NOAA Magazine || NOAA Home Page


NOAA photo of snow accumulation on deck of Arlington, Va., home, outside Washington, D.C.December 5, 2002 — A collision of warm, moist air flowing out of the Gulf of Mexico and a cold front moving south from Canada spread snow, ice, sleet and freezing rain in a band from southern Kansas and Oklahoma to the eastern seaboard from Tuesday night through Thursday, according to the NOAA National Weather Service. (Click NOAA photo for larger view of snow accumulation on deck of Arlington, Va., home, outside Washington, D.C. Click here for high resolution version, which is a large file. Please credit “NOAA.”)

Light to moderate snow fell from Virginia through Philadelphia, with the Baltimore-Washington D.C., area experiencing snowfalls of 4-6 inches. The highest storm total snowfall reported so far is 9.5 inches in Floyd County, Va., southwest of Roanoke.

Light snow began in New York City mid morning, and snowfall totals of 5 to 10 inches are forecast for the region Thursday. Airport delays of up to 2 to 6 hours have been reported in Philadelphia and New York areas.

The storm began Tuesday night in Oklahoma, southeast Kansas and southwest Missouri leaving anywhere from one to 10 inches of snow as the system moved to the east. Freezing rain and sleet combined with the snow in some areas, all of which resulted in hazardous driving conditions, downed power and telephone lines, and closed schools.

“This was one of those storms that reminds us how humble nature can make us feel,” NOAA National Weather Service central region Director Dennis McCarthy said. “Our forecasters from Oklahoma to Washington, D.C., did a great job of working with media and emergency officials to let the public know what was coming and where and when it was going to hit. Still, despite all the preparations, normal social activity was brought to a standstill by the weather.”

Snow began falling Tuesday night in southwest Missouri and southeast Kansas, leaving 2-4 inches over much of the area. A wintry mix left ice and snow in Oklahoma and northern Arkansas.

Heavy snow was falling by dawn Wednesday in Wichita, Kan., where 7 inches snarled traffic and closed schools. Snowfall hit St. Louis at 5 a.m. Wednesday, snarling morning rush hour traffic with 1-3 inches that slickened roads and caused numerous traffic accidents, while St. Louis’ Lambert Field reported a record snowfall of 3.5 inches by 10 p.m. Wednesday, topping the record of 2 inches for Dec. 4 that had stood since 1910.

Moving east, the storm system dropped up to 5 inches of snow in southern Illinois and 3 inches in southern Indiana. Hardin County, Ill., reported 4-5 inches of snow and Vienna in Johnson County, Ill., reported 4.5 inches. Evansville, Ind., received about 3 inches of snow as did most of Warrick County, Ind.

Freezing drizzle and sleet falling on top of 1-5 inches of snow caused numerous problems in western Kentucky, where ice-laden tree branches downed power lines in some areas, leaving residents without electricity.

“This is one of the more intense winter storms we’ve had in the past couple of years,” Paducah NWS forecaster Rick Shanklin said.

Toward the northern edge of the snow band, Louisville received about 2 inches of snow, which was still enough to cause school closings when officials determined roadways would not be safe.

The Appalachian region of eastern Kentucky received anywhere from just a dusting of snow to 4-5 inches, according to reports from the Jackson NWS office. Snowfall totaled 5 inches in Bell, Harland and Whitley counties; 4 inches in Jackson, Laurel, Letcther, Rockcastle, Pulaski, McCreary and Wayne counties; 2 inches or less in Breathitt, Knott and Perry counties and a dusting in counties along the Tennessee state line.

Skies were mostly clear Thursday through the areas of Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky hit by the storm, but the snow and ice will be around for at least a few days, according to NOAA forecasters. High temperatures throughout the area are expected to reach only the upper 20s to low 30s Thursday and Friday.

Some parts of Tennessee received up to 6 inches of snow. Georgia escaped the worst of the storm except for some icy conditions along the Georgia/South Carolina line. With temperatures hovering just above freezing, the northern counties received up to 2 ½ inches of rainfall. Flights in and out of Atlanta’s Hartsfield International Airport were also delayed.

Ice accumulations of one half to three quarters of an inch were common across North Carolina and portions of northern/central South Carolina resulting in power outages across North Carolina and South Carolina. The Raleigh/Triangle area was hard hit with hundreds of thousands of reported power outages.

Relevant Web Sites
NOAA’s Storm Watch — Follow the Severe Weather

NOAA’s Weather Page

Winter Storm: The Deceptive Killers (NOAA Brochure in PDF)

Media Contact:
Susan Weaver, NOAA National Weather Service, (301) 713-0622