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'Storm of the century' hits eastern U.S.

'Storm of the century' hits eastern U.S.

The so-called “storm of the century” hits the eastern part of the United States, killing hundreds and causing millions of dollars in damages, on November 25, 1950. Also known as the “Appalachian Storm,” it dumped record amounts of snow in parts of the Appalachian Mountains.

Forming over North Carolina just before Thanksgiving, the storm quickly moved north, striking western Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio and West Virginia. These areas were blanketed with several feet of snow for several days and travel was impossible for nearly a week in some places.

An accompanying windstorm covered a far greater area. New York City recorded a 94 mile-per-hour wind gust. At Bear Mountain, just north of the city, a 140 mph gust was recorded. The winds throughout New England were of hurricane-like force. In addition, high tides and wind-driven surf battered the coastline. On the south edge of the storm, record low temperatures were recorded in Tennessee and North Carolina even without the wind chill. In Mount Mitchell, North Carolina, a temperature of 26 degrees below zero was recorded.

The storm was unique, however, because it featured not only extremely strong winds and heavy snow, but both record high and low temperatures. In Pittsburgh, 30 inches of snow fell in a blinding snowstorm. Further north, Buffalo saw no snow, but experienced 50 mile-per-hour winds and 50-degree temperatures. Paul Kocin, a Weather Channel expert, has said that this storm “had the greatest contrast of weather elements in probably any storm, including the 1993 March Superstorm.”

The extreme weather was deemed responsible for the loss of 160 lives over several days.

WATCH: Extreme Weather Mysteries

Storm of the Century

Storm of the Century, alternatively known as Stephen King's Storm of the Century, is a 1999 American horror television miniseries written by Stephen King and directed by Craig R. Baxley. Unlike many other television adaptations of King's work, Storm of the Century was not based on a novel but was an original screenplay written by the author and directly produced for television. King described the screenplay as a "novel for television." [1] The screenplay was published as a mass-market book in February 1999 prior to the TV broadcast of the mini-series. [2]

King has called Storm of the Century his personal favorite of all the TV productions related to his works. [3]

‘Storm of the Century’ slammed Sunshine State 28 years ago


Courtesy: National Weather Service

TAMPA, Fla. - A superstorm that produced wind gusts over 90 mph, tornadoes, and a devastatingly deadly storm surge struck Florida and the eastern United States late on March 12 and early in the morning on March 13, 1993, according to the National Weather Service.

Many Florida residents called it the ‘No Name Storm,’ because they say it wasਊn unnamed March hurricane though which was much larger than a hurricane. Up north, it was called the 𠆋lizzard of the Century,’ because it dropped temperatures, dumped snow, broke trees, and knocked out power over a wide swath from Alabama and Georgia to Maine.

According to the National Weather Service, the storm caused $2 billion in property damage across portions of 22 eastern U.S. states with most of the damage in Florida. 

According to the National Weather Service, five days before the storm made landfall, computer models were forecasting a rapid development of intense low pressure over the Gulf of Mexico. 

Courtesy: National Weather Service

As the week went on, the numerical forecast models continued showing the same unbelievable development. Upstream, the arctic, polar and subtropical jet streams were merging and a deep flow of tropical moisture over the Gulf of Mexico was coming north from the Caribbean Sea. These merging factors set the timer for the impending explosion. Some forecasters referred to it as a "meteorological bomb."

The storm’s strongest winds were recorded at:

  • 110 mph Franklin County, FL
  • 109 mph Dry Tortugas, FL
  • 101 mph Flattop Mountain, NC
  • 144 mph Mount Washington, NH

According to the National Weather Service, the fast-moving squall line produced 59,000 cloud-to-ground lightning strikes and at least 11 tornadoes in Florida. Three people died as a result of the F2 tornado near Chiefland in Levy County and several others were killed in tornadoes in Alachua and Lake Counties. 

Courtesy: National Weather Service

The National Weather Service says 13 people drowned in an unprecedented 12-foot storm surge in Taylor County, Florida. 

According to the National Weather Service, advanced warnings saved lives with less than 100 direct casualties – half of whom were on vessels in seas estimated as high as 65 feet. Another 118 people perished from indirect causes with many dying during the post-storm cleanup.

Path of the Storm

On March 11th and 12th, temperatures across the eastern United States dropped significantly as a high-pressure system built over the Great Plains and the Midwest. At the same time, a low-pressure system was forming in the Gulf of Mexico. A subtropical jet stream formed unusually far south in Central America extending from Honduras to Jamaica. The jet stream fused with the low-pressure area in the Gulf of Mexico resulting in a cyclone that moved quickly across Florida and Cuba. The storm moved across eastern US landing several inches of snow in Washington DC before crossing over into Canada.

The 1993 Storm of the Century

The March 1993 &ldquoStorm of the Century&rdquo struck the gulf coast of Florida late on Friday March 12, 1993 and continued slamming Florida and states to the north on Saturday. Why was it called the Storm of the Century? To Florida residents, it was a "no-name" March hurricane creating wind gusts over 90 mph, tornadoes, and a devastatingly deadly storm surge. But it was much larger than a hurricane. To residents farther north it was called &ldquoThe Blizzard of the Century&rdquo A blizzard like few had seen that dropped temperatures, dumped snow, broke trees, and knocked out power over a wide swath from Alabama and Georgia to Maine.

The Superstorm produced over $2 billion in property damage across portions of 22 eastern U.S. states. Most of the property damage occurred in Florida. Advanced warnings saved lives with less than 100 direct casualties &ndash half of whom were on vessels in seas estimated as high as 65 feet. Another 118 people perished from indirect causes with many dying during the post storm cleanup.

