Monday, March 2, 2009


The cliché goes: “March comes in like a lion and leaves like a lamb.” I think every newspaper article and news broadcast mentioned that saying this morning in the New York area. Even mayor Michael Bloomberg said it. Today, the biggest winter storm in over a year has hit the North East. The media refers to the storm as a nor’easter, but I always wondered: What exactly is a nor’easter?

Well, I did some research and this is what I found. According to Stu Ostro, Senior Meteorologist on the Weather Channel’s website,, a nor’easter gets its name from the strong northeast winds that blow during them. According to Dr. Ostro:

“To be a nor’easter, the predominant wind direction during the height of the event should be from the northeast (or NNE or ENE), not the northwest or southeast. The term ‘nor’easter’ can be prone to overuse and lend itself to hype, so TWC does not routinely apply it to every non-tropical East Coast low pressure system with a northeast wind. However, the necessary wind velocity is subjective, unlike blizzards and hurricanes, for which formal criteria exist. The general rule settled on a few years ago is winds of at least gale force—39-54 mph—on the coast or just offshore. (When winds are more than just 15 or 20 mpg but less than gale force, we might still call the thing a nor’easter but label it ‘weak’ or just keep the tone low-key.)”

Today’s storm falls into the “weak” nor’easter category with winds topping at 35 mph, just below gale force.

This, thankfully (since I own a house and will be doing the shoveling), is not the biggest nor’easter snowstorm of my lifetime. That would be the Blizzard of ’78, which was a nor’easter by definition (and also a blizzard, but, of course, a blizzard is not always a nor’easter). The storm formed on February 5, 1978, snowfall occurred between the morning of February 6th and the evening of February 7th, with the storm finally breaking early on February 8. The storm brought record-breaking snowfall and near hurricane force winds from Long Island to Boston. Up to 55 inches fell in some areas. Interstates, schools, and businesses were closed for more than a week.

I was nearly six years old then and the main thing I remember is the huge snow bank in front of my house where my older brother and I built tunnels to crawl through. I missed no more than two days of Kindergarten while the public school kids missed a week. I went to Catholic school and the nuns were hardcore.

1 comment: