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The Back to Back Holiday Storms of 2002-2003

Christmas is prime time for the need for a good snow because we all need to have a “White Christmas”. However, sometimes this could lead to issues on the roads and make travel harder for Christmas travelers. Just 18 years ago, a snowfall event affected much of the United States. The worst of the storm struck New England pretty hard.

Blizzard traps car under a blanket of snow. (Source: Wikipedia)

Initiation of the Christmas Nor’easter of 2002
On December 24, 2002, a low pressure began to gather strength in Mississippi. The system would eventually track its way up to the northeast, and along the way get much stronger. By the afternoon of Christmas Day, the storm had already made it up to Atlantic City, New Jersey. Another snowstorm coming out of Colorado, impacted the Great Plains and Midwest on December 23 and 24. Indiana ended up receiving some snowfall from the event that ranged from from 1-12 inches of snowfall across the state. Most areas saw anywhere from 6-12 inches of snowfall in Indiana.

Snowfall that fell in portions of the United States between December 23-26, 2002 (Source: The Weather Channel)

Storm Events of the Christmas Nor’easter of 2002
By midnight on Christmas Eve, snow was already beginning to fall in parts of New Jersey. Within a couple hours, there had already been an inch of snow reported in some areas. However, with the approach of the low pressure system, snow began to change over to sleet and freezing rain. Throughout the morning hours on Christmas morning, sleet and freezing rain would continue to fall over portions of New Jersey and surroundings areas. By 9am, some areas were now only seeing rain fall while mixed precipitation continued in areas to the north. Farther to the north in New York, snow was falling pretty heavily in portions of the state. The snow would go on to continue for much of the day on Christmas. Also, during the day on Christmas, the nor’easter would gain in intensity and so did the winds. There were areas along the coast that reported winds of as much of 70 mph. In Belmar, New Jersey, the city recorded winds of up to 68 mph at one point during the Christmas nor’easter. The heavy snow in portions of the New England produced amounts of 1 feet or more in some areas. In New York’s Mohawk Valley, there was as much as 36 inches reported within a 5 hour time frame on Christmas Day. The snow would go on to continue in parts of New England into Boxing Day, December 26.

Impact of The Christmas Nor’easter of 2002
As the result of the nor’easter, many flights ended up being cancelled as a result of the snowstorm over much of the New England coast by Christmas night. There were many people without power as well. Initially, before the nor’easter reached New England, 7 people had already lost their lives as a result of the snowstorm. Snow plows were unable to keep up with the snow as it keep piling up on Christmas Day. Subways in New York were shut down as well due to the snowstorm.

Post New Year’s Day Nor’easter of 2003
Following the Christmas Nor’easter event, another low pressure would bring another round of sleet, freezing rain, rain, and snow to portions of New England. On New Year’s Day, rain and sleet fell over portions of the New England. This would be preceded by the actual Nor’easter, nearly a day and a half later. Very late on January 2 and into January 3, snow began to fall over portions of New England again. However, the storm track is a little farther south than that of the Christmas Nor’easter event. Unfortunately, this event was longer than Christmas Nor’easter event. The event lasted for up to 35 hours in the region. However, another difference with this system was that there wasn’t much wind with the system. The system didn’t move out until late on January 4, 2003.

Snowfall amounts from the Post New Year’s Day Nor’easter. (Source: Weather Net 6)

Impact of the Post New Year’s Day Nor’easter of 2003
The ice storm that occurred ahead of the Nor’easter on New Year’s Day 2003, led to 15,000 customers losing power. The Nor’easter that followed the event led to travel delays and flights being delayed once again. Snow that piled up on power lines led to even more people losing power for up to 2 days after the snowstorm finished up in the area.

Aftermath of Back-to-Back Nor’easters of 2002-2003
The Nor’easters of the holiday season heavily contributed to the snow totals of the winter of 2002-2003. There were many cities that saw significant amounts from both nor’easters combined. For example, Albany, New York, saw as much as 41.8 inches of snow. This was only a few inches shy of the amount of snow that fell during the winter of 2001-2002 season. Eventually, the winter of 2002-2003 season would go on to becoming the 3rd snowiest winter on record, with most of the snowfall linked to the two nor’easters.


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