on Friday of that week, which brought 8 inches to D.C. I believe the government was only open on Thursday of that week. So, a total of 48 inches. I returned to my home in WV on Sunday. The roads had been cleared by then, but there were huge mountains of snow everywhere! At the end of the following week temperatures warmed into the 60s, there was steam rising off the piles of snow still remaining all over the area, and rain of 2.5 inches combined with the melting snow to push many rivers into flood including the Potomac and Shenandoah, which is turn shut down the train service from Martinsburg into D.C. (the MARC train which I usually rode to work each day during the 8 1/2 years I lived up there). Then, an Arctic cold front followed and the temperature by the same evening was in the teens and a lot of the water froze in place, in some places 2-4 inches I think between ruts of remnant snow.  What a huge mess! This was one of many big snow storms I recall while I was living there. I was definitely there during the March 1993 blizzard and I was unable to get out of my house for three days! I received 24 inches of snow during that one, 20 inches of which fell in 8 hours. We were under a blizzard warning during that event, March 12-13, 1993. There were many more incidents of this nature, like 6 inches in one hour during a thunder snow storm on March 5, 1995. Fortunately, it is a lot easier to take “AL” when you work at headquarters than when you are in a WFO working operational shifts!  Honestly, I could have written a large diary about my experiences traveling between my home in the WV Panhandle and Silver Spring, MD during my 8.5 years up there in the 90s! The 1995-1996 winter had big snow events all the way from October until April and some snow on the ground pretty much continuously during that period!” — Robert Beasley, NWS WFO Blacksburg, VA
  • “I lived through it in Central NJ and it served as the impetus for my interest in meteorology. My decision to pursue it as a career was solidified after Tropical Storm Floyd in 1999. I was only 7 years old at the time the Blizzard of ‘96 occurred but I remember the cars in my driveway were completely buried and I only saw two large hills in their normal spots. I was really confused wondering where the cars went. Everything looked different and I was in awe at how much my normal backyard and neighborhood completely changed because of the 22 inches of snow that fell. Also, our normal lives were placed on hold for the few days afterwards as we all dug ourselves out of the snow. I was fascinated that Mother Nature could be responsible for completely changing our daily routine and could place everyone’s life on hold. Because of this storm, I wanted to learn more about how Mother Nature can be responsible for such drastic changes to our normal everyday lives. The Blizzard of 1996 is still well remembered by many people in NJ and across the Northeast even 25 years later. Not many storms (outside of hurricanes) trigger that sort of memory. Even when I was at Rutgers, my professors ranked the Blizzard of 1996 as one of the most historic snow events ever to impact the I-95 corridor and it was discussed when we learned about nor’easters. Many of my classmates also said it sparked their interest in meteorology as well.” — Christina Speciale, NWS WFO Albany, NY
  • “At the time of the 1996 blizzard I was early in my career (started September 1994), serving as an intern within the DTB of what was then HPC (now WPC). At that time we were in the World Weather Building (WWB) at Camp Springs, MD. My main functions included assisting the SDM with raob/aircraft QC, producing the Daily Weather Map, and entering products that our forecasters prepared into the computer system that would send them out. I’m originally from central Ohio and was in either Ohio or Indiana (two years at Purdue) my entire life before coming to the DC area in 1994, and before 1996 the heaviest snowfall I had experienced was a 10-12″ event in late February 1984. I remember that the 1996 storm was in the middle of working night shifts, with the snow starting maybe around 9:30 P.M. Saturday night. There was a lull around midday/afternoon Sunday when precip became lighter and mixed in type. Then I think it was in the early-mid evening when the snow resumed and the wind strengthened. The snow finally tapered off by Monday morning or midday. The combination of my work schedule and duration of the storm ultimately led me to being onsite at the WWB from starting my Saturday night shift until departing from work early Tuesday morning. I was young and excited about experiencing by far the biggest snow event of my life up to that time, so I don’t think I could have had a lot of sleep even if I had tried, and survived through that pretty well as I recall. Interestingly my memory was so focused on the event that I don’t remember what activities if any I may have helped out with beyond my regular shift duties.  