An Overview of the October Snowstorm of 2011

I have only one word to describe this storm: Shocking. Millions of people without power, combined with tree damage, will make this one of the most costly storms in October.

1. What Happened?: A nor’easter formed as expected in the Atlantic Ocean. The path of the storm was predicted correctly by the models and meteorologists alike. But, we did not believe that the amount of snow the forecast models projected to fall on Saturday would come true. Everyone assumed that it was impossible to have snow totals over a couple of inches in October. When I woke up Saturday morning, I knew something was seriously wrong.

Snow on Trees with Leaves

I looked out my window to see snowflakes mixing with the rain falling. According to my forecast, I believed that the changeover would not happen until the late afternoon. But, by 11 AM, the rain had changed to all snow north of I-95. At noon, I had lost my power, which did not return until Sunday night. I watched in helplessness during the day Saturday as the snow kept piling up, breaking many tree branches in the process. By the time the storm moved out, there were over 2 million people without power in the Northeast.

Picture of my Front Yard

Why did the changeover occur earlier? There was more cold air in place than expected during the time of the storm. As the nor’easter moved northeastward, it just brought in more cold air.

2. Effects: Peco announced that this storm was the worst October storm in their history. New Jersey is still under a State of Emergency as hundreds of thousands of people are still without power. Many trees were damaged during this storm, creating a lot of cleanup for households and local townships.

Another Storm Picture

3. Opinion: Okay, this is my rant portion of the post. Anger is probably the word that describes how I feel toward the National Weather Service in Mt. Holly right now. On Friday morning, they were calling for a coating to an inch of snow for the NW suburbs of Philadelphia. At that time, most forecast models were showing 4-10 inches of snow to fall in the area, and it seemed that a Winter Storm Watch would be necessary. But instead, they did nothing. The news stations then based their forecasts off of the NWS and their remarks. As a result, most people thought that this storm would be a minor one for the area. There were no salt trucks ready, and people were ready to have a fun Halloween weekend. By the time the snow started falling Saturday morning, the NWS was on it heels, realizing their fault. They raised snowfall totals 6 inches for the suburbs. 6 Inches!  My forecast of 2-5 inches for the NW suburbs, was not nearly as bad as the NWS. What baffles me is the fact that these people are professionals. How can an amateur like myself have a better forecast than a whole group of forecasters who majored in meteorology?

All in all, we learned a lesson from this storm. It really does not matter that we are in October. If cold air is in place and a nor’easter is riding the coast, snow will fall. This past storm will undoubtedly serve as a great precedent for any future October snowstorms in our area.


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