March 7-8, 2008- Columbus’ Greatest Snowstorm

**Originally posted on 12/29/12.
On the eve of the anniversary of Columbus’ biggest snowstorm, I thought I would repost this. Makes you appreciate just how mild and uneventful Winter 2015-2016 has been, doesn’t it?

More than one week prior to the Blizzard of 2008, models had been hinting at a significant storm somewhere in the eastern US. Initially, models took the storm up the East Coast, but as the storm neared, models moved it further and further west and settled upon a track just west/just along the spine of the Appalachians. The track waffled for days, but never strayed far from the Appalachian track. Because the storm was originating near the Gulf of Mexico, models were showing the storm pulling vast amounts of moisture north into cold air over the Ohio Valley. Simply put, the track and conditions were being forecast to be perfect for a significant Ohio snowstorm.

Local forecasters, however, weren’t buying it… at least not at first. Four days before the storm, neither the NWS nor the television forecasters were calling for a significant event. The winter of 2007-08 had brought several storm busts, and none of them seemed ready to buy into another one. So right up to 24-36 hours before the event began, forecasters were calling for 6″ maximum north and west of the I-71 corridor with a mix along the corridor and mostly rain to the south and east. So, right up until the end, many Ohioans were led to believe that this would be a large, but still a run-of-the-mill, snow event.

My personal account of the storm:

On Thursday, March 6th, I worked a 12-hour day at my store. Customers were talking about forecasts of 4-8″, which in central Ohio is significant in and of itself. We typically get one or two 6″ storms, but rarely up to 8″ and almost never more than that. In fact, in all of Columbus history, there have been less than a dozen snow events that broke double digits. Still, in the talking there were whispers that the storm would be more significant. By Thursday night when I arrived home, I discovered the radar was lit up over the South with a growing area of precipitation heading north. Temperatures had already cooled into the low 30s as a cold front had moved through during the day. Forecasts had changed late in the afternoon, and there were many calls of 6-10″ along I-71 by Sunday.

Friday, March 7th was my day off, and I woke up before 8am in the excitement and inticipation of the impending snow. The radar was showing returns north of the Ohio River then and it was already snowing in Cincinnati. Finally, at 9:05am, flurries began to fall and quickly intensified to a steady, windblown snow. A 9:30, I left the house to go to the store. By the time I reached it, the snow had turned heavy and was accumulating quickly. Visibility had dropped to a 1/4 mile at times and many roads were already snowcovered by the time I reached home.

The snow continued throughout the day and forecasts kept changing, finally settling on 10-15″ along the I-71 corridor with little to no mixing. Meanwhile, the snow continued into the evening and overnight hours of the 7th. Although it did lighten somewhat towards midnight, it never completely stopped. By midnight, in any case, 5-7″ had fallen throughout Columbus and central Ohio, which set a daily record.

Saturday, March 8th dawned very wintry. By dawn, no less than 10″ was on the ground and the snow was continuing to fall heavily. Overnight, blizzard warnings had gone up for all of the NWS Wilmington forecast zone as winds were expected to increase during the day. Winds were generally sustained near 20mph in the morning and increased during the late morning/early afternoon. Heavy snow and winds combined to create total whiteout conditions at times, and every county along I-71 from Cincinatti to Cleveland went under a level 2 or level 3 snow emergency.

At 11am, I went for a walk in the snow. It was still falling heavily and roads were nearly impassable with deep snow. Cars in some cases were buried in snow.

By 2pm, a break in the snowfall came as the low moved to the east of Ohio. When it moved into New York, wraparound snow moved back into the area for 3-4 more hours before ending by 6:30pm Saturday afternoon. The sun even poked through the clouds as it set, producing a very picturesque and beautiful winter scene. A fitting end to the day.

All in all, it was a record setting snowstorm all across the state. Columbus’ 20.5″ of snowfall, including 15.5″ on Saturday alone, was the greatest snowstorm of all time for the city. It also established the greatest 24-hour snowfall and the greatest snow depth ever recorded at 18″. No part of the state was spared, as all major cities except Toledo had 10″ or more. Drifts of 5-7 feet deep were reported in many areas.

The storm also brought some areas of the state to record territory in total seasonal snowfall.

Incidentally, 30 years and 2 months prior, the Great Blizzard of 1978 struck. It is somewhat of note that Ohio’s greatest blizzards on record occurred during the “8″ years. 1918, 1978, and now 2008.

The first image below is a model snow depth forecast ending on March 9th. The second is a photo of the heavy snow in Columbus during the evening of the 7th.
Forecasted snowfall-March 5, 2008
382008_1.gif

Here are some videos during the storm.
Dayton Area
https://youtu.be/sEJ5diRfP88
Cleveland Area
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pxS60SYXn24
Columbus
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EpgKmawafwk

Columbus Area Murders by Zip Code 2008-2015

*Originally posted in 2013, reposted on 3/4/2015 and again on 1/28/2016, with updated maps.

