I have always enjoyed nature and in particular, I love watching the sky, there is so much to see and I always want to know "why" things happen.
By: Tom Niziol , 6:46 PM GMT on May 15, 2014
The Weather Channel named 26 winter storms this past season. The naming process evaluates the winter impacts across a minimum population in the U.S. based on Winter Weather Warnings and Advisories issued by the National Weather Service. Each of these storms produced a wide variety of winter impacts across different parts of the nation. The rest of this article will detail those storms on a month to month basis beginning in October and ending in May.
Storm tracks were drawn to the best of our ability based on surface analyses produced by NCEP. In some situations, secondary development occurred away for the parent Low and those tracks are shown as dashed lines. In at least a couple of storms, it was difficult to identify a closed secondary surface Low, rather weak mid-level disturbances running along a cold front laid down from the parent system were responsible for the winter weather and were drawn to accordingly. The feeling was that these weak disturbances were all part of the larger scale winter weather pattern that controlled the track of the parent Low and therefore were part of the overall system. Defining tracks of winter systems is one challenge that our team has had this season. Enjoy !!
Winter In a Nutshell
The winter of 2013-14 could be broken into two halves across the nation, warm in the West and cold in the East. In particular it was a very long and snowy winter for a good part of the Upper Midwest through Great Lakes Region. The 4-month period from December through March was the coldest on record for places like Chicago and Marquette. Below is the surface temperature departure (anomaly) through meteorological winter, defined as the 3-month period of December, January and February.
It was not only cold but very snowy across a good part of the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes. In fact, several cities set all-time seasonal snowfall records including Billings MT, Detroit and Flint MI, Toledo OH, and Rhinelander WI. Chicago had its third snowiest winter on record and farther east in Philadelphia they set their second highest snowfall in over 100 years of records.
October and November
Atlas October 3-5 2013
The winter season began early with a major winter storm named Atlas that had devastating impacts on man as well as beast across the Black Hills of South Dakota. Winter Storm Atlas delivered feet of snow from the northern Rockies to the northern High Plains Thursday through Saturday, Oct. 3-5. A record-breaking 4 feet of snow fell in parts of western South Dakota. Match that snowfall with winds that gusted to 70 mph in places, it left ranchers dealing with heavy losses, in some cases perhaps up to half their herds, with reports of as many as 14,000 cattle lost during the blizzard. The cattle had not yet grown their winter coats and were grazing in summer pastures rather than more protected winter pastures. In addition, the ground hadn't frozen, so cattle that sought protection in low-lying areas became stuck in mud. Rain soaked the cattle; then feet of snow and winds up to 70 miles (113 kilometers) per hour froze them. Some of the snowfall reports included Lead SD 55” snow, Deadwood 48”, Rapid City record for snowfall in October, previous 15.1” October 1919. Finally wind gusted to 71 mph in parts of SD.
Boreas November 22-27 2013
Winter Storm Boreas was responsible for a pre-Thanksgiving wintry potpourri of snow, ice and wind from California to Maine. It was estimated that 58 million people were affected by this storm. This slow-moving upper-level low pressure system cut off from the jet stream and inched slowly over the Desert Southwest from Nov. 22-24, wringing out some impressive snow totals, 11.4” fell in Flagstaff, AZ but as much as 41” fell in higher elevations such as Abajo Peak in SW Arizona. In the Sierra, winds gusted as high as 129 mph at Alpine Meadows near Tahoe.
But arguably the bigger headache from Boreas was ice. At least a light ice accumulation in trees was observed as far south as near Boerne, Texas, just northwest of San Antonio. Power outages from ice accumulation and winds plagued parts of West Texas, the Texas Panhandle, north Texas, Oklahoma, and eastern New Mexico. Marathon, Texas reported one-half inch of ice on roads with power outages. Up to two inches of accumulated sleet and freezing rain turned Interstate 20 into an ice rink near Odessa, Texas, shutting down overpasses and stranding motorists for a period of time on Nov. 24. Boreas prompted the National Weather Service office in Lubbock, Texas to issue its first ice storm warning since Jan. 28, 2010.