One of the other memories from just after the event was how difficult of a time the DC area had in properly clearing the roads, as I recall various places where a lane would be plowed and at some point just cut out with a pile of snow. That’s something I wasn’t ready for from my lighter snowfall experiences in the Ohio Valley. Also I found a small number of pictures I still have from the event and they are attached.  Two are from in front of the WWB after the storm ended, and another that I think was during the Sunday afternoon lull–happy that I had the foresight to park my car out in the open so that the snow would blow around it instead of drifting onto it.” — Marty Rausch, NOAA/NWS/Weather Prediction Center
  • “This was the largest snow I had ever seen from one storm in my life…then Dec 16-17th, 2020 just happened and beat it by 10 inches. Awesome to see my kids to now have a memorable storm, like the one in ‘96 that I had told them about many times. When I woke up Thursday morning, I was also shocked to tell them that this was bigger than the ‘96 Blizzard for me. I lived in Northern Dutchess County, NY. My most memorable part of ‘96 was that the one side of my house where the drift formed was buried in snow right to the roof (9 feet high). I remember going on the roof and jumping into that drift and being buried…took me 5 minutes to get out from it. I was only 16 years old at the time and was already interested in Meteorology before this thanks to many other epic storms (Snow leaf 1987, Superstorm, the whole 1994 winter, and this storm).” Michael Patrick Kistner, NWS WFO Binghamton, NY
  • “I was a Met Intern at NWS New York for this storm. Thankfully Brookhaven Labs still had its Army barracks for the staff to sleep at, as roads had about a foot of snow and visibility near zero. Lead Forecaster Bob Stalker and I barely made it to the barracks from the office, which is less than a mile away!Launching the weather balloon at the office during the storm was a top memory of it.  Snowfall was so intense and visibility near zero along with strong northeast winds, meteorologist Tom Mazza and I had to walk backwards to the upper air shelter.  We then had to launch the balloon from a nearby hill, given the strong northeast winds the balloon would not have cleared the tree line if we launched from the upper air building.  Pretty cool, the first launch attempt was successful.  We were so proud of ourselves given our rookie status as Met Interns. The ETA model did an excellent job simulating storm intensity, track and forecasted precipitation days in advance. It was a big win for the ETA!”Frank Nocera, NWS WFO Boston/Norton, MA
  • “There are three things that I remember most from the Blizzard of ’96. It’s amazing how much weather forecasting has improved over the last quarter century.  Even though there were some hints that something big might happen on Sunday the 7th, I don’t think that we really began to mention the potential for snow in our forecast until Wednesday the 3rd. With the models not being as sophisticated as they are now, there was a tendency to be a bit more conservative with our forecasts at that time. While I was involved in the forecast process during the lead-up to the storm, I was actually scheduled off on Saturday the 6th and Sunday the 7th. I was supposed to return for a day shift on Monday the 8th but I was unable to get my car out of the parking lot of the apartment complex where I lived. It was too far to walk, about 6 miles.  It was the only time in my 35 years with the National Weather Service that I was unable to make my way into work due to the weather. Before this year, it was the only other time that I can remember the supply chain failing.  We were unable to get some necessities such as bread and milk for several days after the storm.” — Dean Iovino, NWS WFO Mount Holly, NJ