Five days in advance, computer models were forecasting a rapid development of intense low pressure over the Gulf of Mexico. It was initially difficult to believe that a weak low pressure area could deepen to much lower pressures in such short a period of time. Some forecasters used the term &ldquometeorological bomb&rdquo! As the week went on, the numerical forecast models continued showing the same unbelievable development. It was happening though. Upstream, the arctic, polar and subtropical jet streams were merging and a deep flow of tropical moisture over the Gulf of Mexico was coming north from the Caribbean Sea. These merging factors set the timer for the impending explosion.

The winds howled as the storm moved north with the strongest recorded wind gusts at these locations:
&bull 110 mph Franklin County, FL
&bull 109 mph Dry Tortugas, FL
&bull 101 mph Flattop Mountain, NC
&bull 144 mph Mount Washington, NH

The fast moving squall line produced 59,000 cloud to ground lightning strikes as it moved onshore. At least 11 tornadoes were reported with the storm as it crossed the state. The F2 tornado near Chiefland in Levy County led to 3 fatalities. Other tornado fatalities were reported in Alachua and Lake Counties.

The Superstorm created an unprecedented storm surge up to 12 feet in Taylor County well north of Tampa Bay in the Florida Big Bend. The surge drowned 13 people.

Map of Tornado and Wind Damage

Storm Surge Associated with Storm of the Century

Melbourne Weather Radar Loop
from 11 PM Friday until 1:15 AM Saturday

Forecast Radar Two Days Before Event
Computer power was very limited in 1993. Today we ran the
following simulation on a high end PC. The simulation showed
a powerful squall line moving into Florida in 2 days. The model
did a great job and was only about 4 hours off on the timing.

What was it like to Work the Event?

Charlie Paxton was the forecaster on duty during the day on Friday March 12, 1993 and came back that evening to issue warnings for the event. He recalls working the storm that night:

&ldquoWhen I arrived, the office satellite imagery showed the squall line racing east at 70 mph! Our team issued 26 warnings and lead time ranged from 30 minutes to over two hours! I upgraded wording in all of the warnings to indicate winds of over 90 mph! Standard warnings usually indicate wind gusts over 55 mph. Of the 6 tornadoes in our area. lead times were all over 20 minutes with the longest lead time of 48 minutes. Remember, we were using the old WSR-57 Radar. We didn&rsquot have Doppler. We had a processor attached to the radar called RADAP and I had written software to make calculations on the severity of cells and that really helped. &ldquo

&ldquoWe used an XT PC to send products through our main communication system called AFOS. We communicated with the Melbourne WSR-88D operator who helped identify tornadic circulations within range of their radar. We used the NAWAS line to communicate with the county Emergency Operations Centers. We also received a number of reports from the local media. We had an 800 number available to the public. Our phone didn&rsquot stop ringing. People were shocked at the intensity of the storm and provided us with many accounts of damage.&rdquo

Many in Yankeetown and Inglis awoke to find water in their homes. Many felt the No-Name Storm came without warning. A Coastal Flood Warning was in effect, but this was no ordinary flood. Communicating non-tropical and tropical coastal flood events continues to be a challenge today. The National Weather Service is working with sociologists to develop and provide an effective Storm Surge Warning for our coastal communities.


The preceding atmospheric state was one of La Niña conditions, the cold phase of ENSO, which favors a storm track from the Ohio and Tennessee Valleys into the Appalachians. [7] The cyclone initially formed in southeast North Carolina near a cold front on the morning of November 24 as the main cyclone over the Great Lakes weakened. [1] Rapid development ensued as the surface center began to migrate back into a closed 500 hPa-level (14.75 inHg) (around 6,000 m/20,000 ft above sea level) cyclone, and the cyclone bombed while moving north through Washington D.C. the next morning. The former occluded front to its northwest became a warm front which moved back to the west around the strengthening, and now dominant, southern low pressure center. By the evening of November 25, the cyclone retrograded, or moved northwestward, into Ohio due to a blocking ridge up across eastern Canada. It was at this time that the pressure gradient was its most intense across southern New England and eastern New York. A wide area of +4 standard deviation 850mb winds occurred. [8] The cyclone moved west over Lake Erie to the north of the upper cyclone before looping over Ohio as the low-level and mid-level cyclone centers coupled. Significant convection within its comma head led to the development of a warm seclusion, or a pocket of low level warm air, near its center which aided in further development due to the increased lapse rates a warmer low level environment affords under a cold low. After the system became stacked with height, the storm slowly spun down as it drifted north and northeast into eastern Canada over the succeeding few days. [9]

This extratropical cyclone rapidly deepened as it moved up the eastern side of the Appalachians during November 24 and November 25 and continued into November 27. Coastal flooding was seen along the U.S. coastline from New Jersey northward.

Southeast Edit

In Alabama, all-time record lows for November were set at Birmingham 5 °F (−15 °C), Mobile 22 °F (−6 °C), and Montgomery 13 °F (−11 °C). Across Florida, all-time record lows for November were set at Apalachicola (24 °F), Pensacola (22 °F), and Jacksonville (23 °F). Within Georgia, all-time record lows for November were set at Atlanta (3 °F), Columbus (10 °F), Augusta (11 °F), and Savannah (15 °F).

Kentucky Edit

An all-time record low for November was set at Louisville (−1 °F).

