Nefarious. Nemo. An oxymoron? The weekend nor’easter, named “Nemo” by The Weather Channel, in Latin means “no man” or “no one.” Nefarious, by definition, means “infamous, villainous, and wicked.” Is it possible to have an “infamous…no one?”
Last Friday and Saturday, the northeast from New York City to Boston, to Portland, Maine, experienced a nor’easter that produced record-setting snow totals, high winds, and brutal ground blizzard conditions. The severity of the wind-driven snow places the storm among the top five worst to hit the region.
Starting Friday afternoon into evening, two storm systems collided from the polar and subtropical jet streams along the New England coast. An area of low pressure quickly bombed out as central pressure tanked creating an intense cyclone that would eventually cause more than three feet of snow in many locations.
Let’s look at how it progressed…
Even before the storm got underway, a blizzard of activity raged on social media. Much of the initial conversation involved poking fun at the storm seemingly named after a cute little fish. It became the first storm this season in which a name issued by The Weather Channel really resonated and took off. Population impact matters!
During the afternoon of February 8th, a developing storm off the Mid-Atlantic coast was beginning to throw massive amounts of moisture at Southern New England and surrounds. At the same time, additional energy (yellow streak over WV nearing the D.C. region above) was about to infuse the storm with more power.
Intense “super bands” were evident throughout the late day, mainly offshore of New Jersey as the rain/snow line started to creep south on the backside of the storm. At this point, much of the activity seen in the image above was still rain, with snow falling in Long Island and to the north and then back into parts of mainly northern New Jersey.
By evening, the blizzard was becoming very well-developed, and a moisture feed into (and south) of the Bahamas was noted. A classic comma shape was well formed as well. Intense convective snows ejected to the north of the low pressure system and into New England.
Usually a radar like that above is indicating a mix, sleet, or even rain. Not this time. Radar returns in the very high (geek speak: 40-50 dbz) range were widely embedded in this band, and they were DUMPING snow. Make no mistake, even for snow hardened New Englanders, snowfall rates near 6 inches per hour are way more intense than your average nor’easter. A “once in a lifetime” event.
The blizzard neared peak intensity late in the night before becoming fairly stable pressure-wise into the 9th. At this point very heavy snows were continuing much of southern and east-central New England. With the merger of the two storms largely complete, intense banding was also evident back toward New York City, where snow was initially somewhat less than expected.
Talk about a rapid pressure fall. The storm reached at least the low 970 millibars (~28.7 inches) in central pressure. At land locations nearest the storm’s center, steep drops in pressure were noted as the storm closed in. In Nantucket, Ma. (shown above), pressures dropped almost 50 millibars in about 24 hours!
A surface analysis near midnight (6z) on the 9th shows the powerful storm just off the Southern New England coast. At this point the system is beginning to occlude, and that would lead to its more or less steady state as it moved further to the east and northeast. Snow was still coming down fast and furious across much of New England at this time.
The NPP VIRRS satellite captured the blizzard off the New England coast as well as lights shining beneath, in many places through the clouds. Clearer skies are noted to the west and south of Philadelphia. In the Washington, D.C. area, the main impact of the blizzard was strong overnight winds (peak gusts 45 to 50 mph). Those winds were whipping as the satellite passed the region.
The 12z (morning) GFS image above shows the intense winds around the low pressure center at 7 a.m. on Saturday. While much of the strongest winds remained just offshore, a large part of the New England coastline reported gusts as high as 70 to 80 mph (including Westport, Ct. at 82mph and Boston, Ma. at 76mph).
A full-disk satellite shot shows the blizzard early on February 9th. The moisture feed into the tropics is still quite evident. Clear skies are seen over much of the Eastern United States to the south of New England. A number of other great satellite images were seen throughout Saturday as the mature storm spun off the coast....
The radar/satellite and surface pressure analysis from the Hydrometeorological Prediction Center shows the progress of the blizzard, from its still formative stages near the mid-Atlantic to the bomb off the New England coast. A memorable storm indeed.
While the entire northeast was impacted by this nor’easter, the areas hit hardest included south-central Connecticut and central Long Island with final snow totals ranging anywhere from 25 to near 40 inches.
Some of the highest snow reports to NWS:
Hamden, CT: 40”
New Haven, CT: 34.3”
Portland, ME: 31.9” (greatest on record)
Upton, NY: 30.3
Islip Airport, NY: 27.8
Worcester, MA: 28”
Boston Logan Airport, MA: 24.9” (5th greatest on record)
NYC/La Guardia Airport, NY: 12.1”