  • “The 1996 storm is the favorite weather event of my NWS career (46 years). Snowstorms have always been at the top of my favorite weather event list. 3 storms are etched in my memory. All of them because I ended up in the office for much longer than a regular shift. In the 1979 storm I was in the office for 24 hours straight. In the 1983 storm it was 25 hours. For both of those storms, our office was located on Arch Street in Philadelphia. But my favorite snowstorm of all time was the January 1996 one. Whenever I did one of my school presentations (I was the Education Outreach Program Director for many years), I always spoke about the 1996 snowstorm when winter weather was involved. Our office moved to its present location in Mt. Holly, NJ in 1993. Since I lived (and currently still reside) in Lindenwold, Camden County, it took me about 30 minutes to drive to the office. On the morning of Sunday January 7, 1996, I was scheduled to be in the office for the beginning of my shift at 7 A.M. But with the computer models showing a start time of 4 to 5 A.M., I decided that I would get in a little early. I arrived at the office at 5 A.M., just as the first flakes began to fall. If I recall correctly, temperatures at that time were around 30 degrees. To make a long story a little shorter, the storm intensified rapidly as it moved up the coast. We had heavy snow throughout the day Sunday and into Sunday night. Temperatures dropped through the 20s and down to 15 degrees at the height of the storm. Winds gusted to around 40 mph at the office dropping the visibility to near zero at times and blew the snow into drifts 5 to 7 feet high. The snow mixed with sleet at times Sunday night as warm air aloft moved in but surface temperatures remained in the upper teens. As the storm began to move away Monday morning, wrap around snow gave the region another few inches. The storm dropped 30.7 inches at Philadelphia International Airport. Most of our forecast area received 2 to 3 feet of snow. I ended up working 35 hours straight. Something I will never forget. The Governor declared a State of Emergency on Monday. So when I left to go home at 4 P.M., I was the only car on the roads. It was one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen. Snow piled high everywhere. It felt really weird driving on I-295 and being the only car. Well, not the only car — I first saw headlights and then a car in my rearview mirror. That turned out to be a State Trooper who pulled me over to ask why I was driving. After I explained, we enjoyed a few pleasantries and he sent
    me on my way. Of course, when I got home, my children were feverishly shoveling my driveway. They had about a third of it done. Just enough for me to pull the car off the street. It was a storm that I will never forget.”
    Bob Wanton, retired general forecaster, NWS WFO Mount Holly, NJ
  • Waxing Poetic About The Blizzard Of ’96: I had the fortunate(?) opportunity to work forecast shifts (including the start of it that Sunday morning) leading up to the blizzard and also a story for the day after on January 8th. From a climate and forecast perspective the city of Philadelphia had only one double digit snow storm between the February 1983 storm and this blizzard: The Storm Of The Century in March of 1993. A storm of this magnitude was not a common occurrence and if anything, they fizzled or became rainier closer to occurrence time.  During the Storm Of The Century, I was working at the WFO in New York City and recalled all the models had that pegged 4 to 5 days in advance with very little variation in strength or track, a forecasting marvel for that time. I went in 12 hours early for my midnight shift because I was not going to make it if I waited until that evening. Fast forward to this blizzard and the modeling consensus was not there. I’d say this storm put the ECMWF model on the map as the “go to” model. In the late 90s there was the “EE” rule: if the ECMWF and ETA had it, run with it and leave the GFS & NGM behind. Back then the ECMWF ran only once a day (00z run on midnight shifts) and very little information about it made it into AFOS. I do not recall exactly, but when it did arrive, it probably was close to the time that products had to be issued. We hand typed all products back then. This was a forecast case of where the ECMWF had more of a northwest track than the other models. Meanwhile the GFS Model (labeled the MRF I think for the medium range part) was much farther southeast. A dance that has been repeated numerous times ever since: the closer we came to the event, the more northwest the GFS trended with the low. What looked like a Delmarva crush job, became a Delmarva/SE New Jersey crush job and eventually that morning of the blizzard an I-95 crush job. It is hard to put in perspective how lead time watches and warnings with this event differed from other lesser events: PHL had some 6-10” events in the city, so it is not as if it never snowed between 1983 and 1996, but not on the magnitude of this event outside of March 1993. I issued a winter storm watch the early morning of January 6th. Meteorologist Art Kraus who worked the day shift that Saturday issued winter storm warnings and I upgraded most of those warnings to Blizzard Warnings on Sunday morning January 7th . Pretty much as the snow was starting. My sense was if there was better modeling agreement, these watches and warnings would have been issued earlier. Poor Meteorologist-In-Charge Chet Henricksen had only one operational shift that month and it so happened to be that Sunday morning. He was covering I think for Art Kraus who wanted to go to the PA Farm Show. I don’t know how he made it home to Chester County Pennsylvania that afternoon.  