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The 25th Anniversary Of The Blizzard Of 1996


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I just remember how hard that snow was on your face.  The high winds really made it sting.  I was living in Center City then and even walking around sucked because the snow was so high.  Eventually me and my housemates pitched in to dig out our block (700 block of Kater) by hand because I believe the city told people on the side streets that they were on their own.  I think my work (Temple U) was closed for like a week.

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The National Weather Service is doing a commemorative look back at the Blizzard.  I worked the five midnight shifts (always my joy shift) leading up to it and went in the day after when everyone at th

Family & friends threw my a surprise 30th b-day party the SAT evening just before the storm. Instead of devoting my full attention to the festivities I'm frequently ducking up to the bedroom to ch

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One tidbit we are mentioning in tomorrow's Inquirer story: According to Uccellini-Kocin, in all, 20-plus inches of snow fell upon areas with a total population of 39.8 million, making it No. 1 on their list in that category. March 1993 wins for areal coverage, but January 1996 wins the population derby by a 2-1 ratio.

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10 hours ago, Gaia said:

I was 17 and I remember we ended up with the entire week off from school. It was a beautiful storm. 

That reminds me of the Lindsey Storm in 1969 in NYC.  That one, the forecast was rain briefly starting as snow.  This one it didn't matter probably even if we were living in Rochester.  

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I remember this one growing up in Franklin County, PA. 4 or 5 days later we got 10" from another storm. I don't know the details at all, being 12 at the time, but not long after that something must have tracked up through the lakes because I woke up one morning to 60 degrees and thunderstorms and 2+ feet of snow seemingly melted overnight followed by a huge temperature drop and ice dams everywhere. I think in parts of Central PA it's the second worst flooding on record behind Agnes.

Here's a video of the collapse of the Walnut Street Bridge in Harrisburg - 

.

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2 hours ago, don said:

I remember this one growing up in Franklin County, PA. 4 or 5 days later we got 10" from another storm. I don't know the details at all, being 12 at the time, but not long after that something must have tracked up through the lakes because I woke up one morning to 60 degrees and thunderstorms and 2+ feet of snow seemingly melted overnight followed by a huge temperature drop and ice dams everywhere. I think in parts of Central PA it's the second worst flooding on record behind Agnes.

Here's a video of the collapse of the Walnut Street Bridge in Harrisburg - 

.

Early one foggy am, I got on a plane at bwi to go on a 2-day business trip confident that our snowpack would last a long time. When I came back it was gone.

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Tony, great write up, I loved reading your recollections. I saw this thanks to a MARFC tweet.

I was living in west hudson county and in grad school at Rutgers. I was well into my adult years  😉 We visited my cousin at Lake Sunapee, New Hampshire when the Blizzard came. We left just as the snow was starting. We’d drove a ways, the snow would catch up. Then we’d leave the snow behind. And the process would repeat. By the time we got into southern VT, we had left the snow behind. We watched the coverage on the Weather Channel. My cousin and her husband were in Springfield MA helping her husbands son. They got to Sunapee a couple of days later. If memory serves, Sunapee got a couple of inches.

We used their snow machine and had a blast. It was winter break and I was supposed to be working on my dissertation, not. We left NH the end of the week. As we drove south, the snow got deeper. I think we were driving home racing another storm. We got home and had to park my roomies car ob her parent’s driveway a couple blocks away. My car was parked on the street. We did not have the driveway, that went with the 1st floor apartment. Street parking after anything more than 5 or 6 inches a pain the rear.But after that storm it was the pits. We saved spaces with trash cans. Everyone was pretty good about this. My roomie was not happy at not being able to park near our house. She commuted to western Jersey.

The only good thing is that I may have lost my job at RU by then. And I did enjoy walking around town on the snow. The town may have come through and plowed the side of the street freeing up parking. 🎉🎉 It was always great when they did that. There was a large lot in the next town where the towns could dump the snow. 

I could be wrong — Tony?? — but I think that a few days after we got home it rained. While it freed up parking, it was an unholy mess. 
 

That was a storm to remember. It may have been that winter when the snows were frequent enough that shoveling out cars and saving our parking space became routine. The town was walkable so I could do our errands. Being 25 years younger and with healthy knees, walking was easy.

Tyler

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Re: the amazing disappearing snow. Dave Robinson, the N.J. state climatologist (and still is) opined that the way the dewpoint erased that snow cover on Jan. 19, 1996, was even more impressive than the snowfall itself. The PHL high was 62 and the dewpoint probably was close to that, and most of that snow was gone before the rain even started. The flooding on the Susquehanna was particularly nasty on the 20th.

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I do not think that we had cable for the 1996 blizzard, we got cable sometime later. We got out weather forecasts from NYC TV and radio. So I did know of the forecast when we left for NH. I may not have had a weather radio in NJ at the time, but got one later, perhaps after we moved to Hunterdon County in 2001. 