New Hampshire Edit

Concord recorded a wind gust of 110 miles per hour (180 km/h) during the height of the storm. Winds at Mount Washington reached 160 miles per hour (260 km/h).

New York Edit

Sustained winds of 50–60 mph (80–100 km/h) with gusts to 83 miles per hour (134 km/h) were recorded at Albany, New York. A wind gust of 94 miles per hour (151 km/h) was recorded in New York City. Extensive damage was caused by the wind across New York, including massive tree fall and power outages. [10] Coastal flooding breached dikes at LaGuardia Airport, flooding the runways. [11] Flooding extended to New York City's Office of Emergency Management on the Lower East Side, in Manhattan. [12]

Connecticut Edit

Extensive wind damage with tidal flooding along the coast. On the coast structures and railroad tracks washed away. Plows were needed to remove sand from coastal roads. Roofs torn off on the coast and at the University of Connecticut. The tide at New London was 7.58ft MLLW third highest in the last 100 years. Hartford had sustained winds of 70MPH the highest ever on record, 100 MPH gusts also the highest on record were recorded on 3 separate occasions. The 62 MPH sustained wind recorded at Bridgeport is the 4th highest on record. Other gusts 88MPH at Bridgeport and 77MPH at New Haven. [8]

New Jersey Edit

A wind gust of 108 mph (173.8 km/h), the strongest ever recorded in New Jersey, occurred in Newark. [13]

North Carolina Edit

All-time record lows for November were set at Asheville 1 °F (−17 °C) and Wilmington 16 °F (−9 °C).

Ohio Edit

On the storm's west side, nearly a foot of snow fell on Dayton, Ohio, which combined with the wind and cold temperatures, became their worst blizzard on record. [14] Nearly the entire state was blanketed with 10 inches (25 cm) of snow, with 20-30 inches (50–75 cm) being measured in eastern sections of Ohio. The highest report was 44 inches (110 cm) from Steubenville. [15] Snow drifts were up to 25 feet (7.6 m) deep. Winds exceeded 40 miles per hour (64 km/h) with gusts as high as 60 miles per hour (97 km/h). Bulldozers were used to clear roads. [1] Despite the high winds and snow, the annual football game between the University of Michigan and Ohio State University went on as scheduled in Columbus and was nicknamed the Snow Bowl. When the snow melted during the first four days of December, river flooding occurred in Cincinnati.

Pennsylvania Edit

During the height of the storm, record to near-record flooding occurred along the eastern side of the Appalachians across eastern and central sections of the state. The Schuylkill at Fairmount Dam reached its highest stage since 1902. [2] In Pittsburgh, 30.5 inches (77 cm) of snow accumulated from this cyclone. Tanks were used to clear the resultant snow. [16] When a warm spell visited the region during the first four days of December, river flooding struck Pittsburgh.

South Carolina Edit

All-time record lows for November were set at Charleston (17˚F) and Greenville (11˚F).

Tennessee Edit

All-time record lows for November were set at Chattanooga (4˚F), Knoxville (5˚F), Memphis (9˚F), and Nashville (−1˚F).

West Virginia Edit

Parkersburg recorded 34.4 inches (87.3 cm) of snowfall during the passage of this low, which exceeded its snowiest November on record by over 5 inches (13 cm). Pickens reported the highest amount from anywhere within the cyclone, with 57 inches (140 cm) measured. November 1950 became West Virginia's snowiest month on record. [17] This remarkably heavy snow led to 160 deaths.

Ontario Edit

This system was a major snowstorm for the area, with 12 inches (30 cm) in Toronto on November 24. This set a record for single-day snowfall in November. [18]

This cyclone was used as a test case for some of the first attempts at numerical modeling of the atmosphere, and is still used as a case study to run recent versions of forecast models. These studies helped create what is now known as the National Centers for Environmental Prediction. [19]

Storms during the time frames November 8–10, 1913, October 22–25, 1923, and November 19–22, 1952 were considered analogous to this cyclone. [20] Despite their similarities, there are some differences. For example, the 1913 event was much more destructive to Great Lakes shipping, while the 1950 storm caused greater snowfall amounts.

10 Worst Nor’easters of All Time

Most people can spot severe weather: gusty winds, accumulating snow, driving rain. Aside from these obvious indicators, though, there are a few specific characteristics attributed to nor'easters.

These cyclonic storms prowl the eastern coast of the United States and Canada, bringing with them precipitation propelled by hurricane-force winds coming out of the northeast. In fact, the name "nor'easter" is a directional nod to the origins of the storms' strong winds.

From September through April, the U.S. East Coast is battered by up to 40 nor'easters spanning hundreds -- even thousands -- of miles in diameter. Nor'easters form as cold winds out of the northeast blow counter-clockwise around a low-pressure area. As warm air moves up from the south and east, the storm's growth is fueled by the warm water of the Gulf Stream, pooled adjacent to the East Coast. The temperature difference between the warm air over water and the cold air over land is the area where nor'easters are generated. Once the storms reach the New England region, they often cause widespread flooding, property damage and coastal erosion. While not all nor'easters are severe, all have the potential to become severe as massive rain- or snowfalls, oceanic storm surges and high winds combine [source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration].

While this deadly mix of conditions has occurred many times over, there are a few nor'easters that stand out from the crowd. From loss of life to sheer magnitude, we're taking a closer look at the 10 worst nor'easters of all time, beginning with a blizzard in the 1800s that still has people talking.

10: Great Blizzard of 1888

In 1888, people living along the northeastern seaboard of the United States were expecting March to come in like a lion and leave like a lamb. No one, it seems, anticipated the bite of the Great Blizzard of 1888.