All the other meteorologists were stuck at the office. Which brings us to Monday January 8th. I was called about Noon that day and was asked to please come into the office (It is about a 15-minute drive from our house to the office) because everyone was there for over 24 hours and they were exhausted. I said sure. I had a Chevy Blazer. After The Storm Of The Century In March 1993, I had no problem driving that Blazer through 2 feet of snow to get to our home in Yorktown Heights, NY. The drive in would be a piece of cake.  Little did I know about the wonders of NJ jughandles, until then. Instead of making an illegal left hand turn onto County Route 541, I decided to go the goody two shoes route and make the right hand turn into the jughandle and then make a left turn onto CR 541 at the end of it. Well that jughandle is huge and because of its eastern exposure that was very helpful in having the snow drifts get higher and higher the deeper I went into the jughandle. Yes, it happened, the snow became so deep.I became stuck. The Blazer literally was sitting on top of the snow drift and the wheels were not even in contact with the ground. Thankfully this was New Jersey and not Montana in this instance. There was a gas station that was open (no cell phones back then) and I called the office to tell them my predicament. Here my memory gets foggy (must have been the freezing cold). I do not remember if someone from the office drove over to pick me up or the tow truck operator pulled me out of the snowbank and I drove to work.  I was fortunate I almost made it to the end of the jughandle. Either way I made it in that afternoon. I arrived at the office. I recall one of the greatest acts of unsolicited kindness ever done for me by a fellow employee. Matt Lorentson (then an intern) made a cup of hot tea for me and found a blanket to put on my shoulders to help me stop shivering. I will never forget this and he is symbolic of the people who work for the National Weather Service.  We are one big family who help each other in times of need. I was glad I did get there, because my co-workers who were stuck sounded pretty incoherent. Going about 36 hours without any sleep will do that to you.”– Tony Gigi, retired Lead Forecaster, NWS WFO Mount Holly, NJ
  • “I was living in Glen Cove, on the North Shore of Long Island in Nassau County. I remember the times leading up to the storm like the back of my hand. I was a senior at Saint Mary’s High School, in my last semester prior to graduating and moving on to SUNY Stony Brook. A nor’easter fanatic from a young age, with what little we had back in the mid 90s to track weather, I was keen on watching every newscast I could find. At first it was only an outside chance of impact for the New York City metro area, most guidance showing a glancing impact or slider to the south and east. As time got closer, it appeared more likely we would receive warning level snow and my excitement grew large. There was something about it, it felt like a bigger event was unfolding. Prior to leaving for a friends’ birthday party, forecasters increased the snow amounts to 8 to 14 inches and my excitement shot through the roof, carrying me through the night during the party. After arriving home, the forecast increased to 15 to 20 inches on January 5th, all the way to 20 to 30 inches after the onset. The snow fell, the winds blew, and conditions deteriorated rapidly. Snow fell at two inches per hour for many hours, the snow piled up, and the winds blew drifts to 6 feet. We dry slotted for a period which allowed me to join a few friends on a drive to the South Shore. We witnessed huge battering waves, beach erosion, coastal flooding, and winds easily gusting 50 to 60 mph. For a 17 year old kid fascinated with weather, it was epic. We ended up with 21 inches in Glen Cove though it was difficult to find the right spot to measure due to the drifts. Snow ended more than 24 hours after it began, the weather remained cold for a couple days then a warm up ensued. I ended up working for WFO OKX during my tenure at SUNY Stony Brook then went on to a now 20+ year career with the National Weather Service, spanning 7 positions in 4 states. It’s been a great journey. Hurricane Gloria sparked my weather interest in 1985, the Nor’easter of 92 kept the journey going, and the Blizzard of ‘96 was the icing on the cake, propelling me to become a Meteorologist for life.” — Ken Widelski, NOAA Liaison to FEMA, National IMAT White
     

