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On March 12, 1993, 16 years ago yesterday, I was heading home from UNCA in Asheville, NC for Spring Break as it began to snow. I made it home OK, but by the next morning we had nearly two feet of snow. I took these photos at my Mom's house:
The large photo above was featured in the "NOAA National Disaster Survey Report: Superstorm Of March 1993" report (I was working at NOAA's NCDC at the time of publication). The report is not available online but a similar report by NCDC is (see below).
Some of my classmates got stuck at the school, which probably had higher amounts than the airport's report of 19 inches -- and drifting bad enough that the Army had to be sent in to the University to get people out.
The storm that caused this chaos is known as "The Blizzard of 1993" "The 1993 Superstorm" or "The Storm of the Century."
Five days before the storm, my meteorological classmates and I scoffed at the long-range black and white fax printouts from a forecast model of a huge storm over eastern North America - it must be an error in the model, such a storm was a once-in-a-century occurrence. But the short-range model soon picked it up as well. The storm marked the first time that models were able to reliably predict a historic storm and allow NOAA and AccuWeather to prepare the nation by warning clients and people in the storm's path.
There are several websites which give good information about this historic storm:
Some highlights of the storm follow.
SELECTED WIND REPORTS:
144 MPH on Mount Washington, NH 131 MPH occurred at Grand Etang, Nova Scotia. 130 MPH at Havana, Cuba (estimated) 109 MPH in the Dry Tortugas (west of Key West, FL)
SELECTED SNOWFALL REPORTS:
60 inches on Mount LeConte, TN 50 inches on Mount Mitchell, NC (14-foot drifts) 44 inches in Snowshoe, WV 17 inches near Birmingham, AL (6-foot drifts) 4 inches in the Florida Panhandle
NOTE: Statistics presented here may disagree with those you see on AccuWeather.com or other sites.
Here are some images of the storm (NOAA & NASA):
MISCELLANEOUS INCREDIBLE FACTS:
- 65-Foot waves were reported off of Nova Scotia, Canada.
- 28.38 inches pressure was measured at White Plains, NY (Cat 3 Hurricane Strength)*
- Havana, Cuba was blacked out during the storm; $1 billion damage in the country
- 60,000 lightning strikes were measured during the storm
- Hurricane-force winds caused hurricane-like damage in Florida, along with 11 tornadoes
- For the first time, every major airport on the East Coast was closed at one time or another by the storm.
- 300 Deaths were blamed on the storm in the U.S.
- 130 Million People (Half the nation's population) affected by the storm
- A 12-foot storm surge attacked Florida's west coast
- Hundreds of roofs collapsed due to snow up and down the East Coast
- New York City set a new record low (6) for March on the day after the storm
- The volume of rain that fell was equivalent to 40 days of Mississippi River flow at New Orleans
- Over 10 million customers lost electrical power during the storm
- At least 18 homes fell into the sea on Long Island due to the pounding surf.
- Extremely cold weather followed including a record low of 2 degrees in Birmingham AL.
*The equivalent pressure of a Category 3 Hurricane according to the Saffir-Simpson scale.
I shared some personal stories of mine above; you can share yours on the Forums. I also interviewed Ken Reeves, Senior Forecaster for AccuWeather, who was here at the time. He said there was little doubt, even several days out, that the storm was coming. The storm affected State College, home of AccuWeather too -- we got around 2 feet of snow and the city was essentially shut down. Ken said it was the one time he remembers that forecasters actually slept in the AccuWeather building rather than braving the local roads during the snow storm in-between shifts.
Another situation that Ken pointed out (which you don't hear much about) was the flooding afterwards. Here in State College, temperatures rose above freezing for several days in a row about a week after the storm, and this was followed by heavy rain which melted the snow cover and caused massive flooding near the end of March.
OTHER BLOGGERS COVERING THIS EVENT:
- WX-MAN (New York State)
- Examiner.com (Philly)
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