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Monday, October 31, 2011

Snowtober: Cleaning Up After The Historic October Nor'easter

The October Nor’easter was the storm of a lifetime. Really. Many of you will not see destruction like this from a snowstorm for the rest of your lives. And now all you ghosts, goblins and Lady Gagas will be trick or treating for the first time on plowed driveways. That is…if your town doesn’t cancel the holiday festivities.

Why was it so bad?
If this storm happened two weeks later, we would have half the problems. With leaves covering the trees, the heavy wet snow had an extra place to stick to. The snow had a very low snow to liquid ratio which means it had more water and more weight than the powdery fluffy stuff skiers dream about. That meant more weight on trees and power lines. Tropical storm force wind gusts proved the final ingredient for chaos.

The result? The most widespread power outage in the state’s history, topping Tropical Storm Irene earlier this year! At one point 884,000 customers were in the dark! (Pretty much all of CL&P customers north of I-84.) The electric company is warns that people could be out of power for a week. But I think some rural areas may be forced to wait longer than that!

Interesting Factors
Temperatures remained above freezing for the entire event! I was shocked by how easily the sludge accumulated on the ground! I also thought we would see a longer period of rain before the changeover to snow. But the initial batch of precipitation was so heavy that it cooled the atmosphere enough for snow right off the bat! We call this evaporational cooling. We also experienced dynamic cooling during the event which is the cooling of the atmosphere caused by the big drop in pressure in the storm. The same drop in pressure and associated rising motion caused instability resulting in thundersnow, a rare occurrence.

Western Connecticut got pounded with 12”-20” of snow. Many of us meteorologists are confused by the number reported by Bradley International Airport. 20.1”? Not likely when you look at nearby Enfield. Before midnight BDL reported 12.1” which makes more sense. Either way, I think we broke the previous record of 1.7”! The shoreline got 3”-6” with the immediate shoreline getting the lower end of the scale. Some in the far southeastern corner of Connecticut which remained a messy mix of rain and snow reported a couple slushy inches.

Click the image to enlarge NWS snow totals:

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