Storm of the Century

Meteorologist Dr. Kevin Levey examines the Storm of the Century.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018 7:00:00 AM -05:00

Yesterday marks the start of what quickly became the most massive and disruptive middle-latitude cyclonic storm in the United States. No, I am not talking about today's Nor'easter, the third Nor'easter in 11 days to hit the US, but rather a storm that hit some 25 years ago! The superstorm of March 1993 is also known as the “Storm of the Century”. The storm is remembered for extreme high winds all along the East coast, extreme coastal flooding along the Florida west coast, incredibly low barometric pressures across the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic, its tremendous snowfall totals from Alabama through Maine and for the unseasonably cold air that followed behind the storm. To quote the National Weather Service: "In terms of human impact, the Superstorm of 1993 was more significant than most land-falling hurricanes or tornado outbreaks and ranks among the deadliest and most costly weather events of the 20th century."

Figure 1 below shows the development of the ferocious mid-latitude cyclonic storm of March 1993. A small wave in the western Gulf of Mexico intensi?ed into a deep open-wave (Mid-Latitude) cyclone over Florida. It moved northeastward and became strongest over Virginia where its central pressure dropped to 960mb (28.35”