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1993 Storm of the Century

Storm of the Century (1993)

Satellite image by NASA of the superstorm on March 13, 1993, at 10:01 UTC.

Storm type: Cyclonic blizzard, Nor'easter

Formed: March 11, 1993

Dissipated: March 15, 1993

Maximum 60 in (150 cm) - Mt. Le Conte, TN


amount:*

Lowest 960 mb (hPa)


pressure:

Lowest −12 °F (−24 °C)


temperature:

Damages: $6.65–11 billion (2009 USD)[1]


Fatalities: 300 total

Areas affected: Canada, North America, and Central


America

^* Maximum snowfall or ice accretion

The Storm of the Century, also known as the ’93 Superstorm, or the (Great) Blizzard
of 1993, was a large cyclonic storm that occurred on March 12–13, 1993, on the East
Coast of North America. It is unique for its intensity, massive size and wide-reaching
effect. At its height the storm stretched from Canada to Central America, but its main
impact was on the Eastern United States and Cuba. Areas as far south as central Alabama
and Georgia received 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20 cm) of snow and areas such as Birmingham,
Alabama, received up to 12 inches (30 cm) with isolated reports of 16 inches (41 cm).
Even the Florida Panhandle reported up to 4 inches (10 cm)[2], with hurricane-force wind
gusts and record low barometric pressures. Between Louisiana and Cuba, hurricane-force
winds produced high storm surges in the Gulf of Mexico, which along with scattered
tornadoes killed dozens of people.

Contents
[hide]

• 1 Formation
o 1.1 Forecasting
• 2 Storm progression
o 2.1 The blizzard
o 2.2 Subtropical derecho
o 2.3 Tornadoes spawned by the storm
• 3 Impact
• 4 Storm amounts
• 5 See also
• 6 References

• 7 External links

[edit] Formation
A "disorganized area of low pressure" that formed in the Gulf of Mexico joined an arctic
high pressure system in the Midwestern Great Plains, brought into the mid-latitudes by an
unusually steep southward jet stream. These factors combined to produce unusually low
temperatures across the eastern half of the United States.
[edit] Forecasting

The 1993 Storm of the Century marked a milestone in U.S. weather forecasting. By
March 8 (and by some accounts even earlier), several operational numerical weather
prediction models and medium-range forecasters at the US National Weather Service
recognized the threat of a significant snowstorm. By the 12th, many had reviewed the
data and were convinced that a serious threat loomed overhead. This marked the first
time that National Weather Service meteorologists were able to predict accurately a
system's severity five days in advance. Official blizzard warnings were issued two days
before the storm arrived, as shorter-range models began to confirm the predictions.
Forecasters were finally confident enough in the computer-forecast models to support
decisions by several Northeastern U.S. states to declare a State of Emergency before the
snow even started to fall.[3]

In the South, however, temperatures in the days before the storm were typical for early
March. Although large fluctuations in temperature are not unusual in the deep south,
many residents doubted that freezing temperatures could return so rapidly; nor that snow
was likely due to the rarity of significant snowfall later than February. Many local TV
news stations were reluctant to even broadcast the forecast models, due to the extreme
numbers being predicted by the computers, but the models turned out to be right.

[edit] Storm progression


During Friday, March 12, temperatures over much of the eastern United States began to
fall quickly. The area of low pressure rapidly intensified during the day on Friday and
moved into northwest Florida by early Saturday morning. As this happened snow began
to spread over the eastern United States, and a large squall line moved from over the Gulf
of Mexico into Florida and Cuba. The low tracked up the east coast during the day on
Saturday and into Canada by early Monday morning.

[edit] The blizzard

Under the weight of snow, a tree falls next to a car in Asheville, North Carolina

Temperatures accompanying the storm were unseasonably cold for late winter so close to
spring: average daily maximum temperatures, in mid-March, are around 46 °F (8 °C) in
Boston, 51 °F (11 °C) in Philadelphia, and 65 °F (18 °C) in Atlanta. During the 1993
storm, these places were all near or below freezing, and parts of New England saw daily
maximum temperatures as low S.

This storm complex was massive, affecting at least 26 U.S. states and much of eastern
Canada. Bringing cold air along with heavy precipitation and hurricane force winds, it
caused a blizzard over much of the area it affected, including thundersnow from Texas to
Pennsylvania and widespread whiteout conditions. Snow fell as far south and east as
Jacksonville, Florida[4], and areas of the Florida Panhandle got several inches of snow[2],
making it the biggest winter storm to affect the state since 1899. Ice pellets (sleet) mixed
in with the rain as temperatures in Tampa, in west-central Florida, hovered not far above
freezing after the front passed.

