WRAL WeatherCenter Blog

The Blizzard of 2006 A Category 3?

Posted February 14, 2006

We are all familiar with the categorization of hurricanes and tornadoes but how about winter storms? The new Northeast Snowfall Impact Scale or NESIS was put to the test this weekend. The new scale went into use this winter and the following is a press release from NOAA discussing the impact of the storm. I thought some might find this of interest!!


The weekend snowstorm that struck the eastern seaboard and brought
airlines and roadways to a standstill in some of the nation's biggest
cities was classified as "Major" or a Category 3 storm on the new
Northeast Snowfall Impact Scale, or NESIS, scale, according to NOAA's
National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) in Asheville, N.C.
This is a preliminary classification based on the snowfall
observations available at this time. NESIS, which NOAA made
operational this winter, ranked this Northeast storm as having the
20th biggest impact out of a sample of 32 storms that have occurred
between 1956 and 2006.

NESIS ranks the severity of an East Coast snowstorm based on snowfall
amount and the population of the affected areas. NESIS allows
scientists to quickly assess a snowstorm's potential impact, compare
it with a storm of the past and assign it one of five categories:
Notable, Significant, Major, Crippling or Extreme.

Near-blizzard conditions prevailed in the Northeast over the weekend,
with winds gusting more than 50 mph along the coastal areas. The
strong winds produced snow drifts more than four feet high and made
snow measurements difficult. Review and quality control of the
reported snowfall amounts are required before these reports are
officially accepted as new snowfall records, NCDC officials said.

According to preliminary reports, new single-storm and 24-hour
snowfall records were established in some locations. In New York
City's Central Park, where record-keeping began in 1869, 26.9 inches
of snow fell between 4 p.m. Saturday and 4 p.m. Sunday, breaking the
previous storm total record of 26.4 inches set during a December
26-27, 1947 storm. In Hartford, Conn., a total of 21.9 inches broke
the old storm total record of 21 inches set in 1983. These high
amounts tend to occur in isolated locations or within narrow bands,
and were surrounded by reports of 10 to 20 inches.

More than six inches of snow fell across a large region from
the Appalachians of North Carolina to the most heavily populated
areas of the Northeast. Reports of more than 12 inches were
widespread across the region, and the highest snowfall amounts fell
from New York City to Connecticut. Other snow storms of the recent
past, such as the 1993 Storm of the Century (NESIS Category 5) and
the January Blizzard of 1996 covered areas throughout the eastern
U.S., while also bringing heavy snowfall to interior
regions. However, the development and movement of this storm off the
Atlantic coast produced the highest storm totals along the coastal
corridor, while missing areas from western Pennsylvania to northern
New England.

NESIS was jointly developed by Paul J. Kocin, a winter storm
expert at The Weather Channel and Dr. Louis W. Uccellini, director of
NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Prediction in Camp Springs,
Md. Thomas R. Karl, director of NOAA's National Climatic Data Center
(NCDC) in Asheville, N.C., led the effort to compute NESIS starting
with this season's snowstorms.

NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration,
an agency of the U.S. Commerce Department, is dedicated to enhancing
economic security and national safety through the prediction and
research of weather and climate-related events and providing
environmental stewardship of our nation's coastal and marine
resources. Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of
Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is working with its federal partners and 60
countries to develop a global monitoring network that is as
integrated as the planet it observes.

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