Just as the Big Apple's population readied for a few balmy days followed by gentle rain showers, there was a convergence of arctic air from the north and warm air from the south. From March 11 through 14, 1888, the ensuing storm swirled freezing winds and snow around the East, leaving more than 22 inches (55 centimeters) of flakes in its wake. Even the city's famed East River froze, forming an ice bridge that -- surprisingly -- was a more passable road than those in the city itself. Thousands crossed from Manhattan to Brooklyn on this ice bridge.

The storm's effects were well documented in New York City. The history-making nor'easter shut down the metropolis. It trapped passengers in New York City railcars for days, snapped elevated telephone and telegraph lines, and caused the deaths of 200 people. Another 200 were killed throughout the northeast.

Out of the perilous days by candlelight emerged a new reality, one that led to an underground transportation system known as the subway. It also prompted a change to the city's infrastructure that set the standard for many of today's highly populated areas across the U.S.: burying communication and electricity cables underground [source: Weissman, Wingfield].

9: The Storm of the Century - 1950

This nor'easter was a big one, affecting nearly two-dozen states in the eastern U.S. Before it spat its last snowflake, the Storm of the Century in November 1950 prompted a spate of all-time record low temperatures, caused widespread flooding from New Jersey northward, killed more than 300 people and resulted in $70 million in storm damage [source: NOAA]. Still, it was the hurricane force winds and heavy snowfall that lingers in most survivors' memories.

In Ohio, for example, the Thanksgiving weekend storm dropped up to 33 inches (84 centimeters) of snow that drifted into peaks, thanks to winds reaching as high as 60 miles per hour. Although fans and players still managed to muscle their way through an Ohio State versus Michigan football game in a Columbus, Ohio, stadium, the snow caused most activities to grind to a halt. Buildings were collapsing under the weight of the snow and bulldozers were used to clear the streets. Even the Ohio National Guard stepped in to transport people to hospitals or deliver emergency rations to those who were snowbound [source: Ohio Historical Society]. In other states, such as West Virginia, more than 62 inches (157 centimeters) of snow was reported.

And most people never saw it coming. Forecasting methods of the day were manual, often left to the devices and conjecture of individual meteorologists. No one, not even those creating the weather outlooks, predicted how damaging the storm would be -- and weren't able to warn people about it, either. As a result, the National Centers for Environmental Prediction was created the information collected from the November 1950 storm is still used today. In 1993, it helped warn others of another monster storm, also dubbed "Storm of the Century" [source: Pickhardt].

8: Ash Wednesday Storm of 1962

Most nor'easters move swiftly, dashing in and out of heavily populated areas. In 1962, however, the Ash Wednesday storm stayed well beyond its welcome. No other winter storm in the last 50 years has done more damage.

From March 5 through 9, the Northeast and mid-Atlantic coastline of the U.S. were directly under a deluge when the Ash Wednesday storm remained stationary at the worst possible time of the year: spring high tides. Imagine Maryland's Ocean City under 4 feet (1.22 meters) of floodwater swept into massive waves by 70 mile (112.6 kilometer) per hour winds. Or traveling to one of Delaware's few temporary shelters 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) inland -- by boat. And knowing that nearby islands, such as Chincoteague and Assateague, were entirely underwater with 1,200 homes destroyed and a famed wild pony population almost wiped out.

While the nor'easter was decimating miles of shoreline with wind and waves along the eastern seaboard, in Virginia the Ash Wednesday storm dropped 42 inches (106.6 centimeters) of snow.

Meteorologists pointed to a convergence of a coastal low pressure system, a northern high pressure system and unusually high spring tides for five days. By the time the Ash Wednesday storm moved on, it had caused 40 deaths, left $200 million in damages in its wake (the equivalent of $1.5 billion today), and prompted an effort to install beach-preserving dunes. In addition, new construction standards for oceanfront homes resulted in more storm-worthy standards, such as elevated pilings [source: Samenow].

7: Northeastern United States Blizzard of 1978

The same year that Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield opened their first ice cream parlor and "Laverne and Shirley" became the nation's most popular television show, two massive blizzards blanketed the U.S. While one immobilized the central part of the U.S., another hit the New England region. This deadly snowstorm, known as the Northeast United States Blizzard of 1978, was ushered in by a feisty nor'easter on Feb. 5, 1978. It lasted two days and caused more than $529 million in damage, a sum that would equal more than $1.85 billion today.

Perhaps the most lingering impact of the storm, however, was the number of people injured or killed. More than 4,500 people hurt and another 100 people killed during the whiteout, many of them falling victim to freezing temperatures and treacherous road conditions that left motorists stranded -- even on major routes. In Massachusetts, for example, 3,500 cars and trucks were rendered motionless along Route 128. Before long, drifting snow covered the vehicles completely, as well as landmarks, homes and businesses. Some stranded commuters froze to death, either awaiting rescue or traveling by foot.

The U.S. National Guard was mobilized to clear the roads of snow, but was stymied by the many vehicles -- totaling more than 10,000 throughout New England -- that were buried under the frozen precipitation [source: Strauss].

In 1991, a nor'easter called the Perfect Storm converged on the East Coast during Halloween weekend. It was "perfect" not because of its spectacular nature, but because -- in meteorological terms -- the weather could not have been worse.