It took our downstairs neighbors a couple of days before the shoveled out their driveway and the sidewalk. We paid someone to dig out my car. 
 

@frankdp23 may not have driven to New Brunswick after the 96 storm but experience with other snow storms. 

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54 minutes ago, rramblings said:

I do not think that we had cable for the 1996 blizzard, we got cable sometime later. We got out weather forecasts from NYC TV and radio. So I did know of the forecast when we left for NH. I may not have had a weather radio in NJ at the time, but got one later, perhaps after we moved to Hunterdon County in 2001. 

It took our downstairs neighbors a couple of days before the shoveled out their driveway and the sidewalk. We paid someone to dig out my car. 
 

@frankdp23 may not have driven to New Brunswick after the 96 storm but experience with other snow storms. 

I only had my license for 3 months for this storm.  But, since my mom never got her license and my father had passed, I did do a decent amount of driving after this storm.  I didn't go to New Brunswick, but I do remember after the next day driving my mom to my sisters in Edison, then taking them both to a craft store on Route 1 in Edison, I think PEARL?  I drove an 87 Grand Prix with rear wheel drive, and I remember thinking why am I driving when my sister was 24 with much more experience driving and new car, haha.

@Parsley  the 78 blizzard was before I was born as well.  My mom has some pics of that with my brother and sister having made tunnels in the snow piles.  But doing the math....I was born 9 months later..ewww!  :)

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15 hours ago, rramblings said:

Tony, great write up, I loved reading your recollections. I saw this thanks to a MARFC tweet.

I was living in west hudson county and in grad school at Rutgers. I was well into my adult years  😉 We visited my cousin at Lake Sunapee, New Hampshire when the Blizzard came. We left just as the snow was starting. We’d drove a ways, the snow would catch up. Then we’d leave the snow behind. And the process would repeat. By the time we got into southern VT, we had left the snow behind. We watched the coverage on the Weather Channel. My cousin and her husband were in Springfield MA helping her husbands son. They got to Sunapee a couple of days later. If memory serves, Sunapee got a couple of inches.

We used their snow machine and had a blast. It was winter break and I was supposed to be working on my dissertation, not. We left NH the end of the week. As we drove south, the snow got deeper. I think we were driving home racing another storm. We got home and had to park my roomies car ob her parent’s driveway a couple blocks away. My car was parked on the street. We did not have the driveway, that went with the 1st floor apartment. Street parking after anything more than 5 or 6 inches a pain the rear.But after that storm it was the pits. We saved spaces with trash cans. Everyone was pretty good about this. My roomie was not happy at not being able to park near our house. She commuted to western Jersey.

The only good thing is that I may have lost my job at RU by then. And I did enjoy walking around town on the snow. The town may have come through and plowed the side of the street freeing up parking. 🎉🎉 It was always great when they did that. There was a large lot in the next town where the towns could dump the snow. 

I could be wrong — Tony?? — but I think that a few days after we got home it rained. While it freed up parking, it was an unholy mess. 
 

That was a storm to remember. It may have been that winter when the snows were frequent enough that shoveling out cars and saving our parking space became routine. The town was walkable so I could do our errands. Being 25 years younger and with healthy knees, walking was easy.

Tyler

You are right.  It started as snow but changed to rain. 

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9 minutes ago, frankdp23 said:

I only had my license for 3 months for this storm.  But, since my mom never got her license and my father had passed, I did do a decent amount of driving after this storm.  I didn't go to New Brunswick, but I do remember after the next day driving my mom to my sisters in Edison, then taking them both to a craft store on Route 1 in Edison, I think PEARL?  I drove an 87 Grand Prix with rear wheel drive, and I remember thinking why am I driving when my sister was 24 with much more experience driving and new car, haha.

@Parsley  the 78 blizzard was before I was born as well.  My mom has some pics of that with my brother and sister having made tunnels in the snow piles.  But doing the math....I was born 9 months later..ewww!  :)

I was born 6 months after. 

I remember growing up in the 80s and going through their photo album with pics of the blizzard of 78' countless times. I remember thinking that I'd never see that in my lifetime on Long Island. I lucked out as 96' occurred my final winter on Long Island before I started college (upstate). Of course a decade later they got walloped by multiple blockbuster snowstorms/blizzards. Again, I'll stress how disappointing the 93' Superstorm was on Long Island. I thought that was the one shot and it failed. Luckily, 96' happened.

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13 hours ago, Sublimation said:

Re: the amazing disappearing snow. Dave Robinson, the N.J. state climatologist (and still is) opined that the way the dewpoint erased that snow cover on Jan. 19, 1996, was even more impressive than the snowfall itself. The PHL high was 62 and the dewpoint probably was close to that, and most of that snow was gone before the rain even started. The flooding on the Susquehanna was particularly nasty on the 20th.

