The National Weather Service was predicting a “potentially historic” storm on par with some of the biggest to ever hit the densely populated northeastern U.S.
In 2004, the weather service developed a scale for rating Northeast snowstorms similar to the Fujita and Saffir-Simpson scales used for tornadoes and hurricanes. The index, which factors population to determine severity, was deemed necessary because the storms can have a profound impact on transportation and economic activity throughout the country.
Here’s a look at the Northeast’s Top 10 storms in the last 60 years, according to the Northeast Snowfall Impact Scale:
10. FEB. 10-12, 1983
More than a foot of snow dropped from Washington to New England, and more than 20 inches in New York, leading to hundreds of canceled flights and a ruined Valentine’s Day for many florists and other love-reliant businesses. Cities and states blew through most of their snow removal budgets for the entire year.
9. DEC. 25-28, 1969
A white Christmas was already on tap for most of New York and much of Vermont after a foot of snow fell on Dec. 22, but another 2 feet would drop during this three-day storm. Some streets in Albany weren’t cleared for weeks. One town near Montpelier, Vermont, got 44 inches of snow.
8. JAN. 19-21, 1978
This blizzard was the third of a series of rapid-fire storms to hit the Northeast, bringing with it a fresh foot-plus of snow from Maryland to Maine. Thousands of National Guard troops were called in around the region to help with snow removal. On the banks of Lake Ontario, the city of Oswego was buried under 56 inches of snow over five days.
7. JAN. 21-25, 2005
Up to 3 feet of snow fell in southern New England, including 22.5 inches in Boston. Some areas around the city reported snowfall rates of 3 to 5 inches per hour and wind gusts up to 85 mph, leading to whiteout conditions. Many cities throughout the Northeast were shut down.
6. JAN. 11-14, 1964
A severe storm spread a blanket of snow from the Mississippi River to the Atlantic coast, including more than 10 inches for the Northeast’s major cities and up to 2 feet across parts of Pennsylvania. Williamsport in the central part of the state recorded the most snow from a single storm in a record dating to 1896.
5. FEB. 2-5, 1961
More than 20 inches fell in the New York City region, with up to 40 inches in the central part of the state and lesser but still substantial amounts throughout New England. At least 70 people were killed during the storm, which immobilized cities, blocked highways and halted commerce.
4. FEB. 15-18, 2003
This storm on Presidents’ Day weekend paralyzed a swath of the Northeast from Washington to Boston, producing the latter city’s heaviest snowfall on record, a whopping 27.6 inches. The Baltimore area suffered the most, as more than 3 feet fell north of the city – enough to collapse the roof of the B&O Railroad Museum.
3. MARCH 2-5, 1960
More than 10 inches of snow was reported from West Virginia to Maine, while northern New Jersey to eastern Massachusetts was pummeled with more than 20 inches. Blizzard conditions produced damaging winds in much of the region, including gusts up to 80 mph in parts of Massachusetts. New York City received 14.5 inches, as recorded in Central Park.
2. JAN. 6-8, 1996
A widespread blanket of 2 to 3 feet of snow fell from the mid-Atlantic states to New England, including 30.7 inches in Philadelphia, the city’s highest on record. Sixty fatalities were reported during the storm. A week later, another storm brought heavy rain and warm temperatures to the same area, causing significant flooding across the Northeast as melting snow overflowed many rivers.
1. MARCH 12-14, 1993
Dubbed the “Storm of the Century,” this intense storm produced tremendous amounts of snow from Tennessee to the Canadian border, with many locations breaking snowfall records. Over 40 inches was recorded in upstate New York and 70 mph winds blew snow drifts up to 20 feet high. The storm was so treacherous nearly 300 deaths were attributed to it.
MARCH 11-14, 1888
Too old to officially make the weather service’s list, the Blizzard of 1888 punished the Northeast with the most snow “in living memory,” according to reports at the time. Cities were shut down for days as residents hunkered down against 85 mph winds. Official totals included 50 inches in one Connecticut town, where a snow drift was reported to stand 38 feet high.