After wreaking havoc, the Perfect Storm came to a perfectly strange end. Shortly after All Hallows Eve came to a close, the Perfect Storm morphed into a tropical cyclone and then, in a rare move, a full-blown hurricane stationed just off the U.S. eastern seaboard. Stranger still, the dying Halloween storm was never given an official name by the National Weather Service, save for the ambiguous "unnamed hurricane of 1991" moniker eventually recorded.

The Perfect Storm's effects, however, went on to receive plenty of publicity in the 1997 novel, "The Perfect Storm," by Sebastian Junger. The novel, which depicted the sinking of the swordfish boat Andrea Gail, along with all its crew, became a major motion picture. It was released in 2000 and starred George Clooney and John C. Reilly [source: NOAA]. It illustrated the travails of the six crewmembers and their eventual drowning during the storm in real life, their bodies were never recovered.

All told, the Perfect Storm of 1991 brought with it widespread flooding, surging waves, rain and snow, freezing temperatures and up to 78 mile-per-hour (125 kilometer-per-hour) winds. It killed 13 people and caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage, in states ranging from Massachusetts to Florida. Massachusetts was particularly hard-hit. Hundreds of homes were destroyed during the three days of heavy rain and wind [source: National Climatic Data Center].

5: Storm of the Century 1993

What started as a nor'easter in March 1993 ended as a disaster dubbed the "Storm of the Century." In its wake were record snowfalls, coastal flooding, record-low temperatures, tornadoes, 318 lost lives and a hard look at the communication failures that took place in the days leading up to the storm.

The Storm of the Century was the product of an unlikely union: Three massive -- and separate -- weather systems unexpectedly mingled over the Gulf of Mexico and affected states along the East Coast, from Florida to Maine, as well as interior states that didn't often feel the effects of a powerful nor'easter. After the 100-year storm had run its multi-day course, 2.5 million people were without power and up to $6 billion in damage had been reported. For the first time in history, all the major airports on the Eastern Seaboard were shut down at the same time.

In addition to the damage to people and property, the storm highlighted the importance of communication between national forecasters and local officials. In Florida, which bore the brunt, a storm surge damaged 18,000 homes in areas recovering from the previous year's Hurricane Andrew, yet the state's emergency officials said they weren't properly notified of the storm's magnitude. As a result, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration instituted a new process to more effectively disseminate weather threats and developed more accurate snowfall prediction models. In 2012, snowfall prediction was 75 percent accurate, up from 37 percent in 1993 [source: Galvin].

4: North American Blizzard of 1996

On Jan. 6, 1996, the longest weather-related closure of the U.S. federal government loomed -- and it all started with just a few snowflakes. Before long, however, the few lonely snowflakes that began falling in Washington, D.C. at 9 p.m. began to amass into an army as a blustery nor'easter colliding with warmer winds in the Gulf of Mexico brought more and more snow.

In Washington, D.C., 12 inches (30.4 centimeters) of snow fell in just 24 hours. Nearby cities, such as Lynchburg, Va., received 20 inches (50.8 centimeters) of snow in the same time period. Thanks to record-setting snowfalls (like those around Lynchburg and the District of Columbia) and gusting winds, there were blizzard conditions that made travel -- and commuting to work -- a near impossibility. Then-President Bill Clinton declared D.C. a disaster area and the federal government shut down for a record-setting six days. Nine states were also declared disaster areas [source: History].

Sixty people died throughout the region during the storm, which included 5- to 8-foot (1.5 to 2.4 meter) snowdrifts caused by winds gusting up to 60 miles (96.5 kilometers) per hour. The area's weather troubles were compounded by a warm weather rainstorm that struck one week later between the melted snow and additional precipitation, widespread flooding occurred [source: NOAA].

As the saying goes, there are three things you can count on in life -- and one of them is paying your taxes. What then, would it take for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to voluntarily grant a months-long extension? A force of nature, as those affected by the April 2007 Nor'easter discovered.

An unseasonably late nor'easter that struck April 14 to 18, 2007, left taxpayers in portions of Connecticut, Maine, New Jersey, New York and New Hampshire with flooded homes and businesses, as well as property damaged by high winds and travel made treacherous by snowfall. And, after granting a mere two-day extension, the IRS reconsidered, moving the tax filing and payment deadline to June 25, 2007 [source: IRS].

The massive storm system measured 800 miles (1,287 kilometers) across, intensifying into a nor'easter and reaching from the Carolinas to Canada, taking on a second life after several days spent moving up from the southwest and spawning tornadoes in Florida, Alabama and other states [source: McFadden].

Notably, the nor'easter also interfered with rescue efforts during a mass shooting at Virginia Tech. After a gunman killed 32 people and wounded dozens more (before turning the gun on himself) on the Blacksburg, Va., campus, high winds brought on by the April 2007 Nor'Easter prevented emergency responders from removing victims with the aid of helicopters [source: Holley].

2: 2011 Halloween Nor'easter

It may have seemed more like a trick than a treat, but for many across the East Coast, a 2011 nor'easter ushered in a white Halloween. Snow began falling in record amounts on Oct. 29, 2011, and interrupted the candy-reaping plans of some ghouls and goblins as trees began to snap under the crushing weight of the snow. Some cities, such as Hartford, Conn., and Sleepy Hollow, N.Y., canceled Halloween festivities [source: Associated Press]

About 3 million people who lived in areas impacted by the storm were left without power for days, thanks to power lines brought down by heavy ice and snow. Some of those without electricity lived by candlelight and storing perishables outside in the cold for up to a week. Not surprisingly to those who attempted to shovel sidewalks, at least 20 cities set snowfall records during the nor'easter.