I have been wanting to do these maps for awhile now, as there have been several searches on the site for them and they weren’t available. It took a lot of work, but here they are!

2008

In 2008, almost all murders were contained within the I-270 boundaries. The East and South Sides were the worst areas.

2009

In 2009, there began to be a bit of diffusion on where murder was taking place. While parts of the urban core remained the worst areas, suburban areas also saw the occasional murder.

2010

The diffusion continued in 2010.

2011

And in 2011.

2012

2012 was the most diffuse of all the years, with no heavily concentrated areas, even in the urban core as much. Meanwhile, most of the suburban zip codes within Franklin County saw at least 1 murder.

2013

2014

2015 saw most activity on the eastern side of the city, particular South Linden and the Far East Side around Whitehall and Reynoldsburg, but all areas along the 270 area on the Far East Side had the highest levels of murder in the county. The central core generally stayed a lot lower.

An Examination of Columbus’ International Migration

First, let’s take a look at the total of international immigrants becoming legal citizens each year in the Columbus metro.

Online Graphing
Graph maker

As can be seen, the totals seem to be on a trend of increasing over time, but not significantly.
The 5 year combined totals are:
2004-2008: 24,377
2009-2013: 25,418

But where are all these people coming from? Luckily, we have that answer, and it may surprise you. I added up the total for the entire 10 year period, as well as broken down into the 5-year periods for all nations.

2004-2008 Nations of Origin for International Immigrants to the Columbus Metro
(All Nations with at least 150 Immigrants to Columbus)
1. Somalia: 4,322
2. India: 2,080
3. Ghana: 1,667
4. China: 1,389
5. Ethiopia: 1,069
6. Kenya: 922
7. Mexico: 556
8. Sierra Leon: 449
9. Philippines: 434
10. Nigeria: 400
11. Canada: 389
12. Mauritania: 377
13. South Korea: 355
14. United Kingdom: 347
15. Vietnam: 347
16. Russia: 313
17. Ukraine: 306
18. Liberia: 304
19. Morocco: 298
20. Pakistan: 287
21. Jordan: 284
22. Egypt: 245
23. Guatemala: 222
24. Bangladesh: 221
25. Senegal: 214
26. Taiwan: 201
27. Japan: 198
28. Guinea: 191
29. Dominican Republic: 176
30. Iran: 174
31. Colombia: 170
32. Peru: 158

Somalia may be expected in its very dominant position at #1, but the list becomes decidedly mixed the further down you go.

2009-2013 Nations of Origin for International Immigrants to the Columbus Metro
1. Somalia: 2,988
2. India: 2,267
3. Ghana: 1,903
4. China: 1,299
5. Ethiopia: 1,233
6. Kenya: 1,030
7. Iraq: 729
8. Mexico: 622
9. Bhutan: 573
10. Philippines: 502
11. Nigeria: 431
12. Sierra Leon: 424
13. Canada: 379
14. Pakistan: 375
15. Jordan: 358
16. Nepal: 352
17. Senegal: 350
18. Morocco: 330
19. Burma: 328
20. South Korea: 320
21. Dominican Republic: 306
21. Mauritania: 300
22. Guinea: 291
23. United Kingdom: 280
24. Cameroon: 277
25. Bangladesh: 262
26. Vietnam: 255
27. Liberia: 233
28. Eritrea: 232
29. Egypt: 229
30. Russia: 211
31. Iran: 207
32. Japan: 184
33. Ukraine: 161
34. Algeria: 153

The top of the list didn’t change significantly in the most recent 5 years as far as the order goes. New countries seemed to pop up out of nowhere, like Bhutan and Nepal, and more nations had at least 150 immigrants than the earlier period.

Finally, let’s look at the top immigrant origins for the entire 10-year period. For all nations that provided at least 300 immigrants.
1. Somalia: 7,320
2. India: 4,347
3. Ghana: 3,570
4. China: 2,688
5. Ethiopia: 2,302
6. Kenya: 1,952
7. Mexico: 1,178
8. Philippines: 936
9. Sierra Leon: 873
10. Nigeria: 831
11. Iraq: 790
12. Canada: 768
13. South Korea: 675
14. Pakistan: 662
15. Jordan: 642
16. Mauritania: 637
17. Morocco: 628
18. United Kingdom: 627
19. Vietnam: 602
20. Bhutan: 573
21. Senegal: 564
22. Liberia: 537
23. Russia: 524
24. Bangladesh: 483
25. Dominican Republic: 482
26. Guinea: 482
27. Egypt: 474
28. Ukraine: 467
29. Cameroon: 419
30. Nepal: 388
31. Japan: 382
32. Iran: 381
33. Eritrea: 365
34. Burma: 349
35. Taiwan: 331
36. Peru: 305
37. Colombia: 304

Do these immigration stats surprise you?

