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One of the Coldest Winters in 20 Years Shatters Snow Records

By Michael Kuhne, AccuWeather.com Staff Writer
March 26, 2014; 1:50 PM

Despite the arrival of spring, the icy grip of winter still retains a stranglehold on much of the Midwest and Northeast. The 2013-14 winter season is one of the coldest winters in 20 years, according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Dave Dombek.

"It's probably the coldest the Northeast has seen since 1993-94," he said in early March.

With snowfalls approaching annual all-time record highs in many of the major metropolitan areas across the country, the winter season has shattered expense records in the North.

According to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Jack Boston, the reason behind the record-breaking winter is due to a blocking high pressure ridge over Alaska, the Yukon and the Northeastern Pacific Ocean.

"That system deflected the jet stream across the North Pole, down through Canada and into the United States," he said, citing unseasonably low temperatures as a result of this burst of arctic air.

Donna Palmer works to clear nearly a foot of snow from her driveway on the first day of spring, Thursday, March 20, 2014, in North Woodstock, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

The cool air from the North meets with the jet stream and moisture in the South to create storm systems, and this is the main reason behind this year's heavy snowfall totals, Boston said.

Toledo, Ohio, experienced their snowiest winter ever, with a record breaking snowfall of 84.8 inches. Weather data for the city has been collected since the late 1800s, according to AccuWeather.com Meteorologist Brian Edwards.

Toledo's average annual snowfall is usually 37.8 inches. The previous record snowfall was recorded in the winter of 1978-79 at 73.1 inches.

"The high snowfall totals were more due to actual storm systems rather than lake-effect snow," he said, adding that Erie, Pa., received 130.7 inches of snow compared to the annual 95 inches and that a total of 122 inches fell in Buffalo, N.Y.

"It's impressive," he said. "Everybody is way above normal."

This year, Cincinnati and Dayton, Ohio, were both hit with more than a 220 percent of their average annual snowfall. Cincinnati has received 47.1 inches, making it the fourth-snowiest winter on record for the city.

With about a 230 percent of the average annual snowfall, Detroit was slammed with 90.7 inches of snow, and Chicago got 80 inches this season, making it the third-snowiest winter on record for both cities.

"Below-average February temperatures were observed across much of the northern and central contiguous U.S., with the largest departures from normal across the Midwest," according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

In addition to the snowstorms walloping the Midwest, cities in the Northeast have also approached all-time highs in snowfall totals as well as experienced record-breaking cold spells.

According to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, February 2014 ranks 37th for coldest February on record nationwide.

A city worker clears heavy snow from the sidewalk along Ohio Rt. 10 in North Ridgeville, Ohio, on Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

Philadelphia experienced a 314 percent of their average annual snowfall, with a total of 67.6 inches of snow, making it the third-snowiest winter on record, while Norfolk, Va., and Washington, D.C., were hit with more than double their annual average in snow this year.

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"Looking at preliminary data, the Northeast was cooler than normal during February," according to NOAA's website. "Western areas of New York and Pennsylvania were the coldest, with departures as low as minus 10 degrees."

The lingering cold has also set the stage for late-winter storms carrying into early spring.

On March 20, Washington, D.C., was hit with the largest March snowstorm since 1999.

The storm dropped 7.2 inches of snow, making it the third-largest snowfall on record for late-March. The only competitors include the March 28 to 29 snowstorm in 1942 which dropped 11.2 inches on the city and on March 27 to 28 in 1891 where snowfall totaled one foot.

"This weather pattern is very stubborn about breaking," Boston said. "That is why many parts of the northern and eastern U.S. are having this slow ending to winter."

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