The 2016 Blizzard: Historic Snowstorm for the Ages

Brief Overview of the Storm’s Evolution



SST Anomalies


Evolution of the Surface Low (Animation)

After the surface low emerged over the anomalously warm ocean water on the morning of January 23, it deepened and intensified for another 12 to 15 hours with the central pressure reaching a minimum of 983 mb on the evening of the 23rd.  As the surface low occluded, it became quasi-stationary and even moved westward for a few hours.  The occlusion culminated in a trowal pivoting around the western periphery of the surface low, resulting in very heavy snow with snowfall rates in excess of 3 inches per hour at times.

The large moisture flux from the very warm waters of the western Atlantic advecting around the surface low with the trowal certainly increased the atmospheric precipitable water content above what might otherwise be expected, and likely contributed to the record snowfall in the affected areas.

Image Credits: Dale Gerhard/Press of Atlantic City via AP



Record Tide

Record sea levels were measured at Lewes Beach, DE, at a level of 9.268FT on January 23, 2016  1312 UTC, and the sea level was recorded at the peak high tide. This sea level rise is the highest ever recorded and was higher than the water levels produced by Hurricane Sandy (2012).

A record wave height of 27.2FT was observed at Buoy 44009 located 26 nautical miles southeast of Cape May, NJ. This was higher than any of the waves observed in Sandy; the previous record was 26.6FT on November 13th, 2009. The third highest was 25.6FT observed on March 6th, 2013. The fourth highest was 25.2FT on February 17th, 2003.

Tides: Forecast vs. Observed

Below are the forecast tidal graphs and observed tidal anomalies from Lewes Beach, Delaware, on 23 January 2016.

These graphs were retrieved over six hour intervals of 4:20am EST, 10:20am EST, 4:20pm EST, and 10:20pm EST. The maximum observed water level occurred shortly before 10:20am EST, around 7:30am EST during the high tide cycle that was immensely influenced by a full moon and strong onshore flow. Notice the sharp increase in water level from the astronomical low tide to the high tide. Note that the low tide prior was nearly the height of the normal high tide.





Another significant record that occurred off the New Jersey and Delaware coasts was a record wave height of 27.2FT measured by Buoy #44009 located 26 nautical miles (nm) southeast of Cape May, New Jersey. The location of this buoy is shown below.


Buoy observations from 44009 also observed a significant wave height increase as conditions deteriorated Friday night, 1/22, into Saturday morning, 1/23. This graph shows the significant wave heights observed through 06z / 1:00am EST on 1/23. There was a significant increase in wave height beginning at 00z / 7:00pm EST, 1/22, through 06z / 1:00am EST in excess of 10FT.

Another significant buoy observation occurred at Buoy 44014 located 64 nautical miles east of Virginia Beach, Virginia. The location of this buoy is shown below.


A significant pressure drop was observed at Buoy 44014, of which inland at Norfolk, Virginia, a pressure drop of 8 millibars (mb) in three hours was observed. Below are the observations from Buoy 44014. The pressure drop is not an anomaly and the buoy remained in tact throughout the storm.


Significant Wind Reports

Storm Force winds (48-55 knots) and isolated Hurricane Force Winds (64+ knots) were observed across the Delaware and New Jersey shores.

DELAWARENew CastleWilmington53 MPH5:51am
DELAWARENew CastleLarchmont52 MPH5:41am
DELAWARESussexDewey Beach75 MPH7:35am
DELAWARESussexSussex County Airport64 MPH5:12am
DELAWARESussexLewes Beach62 MPH8:53am
DELAWARESussexIndian Beach59 MPH1:25pm
DELAWARESussex2mi ESE Lewes Buoy59 MPH5:25am
DELAWARESussex1mi NNE Bottom Hills57 MPH7:30am
DELAWARESussex17mi SE Big Stone beach57 MPH5:50am
MARYLANDWorcesterOcean City55 MPH2:53am
MARYLANDWorcesterOcean City52 MPH12:53pm
NEW JERSEYAtlanticPleasantville60 MPH8:00am
NEW JERSEYAtlanticAtlantic City58 MPH6:54am
NEW JERSEYCape May2mi NNE Strathmere64 MPH6:28am
NEW JERSEYCape MayOcean City63 MPH6:23am
NEW JERSEYCape MayCape May61 MPH5:51am
NEW JERSEYCape May20mi E Big Stone Beach61 MPH6:37am
NEW JERSEYCape MaySea Isle City59 MPH8:01am
NEW JERSEYCape MayCape May NOS Buoy58 MPH5:41am
NEW JERSEYCape MayWest Cape May57 MPH9:40am
NEW JERSEYOceanBayville72 MPH6:49am
NEW JERSEYOceanTuckerton68 MPH6:47am
NEW JERSEYOceanHigh Point64 MPH10:40am
NEW JERSEYOcean3mi WSW Beach Haven62 MPH11:42am
NEW JERSEYOceanSeven Stars61 MPH9:40am
NEW JERSEYOceanSeaside Heights61 MPH3:20pm
NEW JERSEYOceanHolgate61 MPH9:00am
NEW JERSEYOceanN Beach Haven60 MPH6:39am
NEW YORKNassauBayville52 MPH7:24am
NEW YORKSuffolkEatons Neck59 MPH9:55am
NEW YORKSuffolkIslip Airport58 MPH1:04pm
VIRGINIAAccomackWallops Island70 MPHn/a
VIRGINIAAccomackWallops Island69 MPH3:54am
VIRGINIAAccomackWallops Island64 MPH4:54am
VIRGINIAAccomackWallops Island58 MPH2:50am
VIRGINIANorfolkNorfolk52 MPHn/a

The Blizzard’s Historic Snowfall

Below is a three-day snowfall total map from January 23rd — January 25th, 2016. This map is based off of preliminary reports.


Snowfall Totals/Records from the Blizzard

The blizzard was historic for many locations, including Central Park, New York, which measured 26.8” — just one tenth of inch shy of their record of 26.9” set on February 11th-12th, 2006.

Other snowfall totals in New York include:snowfall-reports-blizzard-2016

  • Hicksville, 29.6”
  • Islip, 26.0”
  • Kennedy, 30.5”
  • Laguardia, 27.9”
  • Yonkers, 20.5”

Significant Snowfall Reports

This table lists some of the highest totals of 24” or more in each state (excludes the highest totals from states if 24” not met but more than a foot) of snow or more:

DelawareKent5mi WSW Dover18.20
District of ColumbiaDalecarlia Reservoir26.00
MarylandMontgomery2mi NNW North Potomac38.50
MarylandWashington3mi E Pecktonville37.00
MarylandWashington1mi NE Maugansville36.00
New JerseyHunterdonWhitehouse29.60
New JerseyMorrisLong Valley30.00
New JerseyMorrisWharton30.00
New JerseyMorrisSuccasunna30.00
New JerseySomerset2mi S Bernards Township
New YorkNassauHicksville29.60
New YorkQueensJackson Heights34.00
New YorkQueensNYC/JFK Airport30.50
New YorkQueensNYC/La Guardia27.90
New YorkRichmondPort Richmond31.30
PennsylvaniaAdamsYork Springs34.00
PennsylvaniaCumberland1mi NNW Mechanicsburg36.90
PennsylvaniaDauphinHarrisburg (RECORD)30.2 / Prev. was 25, 1983
PennsylvaniaSomerset7mi SE Windber35.00
VirginiaFrederick2mi W Gainesboro38.00
VirginiaLoudoun1mi NE Bluemont36.60
VirginiaLoudoun1mi WNW Round Hill36.30
VirginiaLoudoun1mi NNE Ashburn36.00
West VirginiaBerkeley1mi ESE Glengary42.00
West VirginiaBerkeley1mi SW Jones Springs39.00
West VirginiaBerkeley4mi NNE Winebrenners36.40
West VirginiaBerkeley2mi E Martinsburg36.10
West VirginiaJefferson1mi NW Shepherdstown40.50

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