Heavy snow blasts New York: Snowiest month in city's history

Heavy snow and high winds added up to a 'snowicane' in New York. After so many winter storms, one meteorologist says, 'I'm ready for spring.'

David Boe/AP
People shovel snow off a sidewalk in front of businesses as pedestrians make their way during a snowstorm in the Brooklyn Borough of New York, Friday, Feb. 26.

Late on Friday afternoon the sun finally came out over New York, illuminating the 21 inches of snow that fell on the city as a result of storm called a “monster” by meteorologists.

Around other snow-pelted areas around Big Slushy Apple, it was just as bad, if not worse. Harriman, N.Y., dug out from 32 inches of snow, West Milford, N.J., had 28 inches of snow, and Monroe, N.Y., had 31 inches. And, that’s before the drifts, which some people said were seven feet high. (Monitor feature "This week in Weather" here.)

Yes, the storm, dubbed a “snowicane” by AccuWeather, lived up to its advance billing as it slowly moved offshore.

“The radar did show it with a hurricane-type eye,” says Josh Nagelberg, a meteorologist for in State College, Pa. “It does have the signature of a tropical system, but obviously it is not.”

Winds gusted to hurricane level

Some of the wind gusts made it feel like a hurricane. New York’s LaGuardia Airport recorded a wind gust of 45 miles per hour with sustained winds of 33 miles per hour. And the minimum central pressure of the storm would have made it a Category 2 hurricane, says Mr. Nagelberg. The wind brought down trees and powerlines and left an estimated 1 million residents without electricity.

However, unlike a hurricane, the long-term effect on land may not be as bad.

The actual economic effect of the storm was expected to total into the hundreds of millions, if not more, counting airline shut downs, lost sales at the malls, the cost of overtime for road crews, and shuttered construction projects. But it could have been worse – from the economy’s standpoint, February is one of the slowest months.

“It’s not that big a month, but it still hurts,” says Scott Bernhardt, chief operation officer at Planalytics, a weather intelligence firm in Wayne, Pa. “In a booming economy, you would notice this a lot less.”

One of those who noticed it was Gem Limousine in Woodbridge, N.J. Betty Fontanez, a dispatcher, drove to work at 4 a.m. in her “good old Bronco” to man the phones. “The phones started going crazy at 5 in the morning,” she says as customers started canceling rides and drivers said they could not get out of their driveways.

“I don’t think we’re going to recoup this lost business,” she says. (Monitor report on the economic cost of snow storms here.)

Slogging to work through snow drifts

But some New Yorkers took the storm in stride. One of those was Travis Ferber, who works for a public relations firm in Manhattan. Mr. Ferber walked to work in the morning, jumping over snow banks for more than 36 blocks.

“I’m a country boy from the Midwest, so I’m used to this,” he says. “In the village where I grew up, we got three and four foot drifts that close off entire roads. I think there was only six inches of snow on the sidewalks this morning.”

By Friday evening, Nagelberg says, the storm was starting to weaken. He says it will actually split into two systems, with one of those hitting northern Maine and the Canadian Maritime provinces.

“They may get a foot of snow on Sunday night into Monday,” he forecasts.

The snow totals in New York City now make February the snowiest month in the city’s history, says Nagelberg.

Even the weather forecasters are getting tired of it.

“All these snowstorms make it feel like Groundhog Day every day,” says Bernhardt. “I make a living on the weather, and I’m tired of it. I’m ready for spring.”

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