Between the end of February and early March 2018, a series of massive storm systems called nor’easters brought strong winds, heavy snow, and tremendous coastal flooding to communities from the Mid-Atlantic to northern Maine. While these storms are not out of the ordinary, they happen every winter, their strength and close timing certainly have caught the headlines, reports climate.gov.
On March 2-3, a nor’easter moved along the east coast, rapidly strengthening as it crossed the warm waters of the Gulf Stream. As the storm did so, it gathered plenty of moisture, which it transformed into heavy snow like some sort of winter factory line.
As the storm strengthened, the winds began to howl. Winds gusted to 93 miles per hour (mph) in Barnstable, Massachusetts, closer to the center of the storm. But winds were strong hundreds of miles away. In Washington DC, winds gusted to 66 mph at the U.S. Capitol. In Kentucky, winds reached 48 mph in Lexington. In Ohio, winds gusted to nearly 50 mph in Cleveland. In South Carolina, wind gusts topped out at 55mph in Tryon. Over two million people lost power.
With winds this strong blowing onshore across much of the East Coast, coastal flooding was inevitable. But what made this event so spectacular was just how high waters got and how long coastal waters remained elevated in Massachusetts and Maine.
Water levels in Boston reached the third highest on record, a 1-in-100-year water height, which means that there is a 1% chance in any given year that waters level would reach that high. More remarkable, the number one and three spots in Boston’s record books are now occupied by water levels reached during two storms this winter.
Of course, this storm happened during winter so there was plenty of snow, too. Almost 40 inches of snow fell in upstate New York.
Not a week later, another nor’easter roared up the East Coast. However, instead of causing unbelievable coastal flooding, this storm was a snow-machine. Large swaths of New England and lower Hudson Valley in New York received up to two feet of snow along with the occasional flash of lightning.
So what about nor’easters? Are they getting stronger? Are the impacts from these storms getting worse? Check out the full article, recommended, for much more detail and answers to these questions.