Snow wasn't the only moisture coming down, though. Rain-turned-ice transformed roadways and pedestrian walkways into skating rinks, aided by winds of up to 69 miles per hour [source: Hart]. By the time the storm had passed on Nov. 1, 2011, more than 20 people had been killed as a result -- and the storm had cemented a weather-related record. The multibillion-dollar disaster of 2011 Halloween Nor'Easter became the 14th such storm of 2011, soundly beating the 2008 annual record of nine similarly expensive weather-related catastrophes [source: Masters].

By the time Hurricane Sandy exited the eastern coast of the United States in the early days of November 2012, it had killed 125 people in the U.S., shut down the nation's financial markets for the first time in more than a century, caused the majority of New York City to lose electricity, brought subways and commuter trains to a halt and, famously, stranded an iconic roller coaster in the sea, a stone's throw from its once-permanent location on a pier in Seaside Heights, N.J. [source: The Atlantic].

Sandy's record-setting storm surge was responsible for an estimated $62 billion in damage and loss in the U.S., as well as $315 million and 71 deaths in the Caribbean. It's no wonder this storm wreaked havoc Sandy measured a 5.8 out of 6 on NOAA's storm scale [source: Associated Press].

But why did Sandy turn into such a superstorm in the first place? It seems a nor'easter may be partially to blame. Just as the hurricane headed northward along the coast, leaving Florida for the Eastern Seaboard, it seemed to head out into the Atlantic -- until a force pushed the warm air mass back toward land. That force? A cold nor'easter, whose powerful winds wrangled with the tropical hurricane, morphing it into a hybrid part nor'easter, part hurricane and making it capable of gale force winds, snow and rain [source: Gannett].


TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Saturday marks 28 years since the “Superstorm of 1993” passed through Florida bringing damaging hurricane force winds, a 12 foot storm surge and 11 confirmed tornadoes across the state.

This event was characterized as “the storm of the century” due to its widespread impacts across the Deep South and up through the Mid-Atlantic States. Record snowfall totals were reported from Alabama up through Maine. Severe storms produced winds up to 120 mph as far south as Cuba.

Over 100 people had to be rescued from sinking ships by the Coast Guard as the storm moved through the Gulf of Mexico on the night of March 12. Forty-four deaths were reported in Florida with more than 270 people killed across 13 states, according the National Weather Service.

Five tornadoes were reported in the Tampa Bay area one each in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Polk, Pasco and in Citrus Counties. All were F0 except the Citrus tornado which was reported as an F1. There were 21 reports of significant wind damage in the area.

Storm surge heights were highest in the Big Bend region, up to 12 feet, but water levels rose between six and 11 feet from Apollo Beach to Crystal River due to the strong winds pushing water up on to the coast.

According the National Weather Service, it was one of the most intense mid-latitude cyclones ever observed in the United States.

Although this was a counter-clockwise rotating are of low pressure passing through the Gulf of Mexico, it was not a hurricane because of the cold air associated with it. It was, however, much larger than a hurricane and just as powerful. This was more of a winter storm that developed much farther south than usual.

It began as an area of thunderstorms in the northwestern Gulf that merged with a band of snow over southern Texas.

The atmosphere was set-up perfectly for the storm to rapidly strengthen to barometric pressures (measure of strength) that were lower than any historic winter storm OR hurricane across the interior Southeastern United States. Several cities including Charlotte, Greensboro and Columbia recorded all time record low pressures, which even beat out Hurricane Hugo’s lowest pressure set in 1989.

The storm was strengthening from the extreme temperature difference associated with a stalled front. Arctic air was in place across much of the Plains but warmer, humid air was moving north with the thunderstorms in the Gulf. The winds in the upper levels of the atmosphere were very strong as well which aided in the system starting to spin and organize.

A squall line developed in the Gulf of Mexico that stretched south of the low pressure system. As the “center” of the low moved on shore in the panhandle, the line of severe thunderstorms pushed south through the peninsula and continued to move south though Cuba. It produced damaging straight line winds with embedded tornadoes. A wind gust of 109 mph was recorded in the Dry Tortugas.

Farther north, blizzard conditions were reported across much of the Eastern Seaboard. The storm was so large it eventually stretched from Central America up through Canada.

The Superstorm of 1993 ranks among the deadliest weather events of the 20th century. It remains the countries costliest winter storm to date with approximately $5.5 billion in damages ($9.9 billion in 2020 dollars) according the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

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Storm Impacts

As a result of heavy snow and high winds, most cities across the Eastern Seaboard shut down or were completely inaccessible for days. Because of such societal impacts, this storm has been assigned the highest rank of "extreme" on the Northeast Snowfall Impact Scale (NESIS).

Along the Gulf of Mexico:

  • The Florida panhandle received up to 4 inches (10.2 cm) of snow
  • A squall line out ahead of the cold front caused a powerful derecho (straight-line windstorm) with gusts in excess of 100 mph (160 km/h) felt down to Havana, Cuba
  • A Supercell spawned 11 tornadoes across the Sunshine State, ranging from F0 to F2 in intensity
  • A 12-foot (3.7 m) storm surge caused flooding along the coasts of western Florida and northern Cuba

In the South:

  • Accumulations ranged from 3 to 5 feet (0.9 to 1.5 m)
  • Snow drifts of up to 15 feet (4.6 m) were reported at Mount Mitchell, NC
  • Rare convective elements such as lightning, thundersnow, and snowfall rates of 2 to 4 inches (5.1 to 10.2 cm) per hour were experienced
  • Hundreds of thousands of residents were left without electricity for up to a week

In the Northeast & Canada:

  • Accumulations ranged from 15 to 45 inches (38.1 cm to 1.1m)
  • Syracuse, NY, broke five of its snowfall records, including 24-hr snowfall, maximum daily snowfalls for March 13 and 14, snowiest March, and snowiest season
  • With the storm's passage, New Brunswick, Canada, reported a 45 F (7 C) temperature drop within 18 hours

‘Storm of the Century?’ Try ‘Storm of the Decade’

Last August, Hurricane Irene spun through the Caribbean and parts of the eastern United States, leaving widespread wreckage in its wake. The Category 3 storm whipped up water levels, generating storm surges that swept over seawalls and flooded seaside and inland communities. Many hurricane analysts suggested, based on the wide extent of flooding, that Irene was a “100-year event”: a storm that only comes around once in a century.

