The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

The ‘bomb cyclone’ by the numbers: Here’s how much snow, wind and flooding it unleashed

NOAA satellite image of ocean storm, or “bomb cyclone,” Jan. 4. (NOAA)

Wednesday and Thursday’s blockbuster ocean storm, or “bomb cyclone,” plastered the East Coast with blinding snow and stinging winds. From North Carolina to Maine, numerous locations witnessed double-digit snowfall totals while winds gusted 50 to 80 mph. The storm will also be remembered for the enormous amount of ocean water it pushed ashore, causing near-record high tides and major flooding in eastern New England.

The storm managed to generate all of these impacts because it intensified so fast. Meteorologists measure a storm’s rate of strengthening by monitoring its pressure; the faster the pressure falls and the lower it sinks, the stronger the storm becomes. A storm whose pressure falls 24 millibars in 24 hours is classified as a bomb cyclone. This storm’s pressure fell at more than twice that rate: 59 millibars in 24 hours, which put it into the upper echelon of the most explosive East Coast storms ever observed.

Here’s just how much snow, wind and water this explosive storm produced:


The storm not only produced knee-deep snow from North Carolina to Maine, but also some historically significant amounts in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.

In Tallahassee, it snowed (0.1 inches) for the first time in 28 years.

Meanwhile, in Savannah, ice changed over to snow, offering a rare coating on the region’s palmetto trees. Some 1.2 inches accumulated, one of the snowiest days in the city’s history.

In Charleston, snow piled up to 5.3 inches, making Wednesday the city’s third-snowiest day on record.

Here are some notable totals up the coast, from the Virginia Tidewater region to Maine, where as much as a foot and a half accumulated:

  • Bangor, Maine: 18.3 inches
  • Cape May, N.J.: 17 inches
  • Islip, Long Island: 15.8 inches
  • Atlantic City: 14.2 inches
  • Providence, R.I.: 13.3 inches
  • Boston: 13.2 inches
  • Portland, Maine: 11 inches
  • Ocean City: 11 inches
  • Hartford, Conn.: 10.2 inches
  • Salisbury, Md.: 10 inches
  • New York City: 9.8 inches
  • Norfolk: 10 inches
  • Philadelphia: 4.1 inches
  • Richmond: 2.4 inches
  • Annapolis, Md.: 2 inches
  • Washington, D.C.: 0.8 inches


As the storm rapidly strengthened Thursday, winds roared, reaching 50 to 80 mph along the coast in the Northeast, and up to 100+ mph in Nova Scotia.

Here are some notable gusts recorded from the storm:

  • Grand Etanq, Nova Scotia: 106 mph
  • Nantucket: 76 mph
  • Halifax, Nova Scotia: 73 mph
  • Block Island, R.I.: 71 mph
  • Long Island (Calverton): 64 mph
  • Dewey Beach, Del.: 61 mph
  • Cape May, N.J.: 59 mph
  • Providence, R.I.: 55 mph
  • New York JFK: 52 mph
  • Boston: 51 mph
  • Washington, D.C. (Reagan National): 49 mph


Like a hurricane storm surge, the storm’s enormous circulation and winds pushed a large amount of seawater inland.

Boston set its highest water level on record, narrowly exceeding the level reached during the blizzard of 1978, the National Weather Service said.

The water level in Portland, Maine, came within two inches of its record high tide set in January 1978:

Off the coast of Nova Scotia, all the water stirred up by the storm created waves measuring over 50 feet!

Read more about the bomb cyclone:

The 10 best images of this week’s historic ‘bomb cyclone’

This researcher helped coin the term ‘bomb cyclone.’ He did it to keep people safe.

No need to duck and cover — this is the ‘bomb cyclone,’ explained