2008- Year of the Wind

January 8th-9th Severe Weather

Record warm temperatures in the upper 60s on the 7th-8th of January, 2008 gave way to storms and even a rare January Tornado Watch on the evening of the 8th. Winds had been gusty all during the day of the 8th, but reached their peak with the frontal passage storms. Rain and thunderstorms began moving into Ohio during the late afternoon and increased in intensity through the evening, prompting the NWS to issue a Tornado Watch just after 10pm. Although no tornadoes were reported anywhere in Ohio on the night of the 8th-9th, the storms brought with them rains of 1-2″ and winds of up to 70mph, causing many reports of minor structural damage and scattered power outages.

January 29th-30th Windstorm

The second, more intense wind event for January in Ohio came during the last few days of the month. A very strong low pressure moved north and west of Ohio as strong high pressure moved south into the Plains. The resulting gradient caused winds to increase. Winds were sustained between 30-35mph most of the 29th. When the front arrived during the evening hours, winds ramped up even more. Winds were sustained at 40-45 with gusts between 60-70mph. There was very little precipitation with this front. Damages were widespread.

On a personal note with this event, I witnessed several power poles bent over and large business signs blown out from the force of the January 29th-30th wind event.

Hurricane Ike and Ohio’s Worst Windstorm

On September 1st, 2008, a tropical depression formed in the central Atlantic Ocean. That same day, the depression strengthened enough to gain a name: Ike. No one in Ohio anticipitated that this storm, far out in the Atlantic, would cause the most widespread, destructive windstorm the state had ever seen.

Ike gradually became a hurricane and roared west and then southwest over Cuba before turning back to the northwest and into the Gulf of Mexico. He churned westward growing in size as he went. The windfield of the hurricane was gigantic. Hundreds of miles from the center, tropical storm force winds were pounding parts of the Gulf Coast, giving an indication of the wind and surge potential.

Hurricane Ike made landfall near Galveston, Texas early on Saturday, September 13th with maximum sustained winds of 110mph. After landfall, the system turned to the north and then to the northeast as it hooked up with a frontal boundary that was draped across the Midwest. The system became extratropical by the end of the day on the 13th and gradually accelerated to the north and east towards the Great Lakes.

Now, at this point, that would normally be the end of the story. A dying tropical system far inland tends to produce a lot of rain and flooding, but wind is not usually an issue. And indeed, parts of Indiana, Missouri, and Illinois saw major and disastrous flooding from a combination of the frontal boundary and the remains of Ike. However, a very unusual situation occurred.

Over the Gulf of Mexico and up through landfall, Ike was never quite able to translate upper level high winds down to the surface. The sustained reading of 110mph at landfall never seemed to actually materialize in reports on the ground, and the vast majority of the damage along the Texas coastline was due to significant storm surge brought in by the massive size of the storm. However, Ike’s inability to translate the highest winds to the surface was about to change.

Ike maintained a very low pressure of between 986 and 990 throughout the journey through the OV and Great Lakes, and as he transitioned from tropical to extratropical, the remains actually intensified and Ike retained a large amount of his original wind field, particularly on the eastern side.

No one forecasted this. The NWS, as late as Saturday evening, had forecast winds of 25mph in gusts for much of Ohio.

On the morning of Sunday, September 14th, 2008, the National Weather Service in Wilmington had issued a Wind Advisory for its forecast area calling for gusty winds of 20-30mph with gusts up to 50mph. However, things began to rapidly change. Kentucky was already getting rocked with high winds of over 50mph, and the winds seemed to intensify even more as the core began to move into Ohio through Cincinnati.

By late morning, winds in Cincinnati had reached a *sustained* speed of 54mph with gusts to hurricane force! These heavy winds began to ride up the I-71 corridor, reaching Wilmington by noon and Columbus by 2pm. For several hours, high winds pounded the area. Sustained winds over 50mph were common, and gusts of 70-80mph were widespread. The winds did not begin to die down until after 6pm, and by 8pm, the area had gone almost completely calm.

When the storm was over, over 1/10th of the entire state’s population was without power, including more than 55% of Columbus. Tens of thousands of trees had fallen, and debris of all kinds was everywhere. Power lines had been snapped, signs had been blown down, billboards had been destroyed, and thousands of homes had sustained structural damage. Power remained out for thousands for up to two weeks after the storm passed.

The story was the same up and down I-71 up through Cleveland, although damage there was less than that in central and southern parts of Ohio. The severe wind field was about 100 miles across and centered through the major cities on I-71. Insured losses from this storm totaled well over a billion dollars, and total damage likely exceeded two billion. This makes the Great Windstorm of 2008 one of the most damaging storms for Ohio of ANY kind in recorded history.