Some affected areas in the Appalachian region saw more than 3.5 feet (1.1 m) of snow,
and snowdrifts were as high as 35 feet (11 m). Responsible for 300 deaths and the loss of
electric power to over 10 million customers, it is purported to have been directly
experienced by over 130 million people in the United States, about half the country's
population at that time. Every airport from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Atlanta, Georgia was
closed for some time because of the storm. The volume of the storm's total snowfall was
later computed to be 12.91 cubic miles (53.8 km3), an amount which would weigh
(depending on the variable density of snow) between 5.4 and 27 billion tonnes.

Barometric pressures recorded during the storm were also unusually low: readings of
28.35 inches of mercury (960 mb or hPa) were observed in New England. Usually, such
low readings are observed only in hurricanes (generally of Category 2 or 3 intensity on
the Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale), which peak at almost the exact opposite time of year,
or in other cyclonic storms far out to sea. It also pushed a storm surge ashore on the
Florida panhandle, drowning a few people taken by surprise at the storm's ferocity.

As one of the most powerful storms in recent history, the storm has been described as the
"Storm of the Century" by many of the areas affected. The last blizzard to have such an
effect on the Southeast was the Great Blizzard of 1899.
NOAA estimate of storm surges along Florida's Gulf coast, 13 March 1993

[edit] Subtropical derecho

Map and track of the Subtropical Derecho of 1993 (courtesy of NOAA)


Besides producing record low barometric pressure across a swath of the Southeast and
Mid-Atlantic states, and one of the nation's biggest snowstorms, the low produced a
potent squall line ahead of its cold front. The squall line produced a serial derecho as it
moved into Florida and Cuba shortly after midnight on March 13. Straight-line winds
gusted above 100 mph (87 kn, 160 km/h) at many locations in Florida as the squall line
moved through.

A substantial storm surge was also generated along the gulf coast from Apalachee Bay in
the Florida panhandle to south of Tampa Bay. Due to the angle of the coast relative to the
approaching squall, Taylor County along the eastern portion of Apalachee Bay and
Hernando County north of Tampa were especially hard hit[2].

Storm surges in those areas reached up to 12 feet (3.7 m); higher than many hurricanes.
With little advance warning of incoming severe conditions, some coastal residents were
awakened in the early morning of March 13 by the waters of the Gulf of Mexico rushing
into their homes.[5] Overall, the storm's surge, winds, and tornadoes damaged or destroyed
18,000 homes and killed at least 12 people in Florida.[6]

The Derecho moves into the Florida coast during the overnight hours of March 13, 1993.

The supercells in the derecho produced eleven tornadoes in the United States. One
tornado killed three people when it struck a home which later collapsed, pinning the
occupants under a fallen wall.

In Cuba, wind gusts reached 100 miles per hour (160 km/h) in the Havana area. A survey
conducted by a research team from the Institute of Meteorology of Cuba suggests that the
maximum winds could have been as high as 130 miles per hour (210 km/h). It is the most
damaging squall line ever recorded in Cuba.

There was widespread and significant damage in Cuba, with damages estimated as
intense as F2.[7] The squall line finally moved out of Cuba near sunrise, leaving 10 deaths
and US$1 billion in damage on the island.
In the image above, measured gusts in mph are plotted as blue numbers. "+" symbols
indicate the locations of wind damage or estimated wind gusts above severe limits
(58 mph or greater). Red dots and paths indicate tornado events. Small red numbers
indicate tornado intensities in F-scale. The approximate location of the squall line "gust
front" is shown in two hour increments (curved purple lines).

