New Year, Old Story… Winter Storms Wreak Havoc
I know it was ridiculous to even dream this. Let alone imagine it could happen this way.
But as the new year rolled in, I thought maybe we could get a short reprieve from extreme weather. Especially after the challenging year we all just experienced.
Nope. “John” might not seem like a threatening name, but that’s what meteorologists called the winter storm that got 2021 off on the wrong snowshoe.
The huge storm spread a wintry mess of snow and ice from Texas through the Midwest before heading off to New England.
‘John’ Hammers Numerous States
The weather caused hundreds of automobile accidents. Especially from Missouri to Illinois.
John actually formed on December 30 in the Big Bend region of Texas. It dumped two feet of snow near Alpine in the Lone Star State. In Cisco, about 45 miles east of Abilene, snowdrifts of up to 20 inches were reported.
In the central U.S., the storm was all about freezing rain. Ice accumulations made travel hazardous in a variety of states. Including Oklahoma, Arkansas, Illinois, Michigan and Pennsylvania.
A tragedy occurred near St. Louis. A 38-year-old driver got out of his crashed vehicle to warn other drivers. He was struck by another car and fell from an overpass.
Outages Are Widespread
According to poweroutage.us, more than 100,000 outages were reported over a number of states. All due to John.
In areas such as Kansas and Oklahoma, heavy, wet snow followed ice storms as temperatures dropped.
Wichita, Kansas saw 6.5 inches of snow on New Year’s Day. That was the city’s highest single-day total in nearly seven years.
In Oklahoma City, Will Rogers World Airport recorded 5.1 inches of snow. That was its highest total in more than 10 years.
Showing strength and versatility, John also produced a tornado in Central Georgia. And dropped six to 12 inches of snow from northern New York to central Maine.
First Nor’easter a Doozy
Prior to John’s arrival, the Northeast was hit with its first nor’easter of the 2020-21 winter season. It occurred in early December.
The storm dumped more than 12 inches of snow in New England. High winds caused power outages for about 225,000 households in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine. Most of the outages (at least 147,000) were in Maine.
A wind gust of 73 miles per hour was recorded in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
Receiving 12.5 inches of snow was Paxton, Massachusetts.
Many New Englanders were asked to stay home until plows could clear roads. Due to poor visibility.
Major Vehicle Pileups
Fortunately for New England, temperatures during the storm’s first few hours were above the freezing mark. Otherwise, weather officials said this nor’easter would have been much worse.
But less than two weeks later, the Northeast was struck by another winter storm. Snow totals surpassed all of last year’s winter season in some areas. New York City’s Central Park was slammed by 10.5 inches of the white stuff.
Upstate New York was hit much harder. They got 40 inches of snow in Binghamton, New York. And 22 inches in the state’s capital, Albany. Over the border in Wellsboro, Pennsylvania, they received 18.8 inches. Wind gusts exceeded 55 miles per hour.
Among the hundreds of traffic accidents was a 66-vehicle pileup in Pennsylvania. And a 27-vehicle pileup in New York. The death toll reached seven. Power outages were widespread over numerous states.
A History of Blizzards
Those December storms brought back memories of significant nor’easters from the past.
In 2018, the East Coast was hit by four major nor’easters in less than three weeks. Each of the first three included more than two feet of snow in some areas.
Other nor’easters include the Great Appalachian Storm of 1950 (30 inches of snow, record-low temperatures in several states, 353 deaths). And the Northeastern U.S. Blizzard of 1978 (27 inches of snow, 100 deaths).
Perhaps the most infamous nor’easter happened more than 130 years ago. The Great Blizzard of 1888 featured 40 to 50 inches of snow. And killed 400 people. Mostly in New York state.
It All Started in October
We should have known this winter season would be another bad one. Especially after what occurred in October 2020.
The first storm of note happened October 20-22. That’s when a clipper-like system surged down from Alberta, Canada into Montana and North Dakota.
It then moved eastward, hitting parts of Minnesota with 10 inches of snow. More than 33,000 homes and businesses lost power.
Minnesota roads saw approximately 1,100 crashes and spinouts. The Weather Channel named the storm “Abigail.”
‘Billy’ Finds a Hurricane
Winter Storm “Billy” entered the Southern Great Plains a few days later. It brought heavy snow to Colorado and Kansas. As well as New Mexico and western Texas.
It was especially treacherous in central Oklahoma. That’s where ice accumulations reached two inches. Traffic came to a standstill in the Oklahoma City metropolitan area.
Billy then traveled to southern New England and upstate New York late in the month. There it merged with the remnants of Hurricane Zeta, which made landfall in Louisiana.
Grafton, Massachusetts got 6.5 inches of snow and had downed tree branches. Numerous crashes occurred in Massachusetts. Including several serious ones.
Preparedness Is the Key
This winter season is off to a rough start. And it’s likely to get worse. The key is to be as prepared as possible with a variety of survival supplies.