https://vlab.ncep.noaa.gov/web/nws-heritage/-/the-blizzard-of-96-in-retrospect-25-years-later

With an 36-mile diameter and 150 mile an hour sustained winds, an air parcel in the eyewall makes a full lap around the eye in 45 minutes

Staying safe from the heat while staying safe from COVID-19 for Fourth of July weekend

fox43.com

Author: Bradon Long

The hottest temperatures of the year combine with the new mandatory public mask order for Fourth of July.

HARRISBURG, Pa. — As we head into the holiday weekend, we’re no stranger to the hot and humid weather conditions that come along with it.

But the hottest temperatures of the year move into our area for the Fourth of July weekend, with heat index values ranging from the mid-90s to near 100° and the order from the Department of Health mandating masks in all public spaces. Staying safe from the heat while enjoying the holiday could be a little bit more complicated than usual.

“If they are uncomfortable wearing a mask because they get too hot, then maybe they should be inside instead of taking part in activities outside because we need people to wear those masks,” Nate Wardle, Press Secretary for the Pennsylvania Department of Health said.

“If your family is going for walk, you don’t need to wear a mask. If you’re walking in a downtown area, or a very busy cart path, then you need to wear a mask,” Wardle said.

But if you do still venture out to celebrate the holiday, you will be greeted with hot and humid temperatures. Too much exposure without proper hydration could lead to heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

“When it’s humid out, the heat index is always higher than what the temperature is. That’s the number to watch,” Charles Ross with the National Weather Service in State College said. 

“The big things for this weekend are gonna be the heat exhaustion, the overdoing it, the not drinking enough fluids,” Ross said.

We all know the drill. Stay hydrated. Go inside and drink cold water if you’re feeling light-headed. Monitor your heart rate and be aware of your surroundings. Be ready to call 911 if you feel particularly unwell. You can find more information on the Department of Health website.

But another thing to consider this weekend will be the abundant sunshine combined with the heat. Burn time this weekend will be around 10-15 minutes for your skin because of a very high UV index value of 9.

By defintion, the UV Index is a measure of intensity of ultraviolet radiation from the sun at its highest point, rated on a scale of zero to 11. 9 is in the very high category.

“We need to have them wear sunscreen,” Wardle said.

In fact, you can find sunscreen for free in dispensers at state parks and beaches this weekend as well, in a Department of Health partnership with CDC funds and the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR).

“They’re automated, just put your hand under it just like a hand sanitizer dispenser,” Wardle said.

Bottom line: limit time outside if possible and stay hydrated. Stay tuned to the FOX43 Weather Team. We’ll keep you Weather Smart for your holiday weekend.

https://www.fox43.com/article/news/staying-safe-from-heat-and-covid-fourth-of-july-weekend/521-45d18d35-7184-4edf-b81a-592a0be35989

‘Abnormally large dust cloud’ making 5,000-mile trek across Atlantic towards US

https://media.fox43.com/embeds/mobile/video/607-2806f094-cc7c-4d2b-9db9-d6fb09c3d8df/amp#amp=1 accuweather

The dust cloud may also pose a possible health hazard to those living along the Gulf coast. Author: Adriana Navarro (AccuWeather) Published: 2:20 PM EDT June 19, 2020

NOAA/GOES16

Crimson sunrises and sunsets will paint the eastern Texas sky next week, most likely not as any ill omen for the remaining months of 2020, but from dust.

