Nov. – Jan. 2013: A Busy Start to Winter

Posted: January 31, 2014, 2:14 pm by cspeciale


Now that we have reached the mid - point of the 2013 – 2014 winter season, it is very apparent that we are in the midst of an unusually active and cold winter. In fact, a few places along I -95 have recorded some of their snowiest and coldest winter months ever on record. Let’s take a look back at November through January to learn just how busy Mother Nature has kept the Northeast this winter.

While the first half of November was generally quiet, an arctic front ushered in frigid air on the 12th which led to the Northeast’s first accumulating snow of the season. In general, accumulations were limited to areas north/west of I – 95 and mostly did not top an inch. The middle of November stayed quiet but arctic air filtered in on the 24th, smashing daily and monthly November records. By the week of Thanksgiving, all eyes watched a wintry coastal storm set for the busiest travel day of the year. The storm began and ended with a wintry mix but dumped 1 – 3 inches of rain in between. Although the coastal storm was out by Thanksgiving, frigid air in its wake gave the Northeast one of its coldest Turkey Days on record.

Going into December, Mother Nature kicked winter in high gear. While the first week of the month just had a few wintry mix events, the region entered into an exceptionally active period from the 8th through the 17th. First, an impressive storm developed on the 8th, dumping significant totals on the Mid-Atlantic. During this event, a localized and intense snow band became stagnant between Baltimore and Philadelphia dumping 1 – 2 inches of snow per hour. Southern NJ came out as the big winner topping out between 9 - 11 inches! In addition, some of the heaviest snow fell during both the Eagles and Ravens’ home games but did not stop either from victory.

Without hesitation, the next system quickly moved in on December 10th, bringing a general 2 – 4 inches almost everywhere along the I – 95 corridor. Following this event, frigid air arrived, dropping temperatures 10 – 15°F colder than normal, setting the stage for a snow and ice storm on the 14th. This time, up to 0.10 - 0.30 inches of ice accumulated on top of 4 – 8 inches of snow with New England hardest hit. Giving no rest to the weary, a fourth event on the 17th produced wintry mix and dropped another 2 – 5 inches of snow and sleet across the Northeast.

Luckily, the second half of December provided a much needed respite and turned much milder. In fact, temperatures soared into the 60’s and 70’s in the days before Christmas breaking all time December and winter records. Outside of a minor snow shower event Christmas Eve, most of the Northeast did not experience a White Christmas. In the remaining days of 2013, the Northeast had just a few minor wintry events as we welcomed 2014 on a rather quiet note.

Shortly after ringing in the New Year, a major coastal storm wreaked havoc along the East Coast January 2nd – 3rd. This storm was especially notable because of the record breaking cold air it introduced to the region. The frigid air combined with relatively warm ocean waters led to significant snow bands, which mostly hit the coastline. In fact, the Jersey Shore measured 8 – 10 inches, a foot fell on Long Island, and 20 – 24 inches buried Essex County, MA thanks to an intense ocean enhanced snow band. (See our blog to learn more about this unusual set up). Following this storm, part of the polar vortex split over Canada, sending some of the coldest air in the northern hemisphere into the Northeast. Overnight lows on the 3rd and 4th fell below zero in many spots, breaking records in Atlantic City and Harford. After a freezing rain event on the 5th, another wave of arctic cold came on the 7th and 8th with highs only in the teens, even as far south as Virginia! A major consequence of such cold air were river ice jams, which brought flooding to those along the Delaware River.

Winter did not let up for the second half of the month, with back to back events on the 18th and 21st. First, a long duration snowstorm gave 3 – 7 inches to Massachusetts and New Hampshire with a more widespread and significant coastal storm arriving for the 21st. Here, strong banding along I – 95 gave 5 – 12 inches of snow for everyone from D.C to Boston. In fact, this was D.C’s first 2 inch snow event since February 2010! Another arctic blast then followed this system, along with a few minor events before the final storm of the month hit…this time for the Mid-Atlantic. After leaving the Southeast paralyzed with snow and ice, the coastal storm clipped the Delmarva and southern NJ dropping 5 – 7 inches of snow on the 28th – 29th.

After such a cold and snowy month, January 2014 made the top ten list for a few locations in both the snow and cold categories. Interestingly, this was the first winter Philadelphia has ever had three 6 inch or greater snow events before February 1st, with two occuring in January. Such a busy pattern helped rank January 2014 as Philly's 2nd snowiest on record with 25.9 inches. In addition, such long lasting anomalous cold made this the 5th coldest January for Baltimore averaging nearly 6 degrees colder than normal.

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