Top 3 Christmas Snowstorms in the United States

  • Dec 22, 2017

Did Irving Berlin – the man behind “White Christmas,” – really know what he was dreaming about? Sure, a small flurry is beautiful at Christmas time. But honestly, a white Christmas is just a holiday nightmare. Between all the of the travelers, cooking, and cleaning, the last thing people need to worry about is the added stress of a couple inches of snow. Don’t believe us? Let’s look at the top three Christmas snowstorms over the last 50 years. Then maybe you’ll understand why your days can’t be merry and bright if your Christmases are white.

3. Northeast Christmas Blizzard of 2002

Kicking off our list is the Northeast Christmas snowstorm of 2002. The storm tracked its way up the Atlantic Seaboard before creating a holiday nightmare for those in the Northeast. This storm dumped approximately 20 inches of snow on the capitol of New York. Throughout western New England, the system dropped anywhere between 6 and 16 inches of snow. High winds made conditions even worse as they created dangerous snow banks.

Thanks to the storm, hundreds of travelers were stranded in the Albany International Airport on Christmas night, since it was impossible for flights to safely take off or land. If you wanted to travel by road, you were also out of luck. Officials had to shut down the New York State Thruway between Catskill and Syracuse thanks to the treacherous travel conditions.

This storm and the following New Year’s storm were a result of an active subtropical jet stream during the preceding fall and winter months. The second storm dumped another 20+ inches on Albany. According to the National Weather Service, this doubled-barrel nor’easters made it the first time since 1887-88 that two storms of more than 20 inches were recorded in Albany during the same winter.

Still don’t believe us yet? Let’s dive into the second White Christmas on our list.

2. Southeast & Northeast Snowstorm 2010

More disruptive then the storm in 2002, the next snowstorm on our list occurred eight Christmases later in 2010. This storm was the first significant winter storm of the 2010-11 North American winter storm season. While the storm effected the Southeast on Christmas Day and the Northeast on Boxing Day, it began to form back in the beginning of the month. Let’s check out the time line.

On December 5, an extratropical disturbance developed in the western Gulf of Alaska. The storm rapidly intensified as it approached the North America west coast on December 8. The next day, another low pressure system formed in Alaska in the first storms’ circulation. On the 15th, the Aleutian Low opened up a large atmosphere river over California and combined with Tropical Storm Omeka. This allowed the storm to intensify yet again, and on the 19th started causing mudslides, floods, and landslides throughout California. Think about that. Over 10 days of a storm just rapidly intensifying and stalling off the coast of California. This was one major storm.

When it finally started moving across the Untied States on December 23, it interacted with another frontal system. By the time it reached southern Texas, it wasn’t really a tropical storm anymore, but it was still on the move. When it hit the southern east coast, it underwent rapid intensification off the coast of North Carolina. The storm then worked its way up the eastern coastline, dumping anywhere between 10 and 36 inches throughout the mid-Atlantic and northeastern states. Winds gusts of 50 mph were common, with gusts of up to 80 mph along the coast in Massachusetts. Not only was air travel impossible, but motorists began abandoning their vehicles in the snow. This was definitely one for the record books, but even worst was the Post-Christmas snowstorm of 1969.

1. Post-Christmas Snowstorm of 1969

1969 Christmas Snowstorm – National Weather Service

Without a doubt, the top blizzard the happen during Christmas time was the snowstorm of 1969. A storm system began moving silently up the coast on Christmas night. Little did anyone know that this nor’easter would dump record snow, spread damaging ice, and unleash a tornado outbreak on the East Coast. What made this storm even worse is that there was already a foot of snow on the ground across the Northeast thanks to a storm on the 22nd.

The storm began to move up the east coast on Christmas night after developing over Texas. On the 26th and 27th, the storm’s forward movement nearly stalled, which caused heavy snow accumulations across Upstate New York, Vermont, and Southern Canada. In New England, conditions turned from beautiful snow to a dangerous icy mix thanks to warm onshore winds. How much snow really fell during this intense Post-Christmas blizzard? (Get ready for this…)

40 inches. That’s over 3 feet of snow. Drifts up to 30ft blocked roadways. In New England, several inches of ice caused roofs to cave in. Ice jams, poor drainage, and wind gusts of over 100 mph turned the Northeast into a disaster zone for days, as rescue crews couldn’t reach some communities thanks to the sheer amount of snow. Over 35 people in the U.S. and Canada died because of this storm.

Still Want a White Christmas?

We didn’t think so! However, that doesn’t mean you won’t get one. Blizzards can be nasty whenever they strike, that’s why Sferic Maps now includes winter weather conditions and alerts. Check it out in a free demo below. If you want to learn about the top winter snowstorms, you’ll find that information here.

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