[edit] Tornadoes spawned by the storm

Confirmed Confirmed Confirmed Confirmed Confirmed Confirmed Confirmed


Total F0 F1 F2 F3 F4 F5
11 5 3 3 0 0 0
Time
F# Location County Path length Damage
(UTC)
Florida
F2 NW of Chiefland Levy 0438 1 mile (1.6 km) 3 deaths
0.5 miles (0.80
F1 E of Crystal River Citrus 0438
km)
0.1 miles (0.16
F0 Treasure Island area Pinellas 0500
km)
0.1 miles (0.16
F0 New Port Richey area Pasco 0504
km)
15 miles (24
F2 Ocala area Marion 0520
km)
0.8 miles (1.3
F1 N of La Crosse Alachua 0520
km)
1 death
NW of Howey Height to 30 miles (48
F2 Alamonte Springs Lake 0530
km)
1 death
0.1 miles (0.16
F0 Tampa area Hillsborough 0530
km)
0.8 miles (1.3
F1 Jacksonville area (1st tornado) Duval 0600
km)
0.1 miles (0.16
F0 Bartow area Polk 0600
km)
0.1 miles (0.16
F0 Jacksonville area (2nd tornado) Duval 0610
km)
Sources:

Tornado History Project Storm Data - March 12, 1993, Tornado History Project Storm Data - March 13,
1993

[edit] Impact
The derecho that moved across Florida blew the roof off this building in Fort Myers
Beach.

In the South, where public works facilities (in most areas) generally have no reason to be
prepared for snow removal, the storm is vividly remembered because it resulted in a
complete shutdown of that region for three days. Cities that usually receive little
snowfall, such as Chattanooga, Tennessee, received anywhere from 2 to 4 feet (0.61 to
1.2 m) of snow, causing some municipalities to adopt at least an emergency winter-
weather plan for the future where one might not have existed before. Birmingham,
Alabama, which normally receives 1 inch (2.5 cm) in a year, received 17 inches (43 cm),
shattering the records for most snow in a single storm, a single month, and even a single
season. The psychological impact in the Southern states, where average high
temperatures in March tend to run into the 60s Fahrenheit (the upper teens Celsius), was
magnified by the fact that it struck a week before spring. Two NASCAR weekends—one
at Atlanta Motor Speedway, where the Motorcraft 500 Winston Cup round was
postponed six days, the Slick 50 300 Busch Grand National Series event was postponed
eight months, and the Miller 500 Classic weekend for the Busch Grand National cars and
Late Models at Martinsville Speedway was postponed two months because of the
aftereffects of the soggy grounds—were called off because of the weather and its ensuing
rain; Birmingham recorded a record low of 2 °F (−17 °C) during the storm. Syracuse,
New York, which is accustomed to heavy snowfall due to yearly lake-effect snow storms,
received a record 43 inches (110 cm) from the storm, while snowfall totaled over
12 inches (30 cm) in New York City and 2 feet (0.61 m) of snow fell in Hartford,
Connecticut and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

A satellite image shows the massive Storm of the Century on March 13, 1993.
The weight of record snows collapsed many factory roofs in the South, and snowdrifts on
the windward sides of buildings caused a few decks with substandard anchors to fall from
homes. Though the storm was forecast to strike the snow-prone Appalachian Mountains,
hundreds of people were nonetheless rescued from the Appalachians, many caught
completely off guard on the Appalachian Trail, or visiting cabins and lodges in remote
locales. Drifts up to 14 feet (4.3 m) were observed at Mount Mitchell. Snowfall totals of
between 2 and 3 feet (0.61 and 0.91 m) were widespread across northwestern North
Carolina. Boone, North Carolina—in a high-elevation area accustomed to heavy
snowfalls—was nonetheless caught off guard by 24 hours of temperatures below 0 °F
(−18 °C) along with storm winds which (according to NCDC storm summaries) gusted as
high as 110 miles per hour (180 km/h). Electricity was not restored to many isolated rural
areas for a week or more, with power cuts occurring all over the east. Nearly 60,000
lightning strikes were recorded as the storm swept over the country for a total of seventy-
two hours, and many may remember their local news organizations touting the term
"thundersnow."

Overall, the blizzard of 1993 caused a total of US$6.6 billion of damage.

Across the Northeastern states and eastern Canadian provinces, the storm put down an
average of 15 inches (38 cm) of snow, which, though most certainly heavy, is not
exceptional by most local standards, but still somewhat unusual for mid-March,
especially in the southernmost parts of the region such as the Baltimore-Washington area.
In southeastern Ontario and southwestern Quebec, where less severe winter blizzards are
relatively common, snowfalls of more than 15 inches (38 cm) in Montreal and Ottawa
were nevertheless far above average and came second only to record amounts set during
the deadly Eastern Canadian Blizzard of March 1971, an exceptionally brutal Nor'easter
still locally referred to in Quebec and parts of New York State as the "Storm of the
Century". For their part, New England residents tend to point to the Blizzard of 1978 as
their "storm of the century," due largely to its unrelenting snowfall, which temporarily
dislocated the weather-hardened region, while Mid-Atlantic residents tend to point to the
Blizzard of 1996 for similar reasons. Based on widespread effects, barometric pressures,
wind speeds and satellite images, however, there is little doubt that the storm of 1993 was
the most remarkable overall. It may have been the largest one-piece storm in recorded
history.

