WINTER OUTLOOK: Looking at past storm tracks

Winter Outlook 2019

The winter of 2018 – 2019 featured an average amount of snowfall in Syracuse with about 120″ of snowfall. Of course the amounts of snow that fell from each system in CNY varied greatly depending upon the ultimate storm track.

The first one we visited was a clipper that originated in the Canadian Plains, Alberta Province, zipped through CNY on January 29th and 30th and only produced a few inches of snow across the Syracuse area and much of the region. We didn’t see much snow from this system thanks to the progressive nature of the clipper.

A bit earlier in the month, the biggest snowfall that occurred during the winter of 2018-19 occurred on the 19th and 20th. This more significant storm system moved up out of the Mississippi River Valley and transferred its energy to the Northeast coastline. This more potent system had a much more significant impact on CNY producing over a foot of snow and some ice too. It was certainly much more difficult to get around during this storm, but thankfully this system came through Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend which made it much easier for the DPW to take care of the roads.

The Gulf Stream, a stream of relatively warm water located near or just off the East Coast of the U.S. plays a big role in the rapid development/intensification of nor’easters. Why is that? When the cold air comes pouring into the U.S. and heads for the East Coast this temperature contrasts between the cold air and warmer air over the Gulf Stream sets up a baroclinic zone AKA an area more conducive for storms to develop. This is why us meteorologists talk about storms “bombing” out once they get to or near the East Coast during the winter months in particular.

An historic example of this explosive development aided by all branches of the jet steam coming together was the Blizzard of ’93, AKA the Super Storm. This storm remains the measuring stick for all intense storms that occur during the winter season.

Over 300 people died from the Deep South to New England from this devastating storm that produced 11 tornadoes, accumulating snow into the Panhandle of Florida, including nearly a foot of snow in Atlanta, 3 to 4 feet of snow across much of CNY, including Syracuse (42.9″) with drifts of 8 to 10 feet and thunder snow at the height of the storm!!

The Blizzard of ’93 started to take shape in the Gulf of Mexico on the 12th and then rapidly intensified as it moved into the Southeastern U.S. on the 13th and continued to explosively develop as it worked its way just inland from the East Coast into Southeastern NY and Western New England on the 14th. Again, if you lived in the eastern third of the country, especially in CNY at that time you most likely remember this historic storm and it’s historical impacts.

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