That was shocking.  The flooding was bad.  The amazing thing about that winter was that it wasn't a 2016 one and done.  Every time the snow coverage was about gone, another event occurred to replenish it.  We had 34.8" of snow outside of that blizzard that season.

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7 minutes ago, Parsley said:

I was born 6 months after. 

I remember growing up in the 80s and going through their photo album with pics of the blizzard of 78' countless times. I remember thinking that I'd never see that in my lifetime on Long Island. I lucked out as 96' occurred my final winter on Long Island before I started college (upstate). Of course a decade later they got walloped by multiple blockbuster snowstorms/blizzards. Again, I'll stress how disappointing the 93' Superstorm was on Long Island. I thought that was the one shot and it failed. Luckily, 96' happened.

93 I got about 13".  I remember one storm in the late 80s that my location got nearly a foot.  Looking at an archive, I think it must have been Jan 87.  It looks like Long Island didn't do as well though.  That is the one bigger storm I remember as a kid before 93.

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Just now, frankdp23 said:

93 I got about 13".  I remember one storm in the late 80s that my location got nearly a foot.  Looking at an archive, I think it must have been Jan 87.  It looks like Long Island didn't do as well though.  That is the one bigger storm I remember as a kid before 93.

I remember very little "good" about the 80s. LOL. I'm sure there were a few good hits but it's hard to remember much.

Honestly, the one event that sticks out in my mind was Nov. 89' (Thanksgiving) snowstorm. Pretty sure that was 6+"  for me and having it happen so early was obviously rare.

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4 minutes ago, Parsley said:

I remember very little "good" about the 80s. LOL. I'm sure there were a few good hits but it's hard to remember much.

Honestly, the one event that sticks out in my mind was Nov. 89' (Thanksgiving) snowstorm. Pretty sure that was 6+"  for me and having it happen so early was obviously rare.

Yup, that was a favorite of mine.  I went to my grandmothers in Rutherford for Thanksgiving.  2 cousins my age lived on the same block as her.  So my parents let me sleep over for 2 days to sled and play.  I think that was around 6 or so for here too.  

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6 hours ago, Rainshadow5.8 said:

You are right.  It started as snow but changed to rain. 

Thanks Tony for confirming that it was snow changing to rain. In West Hudson County it may have been all rain? I recall that my town and nearby towns were both a mess when the rain melted the snow. I recall digging out the storm drains in front of our house. There may have been urban street flooding. There was a downward slope in the streets where we lived so at least the water drained downhill, possibly ending up in the western area of the Meadowlands. The piles of snow and drifts may have remained for awhile.

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6 hours ago, frankdp23 said:

93 I got about 13".  I remember one storm in the late 80s that my location got nearly a foot.  Looking at an archive, I think it must have been Jan 87.  It looks like Long Island didn't do as well though.  That is the one bigger storm I remember as a kid before 93.

January 87 was the year I started grad school at Rutgers. My friend was at Rutgers on Busch and I was on Livingston. It started snowing during my afternoon class. I probably took the campus to Busch. It took us awhile to get out of the Busch environs. We ended up stopping at a hotel for dinner, don't remember where, probably off of I-287. We called her Mom from a pay phone so she would not worry. We had dinner. By the time we finished dinner the roads had cleared up a little so we made it home at a moderate pace. What a pain in the neck getting out of the Rutgers campus was.

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6 hours ago, Parsley said:

I remember very little "good" about the 80s. LOL. I'm sure there were a few good hits but it's hard to remember much.

Honestly, the one event that sticks out in my mind was Nov. 89' (Thanksgiving) snowstorm. Pretty sure that was 6+"  for me and having it happen so early was obviously rare.

It was before I could remember, but if I was aware of the weather throughout the 80s, the events that would likely stick out in my mind would be:

Early April 1982 snowstorm

February 1983 snowstorm

Late April 1983 snowstorm

Early September 1983 heatwave

January 1984 cold wave

January 1985 cold wave

After this point, I have some actual memories, which include:

Hurricane Gloria in 1985

January and February 1987 snowstorms

November 1987 snow

August 1988 tornado

November 1989 severe weather outbreak

Thanksgiving snow 1989


I think those are the big ones, at least around TTN.

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56 minutes ago, famartin said:

It was before I could remember, but if I was aware of the weather throughout the 80s, the events that would likely stick out in my mind would be:

Early April 1982 snowstorm

February 1983 snowstorm

Late April 1983 snowstorm

Early September 1983 heatwave

January 1984 cold wave

January 1985 cold wave

After this point, I have some actual memories, which include:

Hurricane Gloria in 1985

January and February 1987 snowstorms

November 1987 snow

August 1988 tornado

November 1989 severe weather outbreak

Thanksgiving snow 1989


I think those are the big ones, at least around TTN.