However, researchers from MIT and Princeton University have found that with climate change, such storms could make landfall far more frequently, causing powerful, devastating storm surges every three to 20 years. The group simulated tens of thousands of storms under different climate conditions, finding that today’s “500-year floods” could, with climate change, occur once every 25 to 240 years. The researchers published their results in the current issue of Nature Climate Change.

MIT postdoc Ning Lin, lead author of the study, says knowing the frequency of storm surges may help urban and coastal planners design seawalls and other protective structures.

“When you design your buildings or dams or structures on the coast, you have to know how high your seawall has to be,” Lin says. “You have to decide whether to build a seawall to prevent being flooded every 20 years.”

Lin collaborated with Kerry Emanuel, the Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Atmospheric Science at MIT, as well as with Michael Oppenheimer and Erik Vanmarcke at Princeton. The group looked at the impact of climate change on storm surges, using New York City as a case study.

To simulate present and future storm activity in the region, the researchers combined four climate models with a specific hurricane model. The combined models generated 45,000 synthetic storms within a 200-kilometer radius of Battery Park, at the southern tip of Manhattan.

They studied each climate model under two scenarios: a “current climate” condition representing 1981 to 2000 and a “future climate” condition reflecting the years 2081 to 2100, a prediction based on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s projections of future moderate carbon dioxide output. While there was some variability among the models, the team generally found that the frequency of intense storms would increase due to climate change.

Once they simulated storms in the region, the researchers then simulated the resulting storm surges using three different models, including one used by the National Hurricane Center (NHC). In the days or hours before a hurricane hits land, the NHC uses a storm-surge model to predict the risk and extent of flooding from the impending storm. Such models, however, have not been used to evaluate multiple simulated storms under a scenario of climate change.

Again, the group compared results from multiple models: one from the NHC which simulates storm surges quickly, though coarsely another model that generates more accurate storm surges, though less efficiently and a model in between, developed by Lin and her colleagues, that estimates relatively accurate surge floods, relatively quickly.

Today, a “100-year storm” means a surge flood of about two meters, on average, in New York. Roughly every 500 years, the region experiences towering, three-meter-high surge floods. Both scenarios, Lin notes, would easily top Manhattan’s seawalls, which stand 1.5 meters high.

But with added greenhouse gas emissions, the models found that a two-meter surge flood would instead occur once every three to 20 years a three-meter flood would occur every 25 to 240 years.

“The highest [surge flood] was 3.2 meters, and this happened in 1821,” Lin says. “That’s the highest water level observed in New York City’s history, which is like a present 500-year event.”

Carol Friedland, an assistant professor of construction management and industrial engineering at Louisiana State University, sees the group’s results as a useful tool to inform coastal design — particularly, she notes, as most buildings are designed with a 60- to 120-year “usable lifespan.”

“The physical damage and economic loss that result from storm surge can be devastating to individuals, businesses, infrastructure and communities,” Friedland says. “For current coastal community planning and design projects, it is essential that the effects of climate change be included in storm-surge predictions.”

March 12th-15th, 1993: Superstorm

The storm was called by some people "The Storm of the Century". It was an anomaly of nature because of its intensity, size and far reaching affects. At the peak of the storm, its affects stretched from Canada to Central America with its main impact across the Eastern United States and Cuba. The system developed when three independent weather patterns merged in the Gulf of Mexico. The storm system resulted in three days of heavy snowfall, rough seas, blizzards, coastal flooding, tornadoes and very cold temperatures. The storm system was an anomaly in nature. The development began when a blast of cold arctic air (a strong dip in the strong jet stream structure) pushed down through the Plains into the Gulf of Mexico before pushing back up the eastern seaboard. On Friday, March 12, a strong complex of thunderstorms had developed in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico, and then merged with a narrow band of snow and rain that was moving in from the western United States. By that evening the two systems had merged with the strong jet stream. The system developed into a very potent storm system which began tracking across the Gulf toward Florida. The United States Coast Guard reported that the sea conditions in the Gulf were absolutely unbelievable. According to the Petty Officer Rob Wyman, he told the Washington Post that the sea conditions looked like a big washing machine. There were huge waves, spray, and hail. Some of the sea bouys had sustained hurricane force winds. The sea was so powerful that a 200 foot freighter sunk 70 miles off Fort Myers, Florida. By the time that the Super Storm had passed, the Coast Guard had deployed more than a hundred planes, helicopters, and boats. The deployed had rescued 235 as well as more than a hundred boats in the Gulf of Mexico. As the storm blew ashore, it created 15 tornadoes over Florida that had overturned mobile homes and launched trees and other debris. Between 4:00 and 5:30 am on Saturday, a storm surge as high as 12 feet in some places came ashore.

