Historic Winter in the Mid-Atlantic

Updated: 2/12/10

Well the latest round of snow from the Blizzard of 2010, round 2 hit the Mid-Atlantic and parts of the Northeast Feb 9-10th and produced snowfall up to 1 to 2 feet in some places.  This easily placed D.C. and Philly at the top of the list for their snowiest winter season on record.

What a winter it has been for New Jersey, eastern Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, Delaware and D.C.  First back on December 19th & 20th this part of the country got hit with nearly 2 feet of snow from a Nor'easter that pushed up the coast.  Then a little less than 2 months later on February 5th & 6th, the 1st blizzard of the year, hammered just about the same area with 2 to 3 feet of the white stuff.  First off, here are some maps of the snowfall totals in the Philadelphia Area from the Feb 9-10th storm and Maryland, Virginia & parts of West Virginia. from the Feb 5-6th storm.  A few other stats to illustrate the historic proportions of this storm. The official measurement at Philadelphia International Airport was 28.5", which is the 2nd highest snowfall ever, topped only by the January 1996 Blizzard which deposited 30.7".  And as I mentioned earlier, this storm knocked down to 3rd place the snowfall back in December that leveled out at 23.2" in Philly.  More so, this is the first time in recorded weather history in the City of Brotherly Love that 2 snowfalls of 20"+ have taken place in the same winter and 3 snowfalls of more than a foot.  There had been a very few that had a couple 10"+ amounts in one winter, but nothing this significant.  Last but not least, this will go down for them as the snowiest on record.  Right now they are at 72.1" with still about a month of winter left to go.  Comparing these stats to Wausau, our seasonal snowfall average is 58.6" and thus far through February 8th, our total snowfall has been 25.5".  Yes, just about as much here from November to the present time as these folks farther east have picked up in a single snowstorm.

In addition to all of this, Dulles Airport, outside of Washington D.C. picked up a whopping 32.4" of snow with the February 5-6th Blizzard, the highest amount ever, blowing out of the record books the previous mark at 23.2 set on January 7-8, 1996.  So what's been going on cause these blockbuster snowstorms in the Mid-Atlantic?  First off, it's the weather pattern, that being an El Nino pattern.  As you may remember back in late fall I talked about this a bit in my blog in regard to how the southern jet stream typically is the predominant one pushing storms into California, across the southern tier states and then usually curving them up into the northeastern U.S.  In other words, wet and colder than average winter there.  Back closer to home, this type of set up doesn't completely shut off our chances of snow, but does cut down on the amount for the season and typically allows for temperatures to be a bit milder.  Thus far we have had a somewhat middle of the road temperature regime (0.8 degrees below avg December, 3.0 above average January) and certainly a lower than typical amount of snow, which is roughly a foot behind average to this point.  Of course, the one main difference for the big cities along the east coast is those Nor'easters don't usually stay mainly snow.  Having lived there for over 20 years, a majority of storms cause a mixed bag of snow, sleet, freezing rain and rain, with the heaviest snow usually focused to the north and west of town.  But this winter, cold enough air has been in place at the right times to allow for the 1 or 2" amount of liquid to fall mainly as snow in the range of a foot or two.

In case you are wondering, here's what my forecast was for the big snow producer Feb 9-10th in the area:  That leads to the next significant snow producer for the Mid-Atlantic and southern New England coast Tuesday night through Wednesday.  Unlike the storm last weekend, this one will be the joining of the storm producing the snow here in the western Great Lakes and another wave of low pressure trekking across the southern Plains.  The new, energized low is then forecast to develop off the North Carolina coast and rapidly intensify as it slides north-northeast to a position off of the New Jersey/New York coast Wednesday.  With a track a bit closer to the coast this go around, there will probably be some mixed precip along the shore counties, but still I'm forecasting snowfall of 10-18" back into interior sections of New Jersey, Philadelphia and the eastern third of Pennsylvania.  So if all goes to the forecast, this storm is likely to push the bar higher for the snowiest winter on record in Philly and likely produce snow depths that would be in the neighborhood of 1 to 2 feet.  Something we see here every once and a while in a winter, but extremely rare for these folks out east.

It just goes to show, the weather can always surprise you.  And for those folks that say they remember back when the snow used to pile up to the rooftops and all of that, well look no further than some of the more recent winters for comparison sake.

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