Christmas Eve 1966 Snowstorm

Posted: December 24, 2012, 2:00 am by cspeciale


For most of the baby boomers growing up in the Northeast, the white Christmas of 1966 likely stands out. An intense nor’easter not only blanketed coastal Virginia all the way to Maine with snow, but also lit up the sky with plenty of lightning and thunder!

Starting on December 23rd, a low pressure system departed from the Gulf, grabbing abundant moisture, and began the classic track up the East Coast. In the days preceding this storm's arrival, chilly Canadian air spread through the central and eastern U.S . So cold that thermometers as far south as Virginia struggled to rise above freezing, priming the atmosphere for the upcoming Christmas snowstorm. The map below represents surface observations from Christmas Eve morning.


As Christmas Eve continued, a stronger coastal low formed off Cape Hatteras, wrapping in bands of snow into the Mid-Atlantic. The nor'easter continued its track northward and strengthened throughout Christmas Eve. For most of the Northeast, the storm was in full swing by nightfall forcing many religious and holiday services to cancel. However, the worst of the storm did not last long, and finished overnight for most of the Mid Atlantic. Northern New England was not so lucky, however, enduring the storm's wrath into Christmas morning. By the time most sat down to have Christmas dinner, the nor’easter had finally passed leaving many with over a foot of snow in its wake.

The heaviest snow bands pounded interior sections of the Northeast while easterly winds kept coastal and southern locations a bit warmer allowing a mix of sleet and snow. As if a holiday snowstorm was not enough, the storm’s intensity brought along thunder and flashes of lightning, especially under the heaviest bands. To add insult to injury, the combination of artic air and strong wind gusts caused wind chills to plummet into the single digits.

When folks finally pulled out the plows and shovels, the highest totals stretched from Virginia into eastern PA and northern NJ through the Hudson Valley and into Vermont. As the map above shows, snow totals in this swath ranged from 10 to 20” in addition to even higher snow drifts. However, the big winners were those in the Catskills and Adirondacks where lake effect enhancement toppled totals over 2 feet. Although a Christmas blizzard such as this does appear likely for the Northeast this year, we are looking at a light snow Christmas Eve into early Christmas day, especially north of I-95.

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