During December the pattern became more active with several storms developing in the vicinity of Colorado. These Colorado Lows produced repeated bouts of winter weather across the heavily populated corridor of the Northeast. A few of these storms had multiple phases as secondary features formed along cold fronts laid down from the parent system.
Cleon December 1-7 2013
Winter Storm Cleon delivered snow, sleet, and freezing rain to a large swath of the country from Dec. 1, 2013 into early Dec. 7, 2013. At least 11 people were killed as the storm marched east. This was a two-part storm, snow along part I (the northern track) and ice Part II (southern track). As much as a foot of snow fell across Illinois and 10” in Indiana. Ice in Dallas closed major highways, 10’s of thousands were without power at some point during the storm, ice also produced impacts across Oklahoma, Tennessee and Arkansas.
Dion December 5-11 2013
Fresh off the heels of Winter Storm Cleon, Winter Storm Dion brought another punch of snow, sleet, and freezing rain to a large swath of the country Dec. 6-10, 2013. This was a very long track storm that produced winter impacts from coast to coast, snow then freezing rain. Corvallis Oregon had their biggest snow in 20 years at 6-8”. One to two feet of snow piled up in the Western Mountains of Utah, Idaho, Nevada, California. On the south side of this storm enough cold air was in place to produce a coating of ice from ½ to - ¾” from Tennessee through Kentucky to Virginias
Electra December 11-15 2013
Winter storm Electra dumped heavy snow from the Midwest through the Northeast. 12” to 18” of snow hammered New England, even New York City picked up 5” of snow. This was more of a typical northeast storm that closed down schools in a multi-state area in New England. Early on as much as 10” to 11” of snow fell across parts of Missouri and Illinois. Even a bit of freezing rain occurred in parts of Missouri on the southern edge of the wintry precipitation.
Falco December 16-18 2014
Winter Storm Falco was the fourth winter storm to affect the Northeast, in half as many weeks. Although snowfall amounts were not spectacular, the timing of the event closed down the Long Island Expressway for several hours and produced major airport delays. Portland ME picked up 9” of snow (Down East a foot) and Boston set a daily record with 6.4”.
Gemini December 19-23 2013
Winter storm Gemini produced a combination of snow and ice knocked which out power to 440,000 homes and businesses in Michigan, upstate New York and northern New England, and also left more than 475,000 people without electricity in eastern Canada.
Hercules December 31 – January 3 2014
Winter storm Hercules delivered a swath of snow from the Midwest to the Great Lakes and Northeast during the first few days of 2014. It all began back in Kansas and Missouri where 4” to 6” of snow fell, Chicago received 10.9”, Gurnee IL picked up a whopping 18”, then Detroit then saw almost a foot of snow. As the system head to the east coast it continued to produce heavy snowfall with Buffalo receiving 8”, Greece NY, near Rochester, got a bonus off Lake Ontario for a snow total of 22”. New York City picked up 6.4” and Boston got a whopping 17.8” !! Finally, top honors went to Boxford MA where 23.8” of snow fell.
During January the major winter storms took a decidedly more southerly track as repeated bouts of arctic air were brought into the Deep South. As a result many southern cities felt the brunt of significant winter impacts during the month. Along with the storm tracks, take note of the significant temperature departures over the eastern half of the nation, all the way down to the Gulf coast.
Ion January 3-6 2014
Winter Storm Ion delivered a one-two punch of snow and brutal Arctic air to parts of the central U.S. on Jan. 5-6, 2014. The worst impacts were in Indiana, where heavy snow and high winds led to severe travel difficulties and even closures on several major highways in central and northern parts of the state. 3,700 flights (10% of domestic departures) cancelled from Chicago through Detroit to Cleveland. 18” Benton Harbor MI. 11.7” Chicago on the heels of another 10” storm, 11.4” Indianapolis and 17” Flint MI. Wind chills dropped down to 50 below zero in Wisconsin. Ice in Pittsburgh resulted in 10,000 losing power.
