Weekend Blizzard Was a 'Multi-Billion-Dollar' Disaster
Exact numbers are still coming in, but this weekend's storm cost the U.S. billions of dollars in economic losses. Continue reading →
Sledders from Capitol Hill to Central Park enjoyed bluebird skies on Sunday after a massive winter storm swept across the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. But while the joy on sledding hills across the region was palpable, so too was the cost of the storm.
More than 2 feet of snow fell across parts of an area stretching from West Virginia to New York, including a high snow mark of 42 inches in Glengary, W.Va., and records set at some stations in Baltimore, Washington, D.C. and New York. Coastal flooding set high water marks at three stations in New Jersey and one in Delaware while heavy ice coated the Southeast and caused widespread power outages and at least a dozen road fatalities.
In all, the storm affected more than 85 million people directly. But the effects spread out beyond the Eastern Seaboard. Some of the nation's busiest airports canceled an estimated 13,800 flights, sending ripple effects across the United States and the globe.
According to Aon Benfield, a reinsurance company, the storm is likely to be classified as a Category 4 or 5 winter storm using the Regional Snowfall Index, a metric which rates the severity of winter storms. It's similar to the Saffir-Simpson scale used to classify hurricanes, but in addition to looking at meteorological metrics like snowfall, it also incorporates population affected to give a more holistic view of how severe a storm was. A Category 4 storm is one that's "crippling" while Category 5 is "extreme."
The last Category 4 winter storm to hit the United States according to the National Centers for Environmental Information database was a December 2004 storm that brought heavy snow and ice to the Ohio River Valley. The last one to hit the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic was a February 2003 blizzard, which brought 15-30 inches of snow from Washington to Boston.
If this storm does indeed rank that high, it would only be the 14th storm to receive a Category 4+ rating in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic since 1900. While the economic toll is still being added up, the National Weather Service's initial estimate of this storm being a billion-dollar disaster appears accurate, according to Aon Benfield.
"It is anticipated that this will be the first billion-dollar weather event of 2016 for the United States," the re-insurer said in a statement. "Given the physical damage to homes, businesses and other structures and automobiles, plus the high costs incurred due to business interruption, it is expected that this will end up being a multi-billion-dollar economic cost."
The infamous 1996 blizzard -- which had a similar extent and impacts -- cost an estimated $4.6 billion. Just how many billions this storm ends up costing still remains to be seen as cities and towns continue to dig out from under the snow.
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Washington, D.C. is viewed from space Sunday, after being buried under up to 2 feet of snow.
The winners are in from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's "Weather in Focus" photo contest, picked from more than 2,000 entries taken between Jan. 1, 2014 and March 31, 2015. "From rainbows and sunsets to lightning and tornadoes, the winning photos aren’t just captivating to look at, but inspire us to look at the world in different ways," said Douglas Hilderbrand, NOAA's contest judge and Weather-Ready Nation Ambassador Lead. "It was difficult to pick winners from so many good entries." In first place, from the category "Science in Action," is "Green Bank Telescope in WV" by Mike Zorger, Falls Church, Va.
All 16 winning images will be displayed in a
exhibit located on the NOAA campus in Silver Spring, Md., starting in July. Second place in "Science in Action" went to "Photographer captures the aurora" by Christopher Morse, Fairbanks, Alaska.
In third place: "Atmospheric Research Observatory" by Joseph Phillips, Boulder, Colo.
And honorable mention also went to Joseph Phillips, Boulder, Colo. for "Atmospheric Research Observatory."
In the category "Weather, Water & Climate," first place went to "Snow Express" by Conrad Stenftenagel, Saint Anthony, Ind.
In second place was "Proton arc over Lake Superior" by Ken William, Clio, Mich.
"With a Bang" by Bob Larson, Prescott, Ariz., won third place in the "Weather, Water & Climate" category.
Honorable mention went to Alana Peterson, Maple Lake, Minn. for "Raindrops on a Leaf."
A second honorable mention was won for "Fire in the Sky over Glacier National Park" by Sashikanth Chintla, North Brunswick, N.J.
In the category "In the Moment," first place went to "Smoky Mountains" by Elijah Burris, Canton, N.C.
Second place went to "Spring Captured: Freezing rain attempts to halt spring" by Mike Shelby, Elkridge, Md.
And third place went to "Rolling clouds in Lake Tahoe" by Christopher LeBoa, San Leandro, Calif.
Of course the professionals had their own category. First place was won by Brad Goddard, Orion, Ill., for "Stars behind the storm."
Brad Goddard pretty much cleaned up this category, winning second (and third) place with "A tornado churns up dust in sunset light near Traer, IA."
Third place went for "A tornado crosses the path, Reinbeck, IA" by Brad Goddard.
“Fog rolls in from the ocean on a hot summer day, Belbar, N.J.” by Robert Raia, Toms River, N.J., won honorable mention in the pro category.