33-hour snowstorm buries New York City under 2 feet of snow; 37 inches reported in nearby New Brunswick, N.J.

It’s a first for New Yorkers. Nothing like the parade of megasnows which have lambasted the Big Apple in February has happened before. The latest storm, one of three which have hit the region in just the past month, roared into the city late Wednesday on 30 to 40 mph winds and generated 33 hours of uninterrupted, often heavy snowfall. When the snow finally broke late Friday, New York had been smothered by 21 inches of snow while just across the Hudson River in New Brunswick, N.J., the tally hit an astounding 37 inches. Sparta in northwest New Jersey came in a close second recording 33″ of snow. To the northwest in the Catskill Mountain community of Woodridge in southeast New York, an off-the-charts 46.9″ of snow had occurred. In effect, more than a season’s worth of snow had fallen with a single storm over a day and a half’s time. New York City’s Central Park February tally of 37″ made it the city’s single snowiest month ever. The total eclipsed the previous single-month record of 30.5″ set in March 1896. Snow records in New York City extend back to 1869.

Storm winds hit 90 mph on New England Coast; 125 mph on New Hampshire’s Mt. Washington

Friday’s storm was devastating across sections of the mid-Atlantic and Northeast. Nearly a million homes and businesses in a multi-state region extending from New Jersey and Pennsylvania north across New England were without electricity, including 40% of the homes in New Hampshire alone. The huge storm slowed to a crawl Wednesday and Thursday as it became ensnared in an atmospheric blocking pattern. The “block” was produced by a pool of mild air to the north, which generated a stubborn high pressure system which impeded its forward motion. The system was forced to spin in place, sweeping vast quantities of moisture into the region. In the hardest-hit locations of coastal New England, that led to 8″ of wind-driven rain which arrived on gusts as high as 90 mph at Portsmouth, N.H. Mt. Washington clocked 125 mph winds. As the moist air swept westward into cold air, gargantuan 3 to 4 foot snows resulted.

Long cloudy spell to accompany Chicago’s February to March transition

The storm’s circulation transported snow westward into Ohio, Michigan and Indiana late Friday where 1 to 4 accumulations were reported. The westbound snow reached Chicago late Friday evening. A dusting to a half inch was expected Friday night into Saturday morning. The Atlantic moisture driving the snowfall is to hold here into next week and promises to shroud the final weekend of February in clouds with spits of snow and pockets of milder air aloft contributing to the chance of patchy drizzle.

The book on February 2010′s weather closes at midnight Sunday night. The month managed a peak temperature no higher than 42 degrees — making it the first February in 31 years unable to produce a maximum reading that low. By comparison, a 61-degree high was logged last February.

Crippling storm of March 25-26, 1970

Dear Tom,
I remember walking to school in March 1970 in one of the heaviest, wettest snows I’ve ever experienced. Can you help with the details?
–Zoila Berling, Bakersfield, Calif.

Dear Zoila,
Our recent encounter with heavy, wet snow was tame compared to the crippling storm that hit the city March 25-26, 1970. The official snowfall at Midway Airport was 14.3 inches, with a water equivalent of 1.76 inches, making the snow-to-water ratio a sopping 8-1. The storm was accompanied by thunder and lightning and fierce northeast winds that piled the snow into 3- and 4-foot drifts. The snow was so heavy it caused considerable damage to trees, shrubs and power lines. Vehicles could not navigate the snow-clogged streets and hundreds of cars stalled or were abandoned. With the visibility near zero, the city’s airports were forced to shut down, stranding thousands of passengers.

Portions of Scotland also buried in snow

Thanks to our frequent blog contributor Mark Vogan who passed along this shots of a snowbound Scotland. The photos were taken after a 36 hour period of heavy windblown snow. Winds of gale force piled the snow into drifts 2-5 feet high and even up to 10 feet in some areas.

Mark notes that while some areas got as much as 14 inches, areas as close as 15 minutes away got no snow at all with an elevation difference of less than 1,000 feet. Many areas in Scotland above 1500 feet have received as much as 2 feet of snow from this storm with severe blowing and drifting.

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Photos by Mark Vogan