Janus January 20-22 2014
Winter Storm Janus spread its swath of snow from the Ohio Valley into the Northeast Urban Corridor from Jan. 21-22, 2014. Anywhere from 4” to 5” of snow fell from Louisville to Cincinnati, and 7.2” piled up at Midway in Chicago. 8” to 10” fell across the Appalachians of West Virginia. As the system intensified along the Mid-Atlantic Coast Washington DC picked up 3.8”. Philadelphia however got hammered with 13.5” making Jan 21st the 10th snowiest day on record since 1884. Finally New York City got a whopping 11.5”.
Kronos January 23-24 2014
Winter Storm Kronos brought snow, sleet and freezing rain into parts of central and east Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi as an arctic High plunged southward from Canada. A weak Low rode eastward along the cold front and produced 4” of snow in Texas and 3” in Alexandria Louisiana. There were multiple highways shut down in and around Austin TX from the ice. Sleet was reported as far south as Pensacola FL and Harlingen TX.
Leon January 27-29 2014
The arctic High that brought the exceptional cold to the Southeast during Kronos set the stage for one of the more significant ice/snow events for a couple of major metropolitan areas during Leon. The Winter Storm affected a long swath of the Deep South and parts of the immediate East Coast Jan. 28 into early Jan. 29, bringing traffic to a standstill in several major cities. Anywhere from 1 to 3” of snow fell from east Texas through Georgia to the Carolinas. Only 2.6” of snow fell officially in Atlanta and 2” in Birmingham. However temperatures in the low 20s refroze the snow as it melted under traffic during the early afternoon and very quickly 10s of thousands of motorists in both cities came to a standstill on roads. Many were stuck for over a day as those roads literally turned into ice rinks. Ice closed parts of I-10 in the Florida Panhandle. Farther north as much as 8” to 10” of snow piled up from North Carolina through Virginia with several inches as far north as Massachusetts.
Maximus January 29 through February 3 2014
Winter storm Maximus was a very long track storm that began with over a foot of snow in the Cascades and Sierra. As it crossed through the Central Rockies over 4 feet of snow piled up through the higher elevations of the Colorado and Wyoming peaks with an incredible 56.2” recorded at Schofield Pass, 10,722ft.
Farther south as much as 12.5” of snow accumulated in Crowell, Texas and 8” in Frederick Oklahoma. As the system lifted through the Ohio Valley 6” to 8” of snow occurred with Detroit picking up 4.1”. Across Kentucky 6.2” occurred in Paducah and 3.7” in Lexington. As this system moved through the eastern Great Lakes to New England it dumped a foot of snow in parts of Pennsylvania through West Virginia. 8” piled up in New York City, 9.3” in Allentown and 3.5” in Philadelphia.
Nika January 31 through February 5 2014
Winter Storm Nika spread a wintry mess of snow, sleet and freezing rain from the Plains to the Northeast. The storm also brought snow to the mountains of the West. Over a foot of snow dumped across the Colorado Rockies with 3” to 4” around Santa Fe. As the system crossed the Plains it dumped 13.2” of snow in Topeka, 9” in Kansas City and 8.5” in Indianapolis. The system then moved northeast and transferred its energy to the east coast. Enough cold air hung around at the surface to produce a significant ice event across Philadelphia and its suburbs. As many as 1 million people lost power to ice, with about 750,000 in Philadelphia alone. In the colder air of New England there were several reports of a foot of snow.
February saw a wide variety of winter storm tracks but most of them ended up travelling through the Mid-Atlantic to New England Coast. As a result, many of these areas continued to get hit with modest accumulations of snow in what was becoming a relentless winter. Exceptional cold conditions continued across the Upper Plains and Upper Great Lakes Region in what was becoming one of the coldest winters on record for some of these areas.
Orion February 6-10 2014
Winter Storm Orion, the 15th named storm of the 2013-14 winter storm season, brought much-needed snowfall to the West, bringing welcome moisture to a drought-parched region. The primary disturbance then zipped across the Midwest and Northeast. In the West some record setting snowfall occurred around Eugene OR where 8.7” of snow was the most the city had seen in February in 77 years. Even Seattle picked up 2.9” of snow at the airport. The ski resorts in the Wastach, Tetons as well as Colorado Rockies saw nearly 3 ft. of snow. As the system cut across the Midwest through Ohio Valley to the Northeast, a wide swath of 4” to 6” of snow accumulated.
Pax February 9-14 2014
Winter Storm Pax pushed two rounds of wintry weather across the South from Feb. 10 to Feb. 13. The second round produced the heaviest amounts of freezing rain, sleet and snow across the region late Feb. 11 through early Feb. 13. Pax also brought heavy snow to Appalachians, Middle Atlantic and Northeast late Feb. 12 into Feb. 14. Up to 1.25” of ice produced widespread power outages across South Carolina. 11” of snow fell in Ringold Georgia. The system hammered the East Coast with 12.5” in New York City and 11.1” in Philadelphia. Tops snow totals however were in higher elevations including 28.5” in Pilot West Virginia and 30” in Mounty Holly Vermont.
Quintus February 14-16 2014
This storm was a fast moving system that developed into a major bomb as it headed off the East Coast. It produced anywhere from 6 to 9” of snow as it barreled across Illinois through Ohio and Pennsylvania. As it headed off the east coast it put down as much as 7.5” in eastern Long Island, 15” in Massachusetts (4” in Boston) and as much as 20” across Maine.
Rex February 16-19 2014
Winter Storm Rex brought a swath of snow from the Midwest to parts of the Northeast late Feb. 16 into early Feb. 19, 2014. Thundersnow was observed in at least seven states as the storm pushed east. As many as 4,500 flights were cancelled in the path of the storm, over 1,000 in Chicago alone. Some of the snow totals included 9” in Michigan and Ohio and 11” in parts of Massachusetts and 15” in New Hampshire. This was a very convective storm system and probably produced the most widespread thundersnow of any winter system this season.
Seneca February 19-21 2014
This storm produced another widespread area of thundersnow across several states with places like Des Moines Iowa getting everything from snow to sleet to freezing rain to thunder all within the course of an hour. Minneapolis picked up 9.9” of snow and there were blizzard conditions across the state of Minnesota where 50,000 were without power and over 1,000 accidents occurred on roadways. 22” of snow fell in Gile WI, 18” in Alborn MN and 14” in Ironwood MI.
Titan February 27 through March 3 2014
Winter storm Titan produced heavy rainfall and mountain snow as it came onto the West Coast February 27th. The system then shifted across the Rockies and into parts of the central and eastern U.S. Saturday and Sunday, March 1-2. Titan continued to impact parts of the East on March 3. Donner Peak picked up 30” of snow and Taos NM saw 20”. As the system lifted across the Plains to the eastern U.S. it dumped snow on its northern side with 5” in Chicago, 4 to 6” around Washington DC and 8 to 10” in other parts of Virginia. On its southern side, ice accumulations resulted in power outages for 27,000 across Arkansas and 61,000 throughout Tennessee.
March provided a little bit of everything winter-wise across the U.S. as we headed into our change of seasons. It began with an ice storm for the Southeast, was followed up by a couple of MidWest through Mid-Atlantic/Northeast events and ended with a Northern Plains blizzard. Once again , those cold temperature continued to remain in place across the eastern U.S., in particular the Southeast where ice hammered the region.
Ulysses March 5-7 2014
High pressure locked in across the Northeast U.S. pushed another round of cold air into the far South setting the stage for a significant ice event as a Gulf Low moved up the Southeast coast. The Carolinas were hardest hit with hundreds of thousands of customers losing power, and for some of those customers power was not restored for several days. On the colder side of the storm Mt Mitchell picked up 15” of snow. Salisbury, Asheboro and Lexington NC saw as much as ½” of ice.
Vulcan March 9-13 2014
Winter Storm Vulcan deposited a swath of heavy snow from the Midwest into the Great Lakes and interior Northeast, less than two weeks before the arrival of spring 2014. This system not only produced snow but strong winds as well. In fact, it led to blizzard conditions from northern Ohio and Indiana through Buffalo, NY where winds gusted to 47 mph during the storms and 13.8” of snow fell. Chicago and Cleveland picked up 6 to 8”. Across the Northeast Burlington VT picked up 18”, Syracuse 12”, and Caribou ME 16”.