I think we are similar in age, Gloria definitely started my interest in weather with the hit back in 85'. Based on that list there really wasn't much between that and the 89' Thanksgiving snow. Pretty sad.  

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1 hour ago, rramblings said:

January 87 was the year I started grad school at Rutgers. My friend was at Rutgers on Busch and I was on Livingston. It started snowing during my afternoon class. I probably took the campus to Busch. It took us awhile to get out of the Busch environs. We ended up stopping at a hotel for dinner, don't remember where, probably off of I-287. We called her Mom from a pay phone so she would not worry. We had dinner. By the time we finished dinner the roads had cleared up a little so we made it home at a moderate pace. What a pain in the neck getting out of the Rutgers campus was.

It still is even with some improvements they did.  I lived in Piscataway for 38 years right near Rutgers.  :)

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58 minutes ago, frankdp23 said:

It still is even with some improvements they did.  I lived in Piscataway for 38 years right near Rutgers.  :)

Getting OT, but they should've done a better job making 18 a continuous route, rather than the slap-stick one they did, but I guess if traffic gets heavy enough, they eventually will have to.

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2 hours ago, famartin said:

It was before I could remember, but if I was aware of the weather throughout the 80s, the events that would likely stick out in my mind would be:

Early April 1982 snowstorm

February 1983 snowstorm

Late April 1983 snowstorm

Early September 1983 heatwave

January 1984 cold wave

January 1985 cold wave

After this point, I have some actual memories, which include:

Hurricane Gloria in 1985

January and February 1987 snowstorms

November 1987 snow

August 1988 tornado

November 1989 severe weather outbreak

Thanksgiving snow 1989


I think those are the big ones, at least around TTN.

other notable 80's events from my Lower Bucks / NE Philly perspective:

7/16/80 MCS: was in Feasterville that afternoon, leftover complex from the great MI derecho earlier that morning, still the strongest winds I've ever experienced definitely over 80mph, neighboring Bensalem reported a gust over 100mph, Lower Bucks / NE Philly crush job. This is still the 3rd or 4th largest thunderstorm related PECO outage on record.

August 1980: heat, until 2016 the hottest AUG on record at Philly

12/24-25/1980: white Christmas / arctic blast, quick 2" of snow the afternoon of Christmas Eve followed by an arctic front later that evening, at daybreak Christmas morning temps had dropped to -1 with winds gusting to 30 mph, never got out of the single digits for the remainder of the day & even dropped to -2 Christmas evening before holding steady & slightly rising later in the evening. Ideal radiating location Neshaminy Falls bottomed out at -10

JAN 1981: cold wave, 1/1 - 1/18 averaged -13.6 degrees, 9th coldest JAN on record at Philly

JAN 1982: cold wave, 1/13-1/14 snowstorm - 1/8 -1/30 averaged -13.1 degrees, 5th coldest JAN on record at Philly, peak of the cold -10 degrees Lower Bucks & -11 degrees at Trenton, widespread east coast snowstorm on the 13-14th dumped 8-10" locally but was infamous for the Washington DC Air Florida flight 90 crash into the Potomac River on 1/13, the network broadcast of 5 survivors being rescued from the frozen river was remarkable

12/25/1983: 2nd Christmas arctic blast in 4 years, locally high temp did not make it out of the single digits after a low of -3 degrees, incredible cold despite the lack of any snow cover

MAR 1984 - cold / snow, 5th coldest March on record at Philadelphia & the 11th snowiest, 0 degrees locally & at Trenton on 3/10

JUL / AUG 1988: brief early record cold / record heat, at PHL the record low of 52 degrees on 7/1/88 is the 2nd coldest July temp on record, month quickly transitioned to a torch, four 100 degree days during that month is the most of any month on record at Philly, at the time July 1988 was the hottest July on record, the 18 consecutive days from 7/29 to 8/15 is still the longest streak of 90 degree days on record at Philly

There's also a myth that still flies around today that JAN during the 1980's were cold with little snow, reality is from a decadal standpoint at Philadelphia, Allentown & Newark JAN during the 1980's is the 2nd snowiest decade on record. More impressive at Philly with the much longer period of record. Since JAN was so cold during the 80's what snow that did fall stuck around, at PHL there were significantly more JAN days during that decade with an 1" snow cover than overall snowier 2010 decade.

1816101926_philajansnow.png.6a51ee80fd576aa089028109cbcd4c7b.png

438356079_allentownjansnow.png.bda5dd1808aaddfeed6afb7e317a5207.png

1171184014_newarkjansnow.png.5e46321b3f7e213f91a18cdc4d7eed94.png

 

 

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