An “abnormally large dust cloud” from the Sahara is making about a 5,000-mile trek across the Atlantic, heralding the chance of red sunrises and sunsets across the Gulf Coast and suppressing tropical development in the Atlantic Basin. However, it may also pose a possible health hazard to those living along the Gulf coast. null

Although it isn’t uncommon for the Trade Winds to carry dust from the Sahara to the Gulf Coast, this plume has caught the attention of a few meteorologists.

“According to scientists that I have gotten some information from, they’re saying this is an abnormally large dust cloud,” AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist and lead hurricane expert Dan Kottlowski told AccuWeather’s Jonathan Petramala. “One of the things I noticed from this is the dust started coming off the coast of Africa several days ago, in fact maybe over a week ago. And it’s still coming. It’s almost like a prolonged area of dust.” Satellite imagery of the dust plume from the Sahara trekking across the Atlantic toward the Americas on June 18, 2020. NOAA/GOES16

Dust making this journey from the Sahara to the Gulf Coast is common during June, July and sometimes into early August. Picked up by the Trade Winds and lofted higher up into the atmosphere, the dust gets trapped as the wind spirits it away across the Atlantic.

“This is the dusty time of the year,” Kottlowski said. This year, he believes a stronger-than-normal, or at least a very active, African easterly jet might be at play in spurring the abnormal dust plume.

As the dust is carried across the Atlantic, it tends to suppress tropical development.

“It keeps a lid on the atmosphere and brings dry air into anything that may try to develop, which is very detrimental for tropical development which relies on warm, moist air,” AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Alan Reppert said.

However, dust is rarely a factor during the later months of the Atlantic hurricane season — August, September and October — when storms become more active. https://tpc.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html?n=0

“Dust tends to be much less of a problem during the heart of the hurricane season,” Kottlowski said.

However, while the dust can suppress development, it doesn’t kill any development entirely, Kottlowski warned. It’s still possible for a tropical wave to clear out a large area of the dust, allowing a second tropical wave following in its wake to take advantage of the break in the dust pattern.

There doesn’t seem to be a break in this dust pattern just yet though.

“I was amazed that the dust is still coming off the coast,” Kottlowski said. “You don’t see a break in it, so it’s just a sort of long-lasting area of dust. We’re going to see hazy skies across the Caribbean, probably into Florida into parts of the Gulf of Mexico area, probably for a week or two.”

The dust is expected to reach the Gulf Coast between Tuesday and Thursday of next week, Kottlowski estimated. With the hazy skies, the sun’s rays will have to bend around the dust particles as sunlight filters through the sky, creating vivid red sunrises and sunsets.

“It all depends on the concentration of the air particles or of the dust that will be there,” Kottlowski said. “But from what I’ve seen thus far, a fair amount of dust is going to get forced into the Texas coast into those areas, so they will see that.”

Volcanic ash and smoke from wildfires have had similar effects on how sunlight filters through the atmosphere at sunrise and sunset. The dust from the Sahara will spread out over a large area, from Florida to Louisiana and Texas, where Kottlowski expects the most dust to be seen.

While the dust will hang higher in the air, it can still pose a health concern. Should any of the fine dust combine with other particles in the air such as ozone or other dust particles or smoke, it could impact people who are more prone to respiratory issues, Kottlowski said. He expects there will be a few poor air quality reports out of eastern Texas next week.

Reporting by Jonathan Petramala.

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Atlantic Hurricanes 2020: NOAA predicts busy season, 13-19 storms | fox43.com

https://media.fox43.com/embeds/mobile/video/507-82172ab5-e3ae-4785-a259-48f70f1b69e1/amp#amp=1 nation-world

NOAA predicts ‘busy’ Atlantic hurricane season with 3-6 major storms

The Atlantic hurricane season officially begins June 1 and forecasters say it could be a busy one. Author: TEGNA Published: 12:01 PM EDT May 21, 2020

NOAA
NOAA

WASHINGTON — National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecasters said Thursday that they expect the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season to be a busy one. 

The NOAA’s outlook predicts an above-normal season, which officially begins on June 1.