[edit] Storm amounts


Snowstorm Totals
Totals are for the main system only.
Mount Le Conte, TN 60 in (150 cm)[1]
Mount Mitchell, NC 50 in (130 cm)[1]
Snowshoe, WV 44 in (110 cm)[8]
Syracuse, NY 43 in (110 cm)[1]
Latrobe, PA 36 in (91 cm)[8]
Lincoln, NH 35 in (89 cm)[8]
Boone, NC 33 in (84 cm)
Gatlinburg, TN 30 in (76 cm)[8]
Albany, NY 27 in (69 cm)[1]
Pittsburgh, PA 25 in (64 cm)[1]
Hartford, CT 24 in (61 cm)[1]
London, KY 22 in (56 cm)[9]
Scranton, PA 21.4 in (54 cm)
Harrisburg, PA 20.4 in (52 cm)
Worcester, MA 20.1 in (51 cm)[10]
Chattanooga, TN 20 in (51 cm)[8]
Asheville, NC 19 in (48 cm)[8]
Ottawa, ON 17.7 in (45 cm)[11]
Allentown, PA 17.6 in (45 cm)
Birmingham, AL 17 in (43 cm)[8]
Montreal, QC 16.1 in (41 cm)[12]
Trenton, NJ 14.8 in (38 cm)
Washington, D.C. (Dulles) 14.1 in (36 cm)
Boston, MA 12.8 in (33 cm)
New York, NY (LaGuardia) 12.3 in (31 cm)
Philadelphia, PA 12.0 in (30 cm)
Baltimore, MD (BWI) 11.9 in (30 cm)
New York, NY (Central Park) 10.6 in (27 cm)
New York, NY (Kennedy) 9.3 in (24 cm)
Washington, D.C. (Reagan) 6.6 in (17 cm)
Atlanta, GA 4 in (10 cm)[8]
Mobile, AL 3 in (7.6 cm)[1]
Hammond, LA 2 in (5.1 cm)[1]

[edit] See also


• List of derecho events
• Great flood of 1993

[edit] References
1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Intellicast.com. "MARCH IN THE NORTHEAST".
http://www.intellicast.com/Almanac/Northeast/March/. Retrieved 2007-03-03.
2. ^ a b c "NCDC: Event Details". http://www4.ncdc.noaa.gov/cgi-win/wwcgi.dll?
wwevent~ShowEvent~194933.
3. ^ "Forecasting the "Storm of the Century"".
http://celebrating200years.noaa.gov/events/storm/welcome.html#firsts. Retrieved
2007-03-14.
4. ^
http://www.wunderground.com/history/airport/KNIP/1993/3/13/DailyHistory.htm
l?req_city=NA&req_state=NA&req_statename=NA
5. ^ Losing a home, then losing a life
6. ^ A storm with no name
7. ^ American Meteorological Society. "The 13 March 1993 Severe Squall Line
over Western Cuba". http://ams.allenpress.com/perlserv/?request=get-
abstract&doi=10.1175%2F1520-0434%281996%29011%3C0089%3ATMSSLO
%3E2.0.CO%3B2. Retrieved 2007-04-25.
8. ^ a b c d e f g h NOAA. "The Big One! A Review of the March 12–14, 1993 "Storm
of the Century" (PDF).
ftp://ftp.ncdc.noaa.gov/pub/data/techrpts/tr9301/tr9301.pdf. Retrieved 2007-03-
03.
9. ^ David Sander & Glen Conner. "Fact Sheet: Blizzard of 1993".
http://kyclim.wku.edu/factSheets/blizzard.htm. Retrieved 2007-03-03.
10. ^ Mike Carbone, Neal Strauss, Frank Nocera, Dave Henry. "Top 10 Record
Snowfalls of New England". http://www.erh.noaa.gov/box/RecordSnows.htm.
Retrieved 2009-06-26.
11. ^ Reuters (March 15, 1993). "Plus de 100 morts de Cuba au Quebec". La Presse.
p. A3.
12. ^ Lapointe, Pascal (March 15, 1993). "Le Québec y a goûté !". Le Soleil. p. A1.