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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Today Marks 18th Anniversary of the Blizzard of 1996

Did you know that today marks the anniversary of The Blizzard of 1996? That snowstorm still ranks as one of the most memorable in my nearly-19 years of providing the morning weather forecasts at News 12 Connecticut. In fact, it was one of only two times I stayed the night and slept in the weathercenter due to the heavy snow and strong, gusty winds.

The storm actually started late-morning, Sunday, January 7, as light snow overspread the entire Northeast. The snow gradually became heavier through the afternoon, and by evening, roads were just about impassable due to the rapid accumulation. By the time the storm began moving away the following day, nearly two feet of snow blanketed much of southwestern Connecticut.

The two-day snow total at Sikorsky Memorial Airport in Statford was 15 inches, including seven inches on January 7 and eight on January 8. That eclipsed the snow total of the so-called March 13, 1993 "Storm of the Century," which was 10.8 inches. Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks received 18.2 inches, just shy of the 21-inch record snowfall at the time, but more than the 14.8 inches just three years earlier.

Central Park in New York City recorded 20.2 inches of snow, making it the third highest snowfall at the time. Staten Island measured more than 27 inches of snow, and  LaGuardia International Airport recorded 24 inches, which exceeded the normal for the entire season of 22.6 inches.

An Arctic air mass covered New England as a massive storm developed over Virginia. The storm was actually energized by a 60-degree surface temperature contrast across western Montana which propelled a 175-mile-an-hour wind in the jet stream southward into the Plains causing the storm to form. This storm eventually brought the heavy snow from western North Carolina to southern New England.

Incredibly, the eastern slopes of the Appalachian Mountains from northern Virginia to Pennsylvania measured more than three feet of snow. The following map shows just how impressive the storm was. Southwestern Connecticut fell within the 15 to 20 inch range as far as total snow accumulations, with the heaviest amounts of 30 inches across southeastern Pennsylvania. The lightest amounts, oddly, fell well to the North.


It's hard to believe that 18 years have passed since the January blizzard of 1996. There aren't any worries about significant snow over the next few days, but brutally cold Arctic air will be with us through tomorrow. Today's high temperatures will only reach the lower teens, and tomorrow's highs will climb into the mid 20s. Bundle up. It sure is cold outside.