Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Long Island Snowstorm of 2009

I never would have thought that the first post for this blog will be about a snowstorm. And why would we dedicate a post for such an event? Because this storm dumped a little more than a foot in some parts of Long Island, NY--the biggest snowfall seen in years (3 that is). While the area have seen one of its driest February (in terms of liquid precipitation) in history, the succeeding month came like a lion.

A week before, some computer forecast models were already showing a serious potential for the period of March 1-3. However, as has been the case this winter, forecasts like these that far out won't likely verify, but they're still interesting to track nonetheless. Surprisingly, most models were consistent in showing the storm even as the said period was near. While the amount of precipitation in the forecast varied from run to run, one thing is clear--there will be a storm. Then, less than 48 hours into the event, some of the models were showing about 2 feet of snow for the island, but were later decreased as the event was approaching (though the amounts are still pretty big for the season).

Light snow started around 7 pm (March 2 EST) in southern Long Island then continued unabated until the next morning. Heavy snow was reported between 12am and 4 am on March 3 with winds of up to 30 mph and gusting to 40+mph; wind driven snow occasionally reduced visibilities down to a quarter of a mile. While looking at the current maps and radars, the precipitation from the storm didn't look all that impressive and that the NYC metro area would be lucky to get 6 inches. Fortunately, as the storm moved ever so slowly northward, so too did the radar start to fill again. As we have seen in the totals, it seemed as if Long Island this time was the jackpot for this storm since it was in a perfect position to receive direct flow of Atlantic moisture being dumped by the low pressure.

As the storm slowly moved away from the area around 8am in the morning, it left about 10 inches of snow in the island; some areas already exceeded a foot while NYC has around 7inches. While we may already have gotten our biggest snowfall this season, it sure didn't stop there, since an Upper Level Low was also setting its eyes for the area. While the accompanying precipitation was nothing compared to the storm that just passed, it sure did add some snow for our total. About 2 inches of additional snow fell in the afternoon hours. The average total for the Island was obviously around the foot mark with the western part little less and the eastern and southern part easily exceeded this mark.

The storm was indeed incredible just by looking at the numbers, but we can't forget the direct impact it had on the people in the island. Almost all of schools, private of public, kinder to college, were closed and surprisingly, public schools in NYC were closed as well--first time in 5 years (last time schools were closed in the city was in January 2004). Roads were a mess and for those who still have to go to work on that Monday morning, it would be a tough ordeal if not for the plowers who worked hard to keep major roads and highways clear of heavy accumulations. Secondary roads were not so lucky though. While concrete and blacktops reduced the amount of snow accumulation, the lack of regular plow and salt trucks could still make this types of roads dangerous. A man was killed because of this.

While Long Island had seen bigger snowstorms than that of March 2-3, it is still a great storm considering that the last time we've seen snowfall this big was in 2006. It is also interesting to note that this snowstorm alone, at least for Long Island, dumped the same (if not more than) amount of snow the area has seen for its entire winter season last year. That's right! Most areas received less than a foot of snow for their seasonal total last 2007-2008 winter season.

As the days get longer and the average temperatures get warmer, it seems that this healthy snowpack of ours will soon be melting away (as seen in the forecast--50's to 60's this weekend) and that that recent storm may be our last. While these assumptions may be correct, don't be so used to this spring-like weather yet. Some computer models are already hinting at another snowstorm to hit the island around March 12-16. This doesn't sound too farfetched as we have seen big snowstorms even in April. So don't put away those shovels and snowblowers just yet. We may be seeing another big snowstorm soon.

I will be adding photos regarding this storm in the next few days. Meanwhile, get out of your computers and enjoy the 50's and 60's while they last!!!