The weather models were not able to accurately predict how deeply the system would intensify. The system developed so far south in the Northern Gulf before hitting Florida with a central pressure of 975 millibars. However, NWS models and personnel did recognize the risk with this phenominal storm system. NWS personnel were confident enough to allow several northeastern states to declare a State of Emergency before the snow impacted the region. On the social side of matters, temperatures across the south were rather mild for March and this raised doubts among the public that cold air move in so quickly, much less heavy snowfall in the near future. This coupled with the fact that it doesnt get very cold in the south this time of year anyway added to the disbelief. As a result many radio and television stations were not confident enough to forecast too much snow to the southeatern United States public, until it was on more solid ground by surface reports.

As the storm system deepened, temperatures over much of the eastern United States began to fall quickly. The area of low pressure rapidly deepened as it moved into northwest Florida by early Saturday morning. As this happened snow began to spread over the eastern United States and a squall line moved over the Gulf of Mexico into Florida and Cuba. The low tracked up the United States eastern seaboard during the day on Saturday and into Canada by early Monday morning. The storm system caused blizzard conditions over much of the eastern seaboard. It brought thundersnow from Texas through Pennsylvania with some white out conditions.The system was responsible for 300 deaths and power outages to over 10 million customers. Most of the deaths were due to heart attacks from shoveling snow. The storm system directly affected over 130 million people. Every airport along the east coast was closed for some time during the storm. Every airport from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Atlanta, Georgia w as closed for some time because of the storm. A record low pressure of 28.35 mb (960 mb) was recorded in New England. Such low readings were usually of a Category 2 or 3 intensity on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale. Record low temperatures were recorded in much of the south.

With the assessment of this storm system, 26 states and an estimated 100 million had been affected. This had an impact on travel, hundreds of fatalities, and billions of dollars of damage and economic losses. As far as weather historical records, there has not been a winter storm system to match the effects of this system.

Here are some archived reanalysis charts of the overall upper air pattern that contributed to the development of the March 12-15, 1993 Superstorm. Satellite imagery of the system is also provided.

Satellite Imagery

March 12: 12Z | 15Z | 18Z | 21Z

March 13: 00Z | 03Z | 06Z | 09Z | 12Z | 15Z | 18Z | 21Z

March 14: 00Z


March 12: 12Z | 15Z | 18Z | 21Z

March 13: 00Z | 03Z | 06Z | 09Z | 12Z | 15Z | 18Z | 21Z

March 14: 00Z

Water Vapor

March 12: 12Z | 15Z | 18Z | 21Z

March 13: 00Z | 03Z | 06Z | 09Z | 12Z | 15Z | 18Z | 21Z

March 14: 00Z

Click time to enlarge or move mouse over links to change images


As the low pressure system deepened and moved across the northern Gulf of Mexico, snowfall began to accumulate across Mississippi. Amounts of 4 to 6 inches of snowfall were common across the state. The highest snowfall accumulation was 9.0 inches in Waynesboro, MS. Even along the coast where snow is a rarity, 1- to 2-inch snowfall amounts were common. Surface high pressure and a cold airmass moved in the wake of the system. Low temperatures fell into the teens between March 13-15 across the state.

Here is a map of total snowfall across Mississippi and nationwide between March 12-15.


In the south, where public works facilities in most areas generally have no reason to be prepared for snow removal, the storm is remembered because it resulted in a complete shutdown of some regions for three days. Cities that usally receive little snowfall such as Chattanooga, Tennessee received anywhere from 2 to 4 feet of snow. This had caused some cities to adopt an emergency winter-weather plan for the future. Birmingham recorded a record low of 2°F during the storm. Syracuse, New York received 43 inches from the storm. New York reported a total of 12 inches. Two feet of snow fell in Hartford, Connecticut. The weight of the snow collapsed many factory roofs in the South. Snowdrifts on the windward side of buildings caused a few decks with substandard anchors to fall from homes. The heaviest snowfall was at Newfound Gap, where US Highway 441 crosses the Tennessee and North Carolina border, recorded five feet of snow and drifts up to 14 feet were observed at Mount Mitchell. There was wind gusts there as high as 110 mph according to NCDC. Power outages, on the average, lasted for one to two weeks all over the east. The blizzard from this storm system caused a total of $6.6 billion of damage. Nearly 60,000 lightning strikes were recorded as the storm swept over the country, for a total of seventy-two hours, and many may remember their local news organizations touting the term "thundersnow".

Thousands of people were isolated by record snowfalls, especially in the Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia mountains. Over 200 hikers were rescued from the North Carolina and Tennessee mountains. Curfews were enforced in many counties and cities as 'states of emergency' were declared. The National Guard was deployed in many areas to protect lives and property. Generally, all interstate highways from Atlanta northward were closed.

On the winter aspect of this storm system areas as far south as central Alabama and Georgia received 4 to 6 inches of snow. Some areas received heavier amounts like 12 inches in Birmingham Alabama with some reports of 16 inches area the metro area. The Florida Panhandle had some 2 inch amounts, which was accompanied by hurricane force winds and record low barometric pressures.

Low Temperatures at MS Airports
Location Temperature (°F) Date
Meridian WSO 17 March 14
Jackson WSFO 19 March 14
McComb FAA 19 March 14
Tupelo WSO 19 March 14
Greenwood FAA 20 March 14

Snowfall totals/low temperatures for all cooperative observers/airport observation stations across Mississippi are located here: Mississippi Climate Observations for March 1993

Watch the video: The Storm of the century pt 1 (December 2021).