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Photos: Spring nor'easter buries DC to NYC, shatters snowfall records

By Brian Lada, AccuWeather meteorologist and staff writer
March 23, 2018, 2:19:07 AM EDT

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The first days of spring featured a major winter storm to the northeastern United States, bringing travel to a halt and leading to widespread school cancellations across the region.

This was the fourth nor’easter to hit the region this March, spreading snow across a large area spanning from Kentucky through Massachusetts.

Over 5,000 flight cancellations and hundreds of vehicle accidents were reported on Wednesday as snow snarled travel across the Northeast.

"As AccuWeather predicted in its long-range winter forecasts back in October, March has proven to be an active month with this being the fourth powerful Nor’easter in a month. Flight cancellations, transportation delays and damage to personal property from falling trees and power lines made this yet another high-impact economic disruption," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist and Long-Range Forecaster David Samuhel said.

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Zengo Rosenthal, 11, left, and Marissa Wilson, 11, who both live in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, Wednesday, March 21, 2018, laugh after Wilson tumbled into the snow as they went sledding on the House side of the Capitol in Washington during a spring snowstorm. "It's pretty much our tradition to come here each time it snows," says Wilson. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)


Although major snowstorms are not uncommon in late March, it can be difficult for snow to accumulate during the daytime hours in cities such as Philadelphia and New York City.

"The tilt of the earth as it orbits around the sun causes the rays of the sun to strike the Northern Hemisphere at a higher and higher angle through the spring. These more direct rays warm the ground and the lower atmosphere," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski said.

"As a result, it must snow at a heavier rate to accumulate during the daytime compared to the nighttime or compared to the middle of January," Sosnowski said.

However, the midweek nor'easter was strong enough to overcome the spring sun angle, allowing for major cities to pick up disruptive accumulations, as accurately predicted by AccuWeather.


In Central Park, 8.2 inches of snow accumulated on Wednesday, breaking the old record of 7.1 set in 1958. The three major New York City area airports received record-breaking amounts of snow as well, with 8.7 inches at LaGuardia (old record: 6.9 inches from 1958); 8.4 inches at Kennedy Airport (old record: 0.8 inches in 1993) and 7.9 inches in Newark, New Jersey (old record: 5.3 in 1958).

Records were also shattered in Philadelphia, Harrisburg and Allentown, Pennsylvania; at Washington-Dulles Airport in Washington, D.C. and in Islip, New York.

Washington, D.C. received 4 inches of snow before the snow tapered off on Wednesday afternoon. This was more than the 3.7 inches of snow that the city received all winter before the nor'easter.

Farther north, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, received over 10 inches of snow, making Wednesday the snowiest spring day on record for the town.

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New York City received over 8 inches of snow during the spring nor'easter. On average, this type of late-March snow accumulation only happens once every 20 years.


Meanwhile, the double barreled storm led to a long-duration snowfall farther inland, resulting in higher snowfall amounts.

Accumulations over a foot were common in the Appalachian Mountains from Virginia to central Pennsylvania, including 15 inches in Sabillasville, Maryland, and 19 inches near Windber, Pennsylvania.

RELATED:
Snow to interrupt first weekend of spring in Appalachians, mid-Atlantic
Freeze-up to create patches of dangerous ice for days in wake of spring nor'easter
Why it’s not unusual to see such frequent nor’easters this time of year
Why spring snow doesn't pile up on roads but can yield other hidden dangers

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(Photo/Montgomery County Fire)

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The New York City skyline from Central Park. (Photo/Ian Beestin)

maryland highway administration plow

(Photo/Maryland State Highway Administration)

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(Photo/NYCDOT)


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