The first snow fall of the year has arrived. I haven’t really tracked this storm like I’ve done in the past. I am still excited about the prospect of snow, though. This has been true ever since the day I realized that you can get out of school with a proper and well timed snowfall. I fondly recall the old days, before there were model runs to follow and a weather forum to read. My brother and I would park ourselves in front of the TV and watch the Weather Channel for hours and hours leading up to a storm. Somehow we endured through Kenny G on a loop to catch even the slightest change to our local forecast. God I loved those snowfall prediction maps, with all those pink and purple colors. Sometimes we’d jump up to get right in front of the TV to see if our area was now in the 12″+ coloring. With those somewhat arbitrary maps, every centimeter mattered.
These days, there is a lot more science involved. I started following a weather board back in 2010 when I wanted to see if snow was going to effect the next week’s Patriots football game. That storm never ended up happening. As luck would have it though, the following week was one of the most memorable snow storms in my life. The failed storm had much to do with setting the stage for what’s know as the Boxing Day Storm (not to be confused with Hurricane Stephen. I’ve learned a great deal about weather by reading information posted on that website. I even started looking at model data on my own through another site called Tropical Tidbits. I also set up a personal weather station in the backyard, but it has since stopped working. The plan is to pick up a new Davis Vantage Pro2 at some point and get back on the Weather Underground network.
I am very far from a weather expert and would never be confused with a meteorologist. I’m much closer to being pegged a weather “weenie” actually. I wishcast, but I know I’m wishcasting…that almost makes me scientific right? I do have friends that come to me for updates when the media starts “honking” for snow, however.
For me, the fun is in the tracking and staying up late for model runs. In this way, you can experience heavy snowfall and wild scenarios over and over again. These happen regardless of what ultimately occurs with the storm itself. Even better, there is no shoveling involved. Every new potential snow event is inevitably compared to the greats from the past. It’s really hard not to. What I remember best about those big storms is the anticipation several days in advance, wondering what may or may not come. Of course, to be truly memorable it must also deliver the goods. I’ve experienced four east coast storms in my day which tower above all others. There have been many other good ones, but these are the true kings.
1993: Storm of the Century
This storm was everything that being a weather enthusiast is all about. Epic. It also happens to be the origin of “Chinese food for snow”. I was going to college in Massachusetts at the time and too busy drinking to follow the weather. I did know in a vague sort of way that a storm was coming. It was raining when I got out of work that first night and I remember going to a Chinese restaurant with friends. We didn’t talk or think too much about any snow chances. Sure enough though, we wake up to a foot of snow the next morning and it was still coming down heavily. Somehow we got the idea that eating the Chinese food turned the rain storm into snow. This was later proven to be true when doing so brought snow several other times. The general rule is that there must be at least potential for snow in the forecast for it to work. Give it a try…you’ll see.
As for the storm itself, this thing extended up the entire eastern seaboard and then some. As I said, it started as rain, snowed a ton and finally ended late the following night. You just don’t see a long duration event like that anymore. It lasted so long, I was convinced it wasn’t really happening. I assumed it had to be a side effect of too much alcohol. Remember, this was college.
No cute name for this storm, just the blizzard of ’96. I was back in New Jersey this time, and in full-on Weather Channel watching mode. We actually did have the internet back then, but we’re talking AOL dial-up. I can still hear that modem clanging away! The Weather Channel updates and forecasts for this blizzard are legendary and can be re-lived through the miracle of youtube.
I have always believed this was the most snow I’ve personally seen in any one storm. Looking at the official totals for my area, that doesn’t seem to be the case. I wonder if I just built that idea up in my head as the years went by. More likely, it had to do with the amount of drifting we saw leading to massive piles of snow. Nevertheless, this was a prolific storm.
2003: President’s Day II
Yet another Weather Channel special, I was tracking PDII the minute the previous storm going into that weekend didn’t pan out. If ever there was a sure thing, this was it. It was a slam dunk and the only question was when it would start. I remember it took a little bit of time thanks to all the cold air being brought down. I went to see the movie “The Hours” (of all things) with my mom that day, and it started snowing sometime in the middle of it. Almost immediately, the ground was covered. I have never seen a snowfall come on as quick and ferocious as that. In retrospect, this appears to actually be the most snow I’ve gotten from one storm.
2010: Boxing Day Blizzard
As I mentioned previously, this storm came during the first week I started tracking computer models and following a weather forum. That particular experience I suspect will never be topped. The way this storm came back from the dead was unbelievable. It is forever mentioned on the boards whenever a potential big event disappears. It’s the comeback of comebacks and a beacon of hope for weather weenies throughout the Northeast.
The details about when the storm was lost, when it came back and which model had it coming back first will vary. It all depends on who’s telling the tale. What matters is that it was dead, gone, kaput…a fish storm by all accounts. Incidentally, I can’t stand that term “fish storm”. It’s right up there with calling a model run’s slight shift in track “a trend.”
Two days or so before the blizzard was ultimately unleashed, one computer model at a time brought the potential back in play. I was one of the few board members that kept checking on it all the way through. I’m sure it was because I was so new to the idea of science behind snowstorms, and not some premonition or something. The storm itself was awesome, even if I was just outside of the really heavy bands. For my current location, this was the deepest snowfall I’ve seen.
Today’s snow was obviously never going to rival any of those behemoths. That may partially explain my early season apathy towards tracking it. However, the first snow of the year is always cool. I think now you can consider me ready for the next big thing.