NOAA ranks January 2016 blizzard category 4 on the Northeast Snowfall Impact Scale


January 28, 2016

Total snowfall during 2016 blizzard from January 22-24, 2016. (Credit: NOAA)

Total snowfall during 2016 blizzard from January 22-24, 2016. (Credit: NOAA)

The January 22-24 blizzard, which dumped heavy snow from the Mid-Atlantic to southern New England has been rated as a Category 4 or “Crippling” winter storm on NOAA’s Northeast Snowfall Impact Scale, also known as NESIS. It is also among the most powerful winter storms, ranked 4th, to impact the Northeast U.S. since 1950.

NESIS characterizes and ranks Northeast snowstorms based on areas affected within and outside of the region, using data calculated by NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information. NESIS is based on the following factors: how much snow falls (at least 10 inches); the size of the area impacted; and the population of the impacted area. NESIS ranks these storms on a five-tier scale ranging from Category 1 “Notable” to Category 5 “Extreme.”

The 2016 blizzard ranked as a category 4 storm on the NESIS scale. Residents were forced to walk in the streets of Washington, D.C., during and after the snowstorm. (Credit: Joe Flood, NOAA)

The 2016 blizzard ranked as a category 4 storm on the NESIS scale. Residents were forced to walk in the streets of Washington, D.C., during and after the snowstorm. (Credit: Joe Flood, NOAA)

“While there were significant impacts, this storm was well forecast. We saw the system coming a week in advance. Improvements and investments in the capabilities of satellites, our supercomputers, our models, our science, and the skills of our forecasters in recent years helped us to provide critical information to emergency managers and decision makers,” said Louis W. Uccellini, Ph.D., director, NOAA’s National Weather Service and co-developer of NESIS with Paul Kocin, meteorologist, NOAA’s National Weather Service.

Kocin added, “This storm ranks up there with the great blizzards of the past 100 years in terms of amount of snowfall, size of impacted areas and population affected.”  

The snowstorm covered about 434 thousand square miles and impacted about 102.8 million people. Of those, about 1.5 million people had over 30 inches of snowfall; almost 24 million had over 20 inches.

Other storms on NESIS scale include:

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