VALENTINE’S DAY WINTER STORM CLASSIFIED AS A CATEGORY 3 "MAJOR" STORM
Feb. 26, 2007 — The winter storm that struck the Northeast and mid-Atlantic region on Valentine’s Day, piling up snow and ice, snarling both car and airline traffic and plunging thousands into the dark was classified as "major," or a Category 3, on the Northeast Snowfall Impact Scale, or NESIS, according to the NOAA National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C. (Click NOAA satellite image for larger view of Category 3 winter storm that struck the Northeast and mid-Atlantic regions Feb. 12-15, 2007. Click here for high resolution version. Please credit “NOAA.”)
This is a preliminary classification based on the snowfall observations currently available. NESIS, which NOAA made operational last year, ranked this Northeast storm as having the 14th biggest impact out of a sample of 34 of the largest winter storms since 1950, and it was one of the largest winter storms to strike interior sections of the Northeast (as opposed to coastal areas) since 1950. The storm was one of the top three interior Northeast snowstorms observed since 1940.
NESIS ranks the severity of an East Coast snowstorm based on snowfall amount and the population of the affected areas. NESIS provides a quantitative measure of the snowstorm's potential socio-economic impact, compared with storms of the past, and assigns each large storm with one of the five categories—notable, significant, major, crippling or extreme.
A complex, wide-reaching winter storm moved from the mid-Mississippi Valley into the mid-Atlantic and New England February 14 and 15. The strong storm produced widespread snowfall across the mid-Atlantic, bringing the heaviest amounts to interior regions of the Northeast. Snowfall amounts exceeded 20 inches throughout large parts of New York and New England (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Rhode Island), but the heavily populated urban corridor—from Washington, D.C., to Boston—received less than 5 inches. While the highest amounts were outside the largest urban areas of the Northeast, the storm's ranking as Category 3 reflects its massive size and the high snowfall totals in less populated areas of the region.
Hardest hit were the Adirondack Mountains in New York and northern Vermont. Storm totals exceeded 30 inches in places such as Cooperstown, N.Y., (33 inches) and Canaan, Vt., (31 inches). More than 20 inches fell in Gorham, N.H., (26 inches) and Syracuse, N.Y., (22 inches).
Across Pennsylvania, snowfall totals ranged from a few inches in the far southeast to around 20 inches in the northeast. Freezing rain, sleet and a thick coating of ice brought widespread power outages in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia. NESIS was jointly developed by Paul J.Kocin, a former winter weather expert at The Weather Channel and Louis W. Uccellini, director of the NOAA National Centers for Environmental Prediction in Camp Springs, Md. Thomas R. Karl, director of the NOAA National Climatic Data Center, led the effort to make NESIS operational.
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