The incredibly snowy side of Sandy

October 24, 2013

A skier navigates a section of woods in the mountains of West Virginia, October 31, 2012.  From October 28 to 31, Sandy deposited a blanket of snow in the mountains of West Virginia and North Carolina that was up to 36″ deep.  (NYSkiBlog)

Sandy was the second-costliest hurricane in United States history.  In addition to the devastation the storm produced along the coastline, it was also a big-time snow producer inland.  Sandy dumped two-to-three feet of snow in the central Appalachian Mountains, collapsing roofs and taking down trees and power lines.  It was a rare tropical beast that was able to morph itself into a snowstorm.

Precipitation with tropical storms is often heaviest on the east side of the storm where convergence sets up near the coast as the storm makes landfall.  With storms like Sandy that transition into non-tropical systems, however, the heaviest precipitation can develop along the frontal zone that can set up many miles to the west of the storm center.

Sandy dropped up to 36" of snow on parts of West Virginia. (Wikipedia)
(Left) The snowfall map from Sandy and (right) heavy snow in West Virginia. (Wikipedia)

After Sandy made landfall, the heaviest precipitation fell south and west of the storm’s center, in southern Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey, and in the states to the south and southwest.  Over elevated areas of West Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee, the precipitation fell as heavy, wet snow.

The snowfall amounts were impressive, especially in West Virginia where Davis received 28″ of snow, Snowshoe received 32″ of snow, and Richwood received 36″ of snow.  Even the mountains of western North Carolina recorded snow depths that reached 36″!

Sandy’s snow was quite destructive.  The weight of the snow collapsed roofs in many counties of West Virginia and there were seven fatalities as a result of the snow.  Included in the fatalities was John Rose, Sr., a Republican candidate for the West Virginia House of Delegates.


An ambulance in the snow on Highway 33 near Belington, WV during Sandy. (AP)

Sandy was not the first tropical storm that transitioned into a snow producer.  Hurricane Ginny in 1962 produce over a foot of snow in portions of Maine, and the remnants of Hurricane Wilma produced snow as far south as Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

In the Washington area, the snowstorm of November 6, 1953 which dropped 6.7″ of snow at National Airport began as a tropical depression in the central Gulf of Mexico.  During the storm, winds in the D.C. area exceeded 30 mph and large snow drifts blocked some area roads.  One particular snow drift located near Upper Marlboro, Maryland measured seven feet deep on Crain Highway.

Going way back in history, the Hurricane of 1804 produced up to two feet of snow in northern New England.  It was the first reported “Snowicane.”

The radar loop from October 29-30, 2012 shows heavy rain and snow related to Sandy. (YouTube-Accuweather)


A detailed snow depth analysis after Sandy. (NWS)

The total liquid precipitation produced by Sandy. (Wunderground)

The European weather model’s first prediction of Sandy’s snowfall from October 22, 2012.  If this forecast would have verified, the heavy, wet snow would have been exceptionally devastating to a very large region including Washington, D.C.  (AmericanWx)

A satellite image of Hurricane Sandy approaching the New Jersey coast on October 29, 2012. (NOAA)

 

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David Streit · October 24, 2013