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January 8, 2010

December storm ranked among five worst of decade

The big December storm that dropped a record 21.1 inches of snow on Baltimore has been ranked among the five worst of the decade in terms of its impact on the Northeast.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has given the snowstorm a rating of 3 ("Major") on its Northeast Snowstorm Impact Scale (NESIS). It is now the smallest Cat. 3 storm of the 12 on record.

NOAA/NESISThe NESIS system was developed in 2004 to provide a systematic way for meteorologists (and the rest of us) to compare Northeast snowstorms. The system generates an index number based on snow depth (at least 10 inches), geographic expanse and the size of the affected population. Rankings range from Cat. 5 ("Extreme") to Cat. 1 "Notable").

NOAA found that the December storm, which dumped top-ten snow on Baltimore, Washington and Philadelphia, was not an especially large storm, and did not have much impact on big population centers in New York and Boston. So, it got a 3 on the NESIS scale.

Even so, only four other storms in the past decade have ranked that high or higher. They include storms in December 2002 (Category 3); February 2003 (Category 4); January 2005 (Category 4); February 2006 (Category 3) and February 2007 (Category 3).

The highest-impact storms on the NESIS scale - and the only ones to get a Cat. 5 - are the “Superstorm” on March 1993 followed by the “Blizzard of ’96” in January 1996. The scale was developed in 2004, and ranks Northeast storms dating back to 1888.

Here's more from NOAA on its decision. And this link takes you to the ranked storms.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:41 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Winter weather


The storm rankings do not sync with my childhood memories. It seems to me there was a huge storm every year when I was a kid. :)

FR: Two thoughts: First, when you're three feet tall, an 8-inch storm is huge. Second, it may depend on where you grew up. We can see a lot more snow north and west of the city than at BWI, as our Dec. 5 storm proved.

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About Frank Roylance
This site is the Maryland Weather archive. The current Maryland Weather blog can be found here.
Frank Roylance is a reporter for The Baltimore Sun. He came to Baltimore from New Bedford, Mass. in 1980 to join the old Evening Sun. He moved to the morning Sun when the papers merged in 1992, and has spent most of his time since covering science, including astronomy and the weather. One of The Baltimore Sun's first online Web logs, the Weather Blog debuted in October 2004. In June 2006 Frank also began writing comments on local weather and stargazing for The Baltimore Sun's print Weather Page. Frank also answers readers’ weather queries for the newspaper and the blog. Frank Roylance retired in October 2011. Maryland Weather is now being updated by members of The Baltimore Sun staff

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