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Rare November Snowstorm Strikes In Wake Of Sandy

It’s rare enough to have a hurricane make landfall in New Jersey, but it’s downright unheard of to have a New Jersey hurricane followed one week later by a significant early season snowstorm. Yet that’s exactly what unfolded on Wednesday, as a powerful nor’easter helped provide just enough cold air to dump more than a foot of snow in the Tri-State area of Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York.

Tree damage in Brooklyn, N.Y., caused by the snowy nor'easter that struck on Nov. 7.
Credit: Andrew Freedman, Climate Central.

Contrary to initial weather forecasts, accumulating snow occurred all the way to the badly damaged New Jersey Shore, setting back storm recovery efforts and causing new power outages. The police chief of Toms River, a coastal community about 50 miles north of Atlantic City, said the new storm halted recovery efforts in Ortley Beach and Normandy Beach. "What the hell’s going on with this snow?" Mastronardy told the New Jersey Star-Ledger. "We’re legitimately getting snow down here. This wasn’t supposed to happen to us!"

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie had to cancel a walking tour of the damage in Long Beach Island due to heavy rain and strong winds. "Amazing," he said in reaction to the latest forecast on the nor’easter, the Star-Ledger reported. "I said I’m waiting for the locusts and pestilence next."

The storm exceeded all expectations in terms of snowfall, while the winds were not quite as strong as predicted in the New York City metro area. Fortunately, coastal flooding from this storm was minor, and didn’t come close to causing the damage that occurred during Sandy.

Here are some of the snow totals reported on Thursday by the National Weather Service (NWS).

  • Clintonville, Conn. — 13.5 inches
  • Jackson Township, N.J. — 12 inches
  • Hamden, Conn. — 12 inches
  • Southbridge, Mass. — 9.3 inches
  • Bayside, N.Y. — 7.9 inches
  • Ridgefield, N.J. — 7.5 inches
  • Jersey City, N.J. — 6 inches
  • Foxboro, Mass. — 6 inches
  • Central Park, N.Y. — 4.7 inches
  • Brooklyn, N.Y. — 4 inches
  • Hoboken, N.J. — 3 inches
  • Atlantic City, N.J. — 2.5 inches

Several locations set maximum daily snowfall records, including Atlantic City, and New York’s Central Park, among other locations. In New York, the storm set the record for the earliest 4-inch snowstorm on record, beating Nov. 23, 1989.

Map of snowfall totals in the New York City metro area, including parts of New Jersey.
Credit: National Weather Service.

Also, until Wednesday, snow had never fallen on Nov. 7 in Islip, Long Island, which picked up 1.7 inches of snow.

Winds peaked in the 40-to-50 mph range across much of the New York City metro area, but in eastern Long Island, as well as Southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island, winds were much stronger. A buoy located in Buzzards Bay, Mass., recorded sustained winds of 61 mph, with a peak gust to 76 mph, which is just above hurricane force. A gust to 65 mph was also reported in Fairhaven, Mass., as the storm intensified and slowly edged closer to Cape Cod on Wednesday night.

The combination of heavy, wet snow and strong winds caused at least 375,000 homes in New York and New Jersey to lose power, and snarled travel by making roads hazardous and shutting down the Long Island Rail Road due to downed trees along the tracks. According to the New York Times, there are about 683,000 homes in the Tri-State area that remained in the dark as of Thursday morning, which is down from 5.3 million in the wake of Sandy.

Unlike Sandy, which was a hybrid storm at landfall, with tropical cyclone characteristics and the hallmarks of a sprawling nor'easter, this week's storm was a typical nor'easter of the sort that affect the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast each winter. It is unusual, though, to have a heavy snowfall in the region before Thanksgiving and this is the second year in a row that has happened. Last year, the "Snowtober" storm dumped upwards of 2 feet of snow in some areas, causing massive tree damage and widespread power outages, particularly in interior Connecticut.

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