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

Historic Record of Early Season Cold

With temperatures predicted to fall to near freezing for the first time this week for the fall season, I thought it might be interesting to take a look at the incidence of early-season cold, and the average on when it tends to arrive.

Here are the earliest dates on record for the following:

Temperatures Below 40 and Temperature Range of Observed Dates
1. 8/29/1965: 39
2. 9/8/1951: 39
3. 9/9/1883: 39
4. 9/13/1964: 38
5. 9/14/1902, 9/14/1923, 9/14/1953, 19/14/1975: 38-39
6. 9/17/1959: 37
7. 9/20/1896, 9/20/1956, 9/20/1962: 37-39
8. 9/21/1889, 9/21/1897, 9/21/1991: 37-38
9. 9/22/1918, 9/22/1974, 9/22/1976, 9/22/1995: 37-38
10. 9/23/1885, 9/23/1913, 9/23/1963, 9/23/1967, 9/23/1981, 9/23/1989: 35-39

Average Date of First Under-40 Temp By Decade (1878-2014)
2010s: October 11th
2000s: October 8th
1990s: October 2nd
1980s: September 30th
1970s: October 1st
1960s: September 25th
1950s: September 25th
1940s: September 30th
1930s: October 11th
1920s: October 2nd
1910s: October 9th
1900s: October 5th
1890s: October 1st
1880s: October 2nd
1870s: October 1st

Highs Below 32
1. 10/30/1917: 32
2. 11/3/1951, 11/3/1966: 28-29
3. 11/4/1991: 27
4. 11/6/1967: 31
5. 11/7/1971: 31
6. 11/8/1976: 32
7. 11/10/1913: 27
8. 11/12/1920, 11/12/1921, 11/12/1932: 30-32
9. 11/13/1911, 11/13/1919, 11/13/1986, 11/13/1996: 25-32
10. 11/15/1880, 11/15/1893, 11/15/1916, 11/15/1933, 11/15/1940, 11/15/1969: 24-32

Average Date of First 32 or Below High By Decade
2010s: December 4th
2000s: December 2nd
1990s: December 7th
1980s: November 28th
1970s: November 29th
1960s: November 23rd
1950s: November 26th
1940s: December 2nd
1930s: November 27th
1920s: November 28th
1910s: November 22nd
1900s: November 30th
1890s: November 25th
1880s: November 30th
1870s: December 4th

Lows Below 32
1. 9/21/1962: 31
2. 9/29/1961: 32
3. 9/30/1888, 9/30/163: 31-32
4. 10/1/1899: 30
5. 10/2/1886, 10/2/1908, 10/2/1974: 31-32
6. 10/3/1975, 10/3/1981, 10/3/2003: 32
7. 10/4/1952, 10/4/1987: 29-32
8. 10/5/1965, 10/5/1968: 31-32
9. 10/6/1892, 10/6/1964, 10/6/1980, 10/6/1988: 30-31
10. 10/7/1889, 10/7/1935: 30-31

Average Date of First 32 or Below Low By Decade
2010s: October 24th
2000s: October 26th
1990s: October 22nd
1980s: October 17th
1970s: October 17th
1960s: October 8th
1950s: October 22nd
1940s: November 3rd
1930s: October 24th
1920s: October 28th
1910s: October 31st
1900s: October 24th
1890s: October 20th
1880s: October 20th
1870s: October 26th

Worst Winters of All Time?

As summer slowly approaches its inevitable end, thoughts of winter have started to creep into our minds. The last two winters seemed particularly harsh, and questions were often asked as to their historic status as well as whether another bad winter was on the way. Ask any older person in Ohio, and the winters between 1976 and 1979 will often come up. But do they really deserve their reputations? To find out, I came up with a ranking system for meteorological winter only- December through February. Here was the criteria:

Temperature: # of 32 or Below Highs, # of 32 or Below Lows, # of 0 or Below Highs, # of 0 or Below Lows: Each earned the winter a point for each day that featured these conditions.
# of 60 or Above Highs and # of 50 or Above Lows meant a point was removed for each occurrence.

Precipitation: # of Days with Measurable Snowfall, # of 1″+ Snow Days, # of 2.5″+ Snow Days, # of 5″+ Snow Days, # of 10″+ Snow Days as well as # of Measurable Precipitation Days all counted as 1 point for each occurrence.

I then added the temperature and precipitation points together to come up with a ranking for how miserable each winter really was.

Here are the 30 worst winters of all time and their total points.