The NOAA predicts there will be 13 to 19 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which six to 10 could become hurricanes (74 mph or higher). The NOAA forecasts that there could be between three to six major hurricanes (Storms that reach category 3 or above). 

An average Atlantic hurricane season produces 12 named storms, with six becoming hurricanes, including three major ones.  

The NOAA said a combination of several factors, including the lack of El Nino conditions, along with warmer-than-average sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, increases the likelihood for an above-normal Atlantic hurricane season.  A summary infographic showing hurricane season probability and numbers of named storms predicted from NOAA’s 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook. NOAA

While the Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 through November 30, there’s already been one named storm. Tropical storm Arthur sent rain over North Carolina Monday. 

The storm represented another early start for the Atlantic hurricane season. Arthur formed Saturday in waters off Florida, marking the sixth straight year that a named storm has developed before June 1. A summary graphic showing an alphabetical list of the 2020 Atlantic tropical cyclone names as selected by the World Meteorological Organization. The first named storm of the season, Arthur, occurred in earlier in May before the NOAA’s outlook was announced. NOAA

The NOAA’s acting administrator said the agency’s analysis reveals a recipe for an active Atlantic hurricane season this year. 

RELATED: Forecasters predicting ‘very active’ 2020 Atlantic season

RELATED: ‘No model is perfect’: A look at how coronavirus projections are made

“Our skilled forecasters, coupled with upgrades to our computer models and observing technologies, will provide accurate and timely forecasts to protect life and property,” said Neil Jacobs, Ph.D., acting NOAA administrator.   

“As Americans focus their attention on a safe and healthy reopening of our country, it remains critically important that we also remember to make the necessary preparations for the upcoming hurricane season,” said Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. “Just as in years past, NOAA experts will stay ahead of developing hurricanes and tropical storms and provide the forecasts and warnings we depend on to stay safe.” https://tpc.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html?n=0

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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Mother Nature is Fierce

Two Powerful Storms Hammering the U.S.

Iowa Climate Science Education

A powerful storm will move from the Central Plains into the upper Midwest bringing a swath of heavy snow, damaging winds and significant travel impacts today, warns the National Weather Service.

The Western U.S. is also being impacted by another powerful storm with heavy mountain snow and strong winds continuing into Thursday.

Heavy snows, reaching 30 inches (75 cm) in some areas, disrupted travel across the center of the United States, stranding thousands of travelers at airports, and forcing closure of stretches of major highways due to near-zero visibility.

Heavy snow has been falling across Colorado since Tuesday morning, with 10 to 14 inches already reported in parts of the state and a blizzard warning was issued for the Eastern Plains.

The strong winter storm was expected to drop up to a foot (30 cm) of snow in parts of Colorado and Wyoming and prompted the National Weather Service to…

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Next week’s Arctic blast will be so cold, forecasters expect it to break 170 records across US

The temperature drop will be a three-day process as a cold front charges across central eastern U.S. High temperatures on Monday maybe stuck in the teens and twenties in the Midwest. Snow may also be in the forecast for portions of the eastern and even southern U.S. This week’s cold snap is only an appetizer compared with the main Arctic blast that’s coming next week meteorologists said. That freeze could be one for the record books. The National Weather Service is forecasting 170 potential daily record cold high temperatures Monday to Wednesday a little taste of January in November. The temperature nosedive will be a three-day process as a cold front charges across the Central and Eastern U.S. The front will plunge quickly through the northern Plains upper Midwest Sunday, into the southern Plains and Ohio Valley Monday, then through most of the East Coast and Deep South on Tuesday.

Continue reading here.

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Update on Hurricane Lorenzo

Update on Tropical Storm Karen

Update on Hurricane Humberto

Update on Hurricane Humberto

Tropical storm Depression Strengthens to Tropical Storm Humberto

While satellite and surface data indicate that the system does not have a closed circulation, it will bring heavy rainfall and Gusty winds to portions of the Bahamas through Friday