The Blizzard of 1996
was a nor'easter
that paralyzed the U.S. East Coast
with up to four feet (1.2 m) of wind-driven snow over a three-day period from January 6
Washington D.C. and Baltimore
Snow began falling in Washington and Baltimore during the late evening of Saturday, January 6
and continued at a consistent rate until mid-afternoon the next day. At that time, the metro area received 13 to 17 inches, and after a few hours of sleet and then a complete stop for several hours, it seemed the worst was over. But overnight, as the storm slowly crawled northward, extremely heavy bands of snow came in from the east. These bands created whiteout conditions as winds gusted past 40 mph, along with thunder and lightning.
By the morning of January 8
, the bands tapered off, and the metro area was left with a blanket of 15 to 25 inches of snow. Baltimore received 22.5 inches and Dulles Airport received 24.6 inches. Many areas north and west in Maryland and West Virginia received well over two feet with a few locations in the mountains of West Virginia and Virginia receiving up to four feet.
Over 30 inches (75 cm) of snow fell in Philadelphia
, the most of any major city in the storm's path. It was the city's all-time greatest snowstorm, compared to its previous greatest snowstorm which was a "mere" 21 inches. Most of those 30.7 inches, 27.6, fell in just 24 hours, a new record for the city for the most snow in 24 hours. The mayor declared a state of emergency, and only police and other emergency workers were permitted to drive on city streets leaving the city to pedestrians.
Because of the ban on driving, there were also no restaurant (or other) food deliveries. The TGI Fridays on Benjamin Franklin Parkway offered a special souvenir "Blizzard of '96" menu. Meanwhile, workers at the nearby Wawa food market, unable to leave their store, resorted to eating food from the shelves.
For three days City trucks loaded with plowed snow dumped their contents into the Schuylkill and Delaware rivers eventually causing major problems with the natural flow of the rivers. Disposal of snow became a major issue but temperatures quickly returned to normal and began to quickly clear the snow.
The state of New Jersey
recorded its second-largest snowstorm at Edison, where 32 inches (81 cm) fell (the greatest single storm record being 34 inches (86 cm) at Cape May
in the Great Blizzard of 1899
, the state's largest city, received a record-setting 27.8 inches (70.6 cm), while Trenton
, the capital, received 24.2 inches (61.5 cm). All roads in the state were closed, including the entire length of the New Jersey Turnpike
for the first time in that road's history. Over two-thirds of the state was buried under 2 or more feet (60 or more cm) of snow, making this storm the state's most paralyzing snowstorm of the 20th century.
New York City
New York City
's Central Park
officially recorded 20.2" for its fourth-largest single snowfall (records going back to 1869), but many locations in the other boroughs and suburbs recorded over 30" of snow. Schools in New York City's boroughs closed due to snow for the first time since the Blizzard of 1978
, 18 years earlier (while most suburban districts in the area close for snow several times each winter, in the city itself they rarely do because of relatively easy access to underground subways whose ability to run is not appreciably affected by snowstorms of moderate to large accumulation).
Providence, Rhode Island
received 24.0 inches of snow, while Boston
and Hartford, Connecticut
both received 18.2 inches. Up to 33 inches of snow fell in the Berkshire Mountains
of western Massachusetts and the northern hills of Connecticut
. While this was a major snow event for southern New England, the Blizzard of 1996 was not as intense as other recent events, notably the Blizzard of 1978
and the March 1993 Superstorm
. Snowfall amounts decreased sharply as one moved further north, with northern Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine receiving little more than snow flurries from this event.
Not quite a 'real' blizzard
Interestingly, and despite the storm's common name as the "Blizzard" of 1996
, one of the few observing sites to record true blizzard
conditions was Trenton-Mercer Airport
near Trenton, New Jersey
. During the afternoon of January 7
, the airport recorded the necessary three consecutive hours of frequent wind gusts to at least 35 mph
combined with a prevailing visibility consistently below 1/4 mile
(400 m) along with falling and blowing snow, meeting the official NWS
standard of a blizzard
. All other New Jersey observing sites, as well as most sites in neighboring states, failed to observe true blizzard conditions, though many stations did observe blizzard conditions for less than the necessary three consecutive hours. By and large, however, the "Blizzard of 1996" was not a real blizzard in the technical sense.
Snowfall accumulation totals
Source: National Snow & Ice Data Center