Severe Winter Storms
Blizzards, Ice Storms & Heavy Snow Fall
Are you prepared for severe winter storms?
Winter storm survival requires pre-planning in order to have the necessary survival supplies and gear on hand in case you are stuck in your car during a blizzard or trapped in your home during a power outage.
While snow covered landscapes are truly beautiful to look at, the reality is the impact of severe winter storms can be just as damaging as a hurricane or other natural disasters resulting in the lose of property, livestock, forestry and human lives.
These severe storms can even shut down a whole city and region creating strain on emergency personal and the economy. The recent October 'surprise' snow storm in the northeast is a good example; the warm temperature made for a very wet, heavy snow that downed trees and power lines leaving 1.7 million people were without electricity and city officials were warning customers to prepare for potentially lengthy outages.
Winter precipitation comes in a variety of forms; icing, sleet, freezing rain, heavy snow fall, and blizzards with blinding, winddriven snow, with many storms accompanied by dangerously low temperatures.
Most Severe Winter Storms are Blizzards
Blizzards are extremely dangerous. They are characterized by low temperatures (usually below 20 F) and accompanied by winds that are at least 35 mph or greater.
They also produce falling and/or blowing snow in the air that will frequently reduce visibility to 1/4 mile or less for a duration of at least 3 hours.
However, a severe blizzard is considered to have temperatures near or below 10 F, winds exceeding 45 mph, and visibility reduced by snow to near zero.
Blizzard conditions often develop on the northwest side of an intense storm system. The difference between the lower pressure in the storm and the higher pressure to the west creates a tight pressure gradient, which in turn results in very strong winds.
Worst Blizzard in US History
The Blizzard of 1888 has been called "The Great White Hurricane", also known as the Schoolhouse Blizzard. Starting on March 12th and ending on the 14th, this colossal blizzard left snow drifts in some places that were fifty feet high.
The East Coast from Maryland to the Canadian Maritimes was absolutely brought to a stop by this blizzard. The existing telegraph system was destroyed, cutting the major cities off from the outside world for days. Two hundred ships were lost at sea or in harbors, and over one hundred seaman perished.Fire stations could not get their apparatus out onto the street, so the fire damage alone was estimated at over twenty five million dollars. New York City saw a hundred people die, and in all four hundred met their end during this blizzard.
Fifty inches of snow fell in parts of Massachusetts and Connecticut, and the forty plus that blanketed New York caused the city to build their underground subway system to avoid future disasters such as this one.
Another major snow storm is call a Nor 'easter, which gets its name from its continuously strong northeasterly winds blowing
in from the ocean ahead of the storm, over the coastal areas and are among winter's most ferocious storms.
These winter storm events are notorious for producing heavy snow, rain, and oversized waves that crash onto Atlantic beaches, often causing beach erosion and structural damage. Wind gusts associated with these storms can exceed hurricane force in intensity.
These strong areas of low pressure often form either in the Gulf of Mexico or off the East Coast in the Atlantic Ocean. The low will then either move up the East Coast into New England and the Atlantic provinces of Canada or out to sea.
In places like New York City and Boston, for instance, if the wintertime low tracks up to the west of these cities, wintry precipitation will often change to rain.
However, if the low moves slightly off the coast to the east of these cities, assuming there is enough moisture and cold air accompanying the storm, Boston and New York will typically get snow or a mixture of precipitation types.
Deep South Severe Winter Storms are Ice Storms
The Deep South only experiences winter storms a few times during a typical winter.
A southeastern winter storm often forms when an area of low pressure moves eastward across the northern Gulf of Mexico.
When this happens, cities like Jackson, Mississippi, Birmingham, Alabama, Nashville, Tennessee and Atlanta, Georgia, find themselves on the cold side of the storm.
Although the snowfall may not linger as long as in the southern states as it does in the northern states, heavy wet snow and ice storms often create power outages that can last for days or weeks.
Unusual Winter Weather Phenomenon
Heavy snow fall can also be accompanied by thundersnow. One unique aspect of thundersnow is that the snowfall acts as an acoustic suppressor of the thunder.
The thunder from a typical thunderstorm can be heard many miles away, while the thunder from thundersnow can usually only be heard within a two to three mile radius from the lightning.
Ice can be deadly when inches pile up on roads and power lines but it can also be amazingly beautiful in the form of natural ice sculptures such as frost flowers and hair ice.