1. 1976-1977: 240
2. 1977-1978: 238
3. 1969-1970: 230
4. 2002-2003: 228
5. 1978-1979: 226
6. 1880-1881: 225
7. 1917-1918: 223
8. 1935-1936: 220
9. 2013-2014: 219
10. 1892-1893, 1962-1963: 218
11. 1909-1910: 217
12. 1995-1996, 2009-2010: 208
13. 2010-2011: 207
14. 1903-1904: 204
15. 1981-1982: 202
16. 1911-1912, 1963-1964: 197
17. 1886-1887, 1919-1920: 196
18. 1904-1905: 195
19. 1984-1985: 194
20. 1916-1917: 193
21. 1894-1895: 191
22. 1883-1884: 189
23. 2000-2001: 188
24. 1947-1948, 1961-1962: 187
25. 1993-1994: 186
26. 1884-1885, 1939-1940: 185
27. 1983-1984, 1987-1988: 183
28. 1902-1903, 2014-2015: 182
29. 1954-1955: 180
30. 1878-1879, 1882-1883, 1960-1961, 1985-1986, 2003-2004, 2008-2009: 179

Do any of these surprise you? Both 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 are in the top 30 worst, but only 2013-2014 is in the top 10. In fact, other recent winters like 2000-2001, 2002-2003, 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 are all ranked worse than last winter. There have been a surprising number of recent winters in the top 30, however. There have been 8 total since 2000. No other similar time frame has produced as many.

And here are the 30 best winters (if you like warm, snowless, dry winters, that is).

1. 1931-1932: 74
2. 1889-1890: 75
3. 1879-1880: 86
4. 1997-1998: 102
5. 1881-1882, 1943-1944: 111
6. 2001-2002: 112
7. 1996-1997: 115
8. 1948-1949, 1953-1954: 118
9. 1941-1942, 1982-1983: 120
10. 1918-1919: 122
11. 1936-1937: 123
12. 1932-1933, 1991-1992: 124
13. 1930-1931: 125
14. 1905-1906, 1972-1973: 126
15. 1949-1950: 128
16. 1897-1898, 1986-1987: 129
17. 2011-2012: 130
18. 1938-1939: 131
19. 1937-1938: 134
20. 1908-1909, 1920-1921, 2005-2006: 135
21. 1924-1925: 137
22. 1896-1897: 138
23. 1927-1928, 1929-1930, 1940-1941, 1990-1991: 139
24. 1952-1953: 140
25. 1921-1922, 1945-1946, 1998-1999: 141
26. 1988-1989: 143
27. 1891-1892: 144
28. 1946-1947, 1971-1972: 145
29. 1912-1913, 1934-1935: 147
30. 1923-1924, 1992-1993: 148

Look how many of the warmest/least snowy occur between 1920 and 1945. Historically, this period had the fewest number of cold and/or snowy winters on record of any such 25-year period.

And what about winter 2015-2016? Well, that remains to be seen. However, the developing strong El Nino suggests a warmer than average winter. However, factors such as its position (west or east-based) as well as the PDO could throw some wrenches into that standard El Nino forecast. Either way, it will likely not be a top 30 worst.

Winter 2014-2015: A Look Back- November 2014

While it’s still possible to get snow into April, winter is essentially over for one more year. For the second year in a row, winter was colder and snowier than normal, so let’s look at the monthly play-by-play as well as the final stats.

November 2014
First, a reminder of November normals.
High: 52.6
Low: 36.1
Mean: 44.4
Precipitation: 3.20″
Snowfall: 0.9″
Snow Depth: 0.0″

November 2014 Average High: 45.7
1878-2014 Ranking: 10th Coldest
Departure from Normal: -6.9

November 2014 Average Low: 30.0
1878-2014 Ranking: 6th Coldest
Departure from Normal: -6.1

November 2014 Mean Temperature: 37.8
1878-2014 Ranking: 7th Coldest
Departure from Normal: -6.6

Coldest November 2014 High: 19 on the 18th
1878-2014 Ranking: 5th Coldest
The 19 recorded on the 18th was the record coldest high ever recorded for the date, beating the previous 1903 record by a full 7 degrees!
Other near record low highs:
33 on the 17th. 3rd coldest daily high for the date.
27 on the 21st. 3rd coldest daily high for the date.

Coldest November 2014 Low: 12 on the 18th.
1878-2014 Ranking: 8th Coldest
The 12 recorded on the 18th was the 2nd coldest low ever recorded for the date.
Other near record lows:
13 on the 19th. 2nd coldest low for the date.
14 on the 21st. 2nd coldest low for the date.

Number of Highs 32 Degrees or Below: 4
1878-2014 Rank: 5th Highest

Number of Lows 32 Degrees or Below: 19
1878-2014 Rank: 4th Highest

November 2014 was clearly very cold historically, coming in as a top 10 coldest ever.

The month overall was rather dry, with just 1.46″ of precipitation, which was 1.74″ below normal. This was the 22nd driest November since 1878.

November 2014 Precipitation Days: 20
1″+ Daily Precipitation Days: 0
0.5″+ Daily Precipitation Days: 0
0.25″+ Daily Precipitation Days: 3

Snowfall, despite the dry month, came in at a bit above normal, at 4.1″. Still, this was the 15th snowiest November on record, as the graph shows.

Greatest November 2014 Daily Snowfall: 3.8″ on the 17th.
1878-2014 Rank: 10th Greatest
The 3.8″ on the 17th was also the 2nd highest total for the date.

Snowfall Days: 9
1″+ Snowfall Days: 1
2.5″+ Snowfall Days: 1
5″+ Snowfall Days: 0

Greatest Daily Snow Depth: 3″ on the 18th and 19th.
Average Monthly Snow Depth: 0.4″

The Final Tally on the Long Winter of 2013-2014 Part 1

For a good portion of the US, the winter of 2013-2014 was one of the worst, if not the worst, in recent memory. Cold and snow hit early in the season and didn’t let up until the first half of March. Now that April is behind us (the last month that snow typically might fall during a season), we can take a look back at a winter many would like to forget.

A Look Back at Snowfall
For many in Central Ohio, winter provided its first taste on October 23rd, when a cold front briefly changed rain to a wet snow that coated car tops. This was merely a prelude to what would come.

2013-14 Winter Snowfall vs. Normal
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As can be seen, monthly snowfall was above normal in 5 of the 7 months that snow can potentially fall in, in some cases more than 2x the normal value.

November Notable Snow Events
November 11-12th, 2013: This was the first real accumulating snowfall of the season, dropping a general 1″-2″ across the area. The highest total in Franklin County was 2″ reported just southeast of Clintonville. A map of the event can be found here: http://www.erh.noaa.gov/iln/events/20131112/

November 26th-27th, 2013: The months 2nd and larger event occurred towards the end of the month, and dropped 1″-4″ across the county, with the higher totals on the east side of Columbus. A map of the event can be found here: http://www.erh.noaa.gov/iln/events/20131127/

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The November total of 4.7″, while not anywhere near record breaking, was a top 20 snowiest, coming in at #14. November 2013 was also the snowiest Columbus had seen since 1972, when 6.3″ fell.
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December Notable Snow Events
December 6th, 2013: This was the first major event of the season. A low pressure center brought rain to the area on the 5th. As temperatures cooled, rain gradually changed to freezing rain and then heavy snow, dropping 3″-6″ across the area. A map of this event can be found here: http://www.erh.noaa.gov/iln/events/20131206/

December 10th, 2013: The second event of the month was a persistent band of snow that set up alon I-71. The cold air produced high ratios, dropping 1″-3″. http://www.erh.noaa.gov/iln/events/20131210/

December 14th, 2013: Rain changed to snow along and north of I-71. http://www.erh.noaa.gov/iln/events/20131214/

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December’s 12.7″ total was 2 1/2x normal, and the first 10 days of the month were the snowiest on record. It also made the month the 8th snowiest December on record. Further, it was the 2nd consecutive above average December and the 5th since 2007 to be so.

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January Notable Snow Events
January 2nd, 2014: The new year started off as snowy as the previous ended, when a low pressure brought occasionally heavy snow and 3″-5″ across the city. http://www.erh.noaa.gov/iln/events/20140102/

January 18th-19th, 2014: A clipper system, Columbus’ most reliable snow producer, brought 1″-2″ across the area. http://www.erh.noaa.gov/iln/events/20140119/

January 25th-26th, 2014: The months’ signature event, a strong storm brough a mixed bag of precipitation, including heavy snow to parts of the city. As the storm passed, additional snow squalls developed into the 26th and brought occasional whiteout conditions. Columbus’ official 2-day total was 8.3″. A map of the event can be found here, though it only lists totals for the 25th: http://www.erh.noaa.gov/iln/events/20140125/

All told, the 17.7″ of snow for the month was the 16th snowiest on record, and the 8.3″ snow event tied for the 10th largest January event since records began.
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February Notable Snow Events

February 4th-5th, 2014: A low pressure brought heavy snow and mixed precipitation to the area, and proved to be winter’s largest snow event with 6″-10″ across the city. The 10.6″ at Columbus was the largest storm of the winter, tied as the 3rd largest February snowstorm, and provided the 7th largest daily February snowfall. http://www.erh.noaa.gov/iln/events/20140205/

February 9th, 2014: A weak system brought 1″-3″. http://www.erh.noaa.gov/iln/events/20140209/

February 14th-15th, 2014: Valentines Day brought a storm that skimmed the area with 2″-4″, with much higher totals to the south. http://www.erh.noaa.gov/iln/events/20140215/

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February’s 15.9″ of snow was the 6th snowiest on record.
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March Notalbe Snow Events

March 2nd-3rd, 2014: A low pressure brought 2-3″ over the city. http://www.erh.noaa.gov/iln/events/20140302/

March 29th, 2014: A storm brought in 1″-2″ in spring’s first week. http://www.erh.noaa.gov/iln/events/20140329/

March did not break any records or have any large events, but it was more or less a capping month to a winter the kept snowing.

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April saw just one snow event, on the 15th, when half an inch to 1″ fell, ending the snowfall season.

So where did 2013-2014 fall in the seasonal total? 56.4″ This ranks it as the 3rd snowiest winter since records began in 1878. It was also the #1 snowiest meteorological winter (December-February) on record. The graph below shows the top 10 snowiest winters. Notice that 4 of the 10 have occurred since 2002, with 3 since 2007. Are we possibly entering a snowier period? That remains to be seen.

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Coming up: How did the winter’s temperatures rank in history? We know there was a lot of cold, but how much?