How Many Snowstorms Would It Take to Match Buffalo's Week From Hell?
Before it formed, forecasters were concerned that today's lake effect snow could form over the areas that saw five feet of snow earlier this week, dropping a total of 100 inches of snow by Friday. That's just from two storms! How many snowstorms would it take elsewhere in the country to reach 100 inches of snow?
Today's band of heavy lake effect snow ultimately set up a few miles south of the hardest-hit areas, sparing anyone the chance of cracking triple-digit snowfall totals. Even though it wound up not happening (thankfully), any area seeing the realistic potential of 100 inches of snow from two storms in one week is unthinkable for most people; 65 of those inches falling in just about one day is definitely towards the top of the list for a non-mountainous area. We can look back at snowfall records in major cities around the country to see how many snowstorms it's taken over the past few years to add up to around 100 inches of snow.
The following list keeps count of each day in the record books that measured 0.1" of snow (the minimum amount for measurable snow) between today and back as far as it takes to add up to a total near the triple-digits.
- In Washington D.C., all of the snow that's fallen on National Airport since January 2009 measures up to 100.8 inches, and it fell over the course of 59 calendar days. It took 59 days of snow over the course of 5 years to see as much snow in Washington as parts of western New York could see in four days.
- New York City (Central Park) has seen 96.7 inches of snow over the course of 41 days since February 2011. I use Central Park for most weather in New York because the stations at LaGuardia and JFK are heavily influenced by their proximity to the water.
- Boston has seen 107.5 inches of snow over 43 days since February 2013.
- Philadelphia has seen 111.6 inches of snow over 54 days since January 2011.
- Pittsburgh has seen 106.8 inches of snow over 94 days since January 2013.
- Detroit, which just saw its snowiest winter ever recorded, has seen 99.5 inches of snow over 65 days since March 2013.
- Cincinnati has seen 101.8 inches over 80 days since January 2011.
- Raleigh, North Carolina has seen 99.8 inches of snow over 59 days since January 1997. It's taken 59 days over nearly 18 years to see 100 inches of snow in Raleigh because the region sees snow so rarely compared to areas up north. The time span grows longer the farther south you go...
- Atlanta, Georgia has seen 99.7 inches of snow over the course of 78 days since January 1970.
- Dallas (DFW) has seen 95.6 inches of snow since the beginning of the airport's records in January 1974. The total fell over the duration of 83 days.
- St. Louis has seen 45 days of measurable snow since December 2010 that produced a total of 102 inches of snow.
- Chicago has seen measurable snow on 74 days since February 2013, accumulating 110.5 inches between then and now.
- Minneapolis has seen 107 inches of snow over 81 days since February 2013.
- Denver has seen 108.4 inches of snow over 60 days since January 2013.
- Salt Lake City has seen 55 days with a dusting or greater of snow, which has brought a total of 105.3 inches to the city since November 2013.
- Anchorage, Alaska has seen 60 days of accumulating snow since December 2012, totaling 106 inches.
- Fairbanks, Alaska has seen the most instances of measurable snowfall to reach 100+ inches, with 112.2 inches of snow falling over the course of 103 days since December 2012.
For the record, the airport in Buffalo sees an average of 89.9 inches of snow every year, with the greatest one-season total of 199.4 inches falling between 1976 and 1977. The airport isn't exactly representative of the area since the lake effect snow has such a tight gradient. During the first event this week, the airport in Buffalo recorded 6.2 inches of snow, while communities just five or six miles away saw more than five feet.
We're at the height of lake effect snow season right now. Lake effect snow events will continue to occur through the winter until Lake Erie freezes over, which will cut off the source of instability feeding these intense bands of wind-driven snow.
[Image: AP | This post was updated to reflect that the band of snow set up a few miles south of the areas that saw 5 feet of snow earlier this week, ultimately sparing them from approaching 100" of snow.]