Wiley March 16-18 2014
Winter Storm Wiley spread a swath of snow and ice from the Missouri Valley into the Mid-Atlantic states from Mar. 15-17, 2014. Washington’s two airports picked up from 7-11” of snow, Baltimore 7” and Philadelphia accumulated 4.7” which pushed their seasonal total to 67.6”, second highest on record. It was the 5th time that Washington’s Federal offices had closed due to winter weather this season.
Xenia March 30 through April 1 2014
Winter Storm Xenia produced whiteout conditions across large swaths of North Dakota, South Dakota, and northeast Wyoming on the final day of March 2014. Visibility was reduced to 10 feet in parts of North Dakota. Drifts of 5-6 feet were observed in Roseau, Minn. Winds gusted to 64 mph at the Rapid City, S.D. airport, and up to 58 mph near Oakes, N.D. Whiteout conditions prompted a shut down of Interstate 29 from Brookings, S.D. to the Canadian border, and Interstate 94 from Fargo to Bismarck, N.D. Xenia prompted the 11th separate blizzard warning in the winter season issued by the National Weather Service in Grand Forks, N.D.
• North Dakota: 20" in Grafton
• Minnesota: 18" in Thief River Falls and near Warren
• South Dakota: 10" in Sisseton
• Wyoming: 15" near Centennial
• Montana: 12" near Carlyle and St. Phillip
• Nebraska: 5" in Arthur
Below is a list of snow totals in larger cities in the northern Plains and Upper Midwest:
• Bismarck, N.D.: 8.1"
• Grand Forks, N.D.: 11.5"
• Fargo, N.D/Moorhead, Minn.: 2.5"
• Pierre, S.D.: 6"
Winter wound down in April and compared to the 2012-13 season when there were 4 named storms, only one storm occurred. Cold air continued to make its presence known near the Canadian border of the Upper Midwest however keeping near record ice cover on the Great Lakes, in particular, Lake Superior. When a robust Low pressure system tracked out of the Central Plains to the Great Lakes, it tapped that cold air to become Yona. This storm followed very closely on the heels and track of the previous storm, Xenia, impacting the Upper Midwest. After a several week respite, just when we thought we were done with winter, a Rockies storm developed and there was enough cold air around to ensure one more heavy dump of snow.
Yona April 2-4 2014
Winter storm Yona produced yet one more round of heavy snow to the winter weary Upper Midwest. Below are the top snow totals for some of the states that were impacted by Yona:
• Minnesota: 12.2 inches in Brownton. Officially, 6.5 inches was reported at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. However, up to 10.5 inches was measured in downtown Minneapolis.
• Wisconsin: 17.8 inches near Superior; 17 inches near Ashland; 14.5 inches near Poplar
• Michigan: 17 inches in Tapiola; 15 inches in Hancock
• Iowa: 7.8 inches near Sibley
• South Dakota: 7 inches near Fairview
By the time Yona had loosened its grip on the region, Duluth had a total of 34” of snow on the ground. Only several days at the beginning of April 1965 had a greater snow depth in its period of record which goes back over 100 years.
Zephyr May 10-13 2014
Winter Storm Zephyr dropped heavy snow in the Rocky Mountains and even into parts of the Front Range urban corridor May 10-13, 2014. Dating to 1883, Sunday was the heaviest calendar-day snow so late in the season in Cheyenne, by a narrow margin. They had a pair of 10-inch-plus snow days later in the calendar (May 13, 1961 and May 16, 1943), but slightly less than Sunday's total of 10.5 inches. The weight of this heavy, wet snow damaged trees in Cedar City, Utah on Sunday. Up to 17,000 were without power on the morning of May 12 in northern Colorado, according to Xcel Energy in Aurora, Colorado.
The winter of 2013-14 was certainly a busy one with no less than 26 named winter storms that spanned the alphabet to the letter. While parts of the eastern half of the nation faced an extended period of cold and snow, parts of the West underwent record warmth and critically dry conditions. Only time will tell what our next season brings, stay tuned !!
The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.
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I have always enjoyed nature and in particular, I love watching the sky, there is so much to see and I always want to know "why" things happen.