Those of us who live around Atlanta, Georgia or Dallas, Texas, who only see around 2 or 3 inches of snow per year on average, can be heard complaining during the winter when a snow event occurs. There are, however, many cities around the nation where considerably more snow falls and it becomes part of the winter routine of shoveling, plowing and just attempting to get around.
Some mountain locations in the U.S. such as South Lake Tahoe, California; Park City, Utah; and Wolf Creek Pass, Colorado, accumulate over 400 inches of snow on average. There are also many cities that see hefty amounts of snow each year, at lower elevations.
Here, we will list the top seven cities with populations of at least 100,000 that receive the most snow each season (according to a 30-year average by NOAA). Since I grew up in upstate New York, I am not surprised at the number of cities there that made the list. Several cities around the Great Lakes receive snow from a combination of synoptic storm systems and lake-effect snow.
7) Grand Rapids, Michigan – 75 inches
Grand Rapids is located in southwestern Michigan, east of Lake Michigan. On average, measurable snow can fall from October to April. Snow falls from a combination of storm systems, plus lake-effect snow. When very cold air passes over the warmer Great lakes, clouds form and produce snow. With a westerly wind flow from Lake Michigan, Grand Rapids can pick up significant snowfall. December is their snowiest month, with about 22 inches on average. In December of 200o, the city received a monthly record snowfall of 59.2 inches.
6) Anchorage, Alaska – 76 inches
Anchorage is located in southern of Alaska on Cook Inlet which leads to the Gulf of Alaska. There is ample moisture around to interact with cold air intrusions from the north to create plenty of snow. Measurable snow can fall from September through May. December is their snowiest month with about 17 inches, but a record 37.6 inches was recorded in December of 2003.
5) Boulder, Colorado – 88 inches
Boulder is located in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains northwest of Denver. Measureable snow can fall from September through May. February, march and December are the snowiest months. A whopping 54.6 inches of snow fell in February of 2015 and that is the monthly record. A favorable weather pattern for snow in Boulder is when there is a moist wind flow from the east of northeast that begins to “upslope” or rise when it reaches and foothills and that enhances the snowfall.
4) Buffalo, New York – 96 inches
Just by reputation, you would think that Buffalo would take home first prize but it failed to crack the top three. Located on the eastern shore of Lake Erie, Buffalo receives winter snow from storm systems and lake-effect. Since Lake Erie is oriented from southwest to northeast, it takes a cold southwesterly flow of air to produce lake-effect and the southwest wind is not as common. When there is a cold southwesterly flow, and it persists for a period of time, some incredible amounts of lake-effect snow can fall. In late December of 2001, a multi-day lake-effect snow event dumped 83.5 inches on a beleaguered city. Measurable snow can fall from October through April. December is their snowiest month where about 27 inches falls on average.
Bronze Medal – Rochester, New York – 100 inches
Rochester is located in western New York, about 65 miles east-northeast of Buffalo and just south of Lake Ontario. Snow can fall in Rochester from storm systems or lake-effect bands of snow from Lake Erie or Lake Ontario depending on the prevailing wind flow of cold air. Measurable snow can fall from October through April. December is their snowiest month where about 27 inches falls on average.
Silver Medal – Erie, Pennsylvania – 101 inches
Erie is located on the far northwest corner Pennsylvania, on Lake Erie. Snow in Erie can come from storm systems or from the lake-effect variety with a cold westerly flow from the lake. Measurable snow can fall from October through April. January is their snowiest month with about 30 inches on average. In 1989 a monthly record of 66.9 inches was recorded. There is plenty of variability with snowfall in Erie with some seasons receiving considerably more or less than average.
Gold Medal – Syracuse, New York – 126 inches
Having grown up in nearby Rome, New York, this certainly doesn’t surprise me. Measurable snow can fall from October through May. Snow in Syracuse can come from storm systems or from lake-effect. A cold northwest flow from Lake Ontario can produce lake-effect snow and since this wind direction is common in the winter, it’s no wonder that the Syracuse and be a cloudy and snowy place. January is their snowiest month on average with three feet. Their snowiest day on record was on March 13, 1993 when 36 inches of snow fell. This was a combination of snow from the March 1993 “Superstorm” and lake effect. In late January 1966, over 43 inches fell (in the famous “Blizzard of ’66) but that was a multi-day event. What’s interesting is that areas north of Syracuse, just east of Lake Ontario, and south of Syracuse, in higher elevations see much more snow than the city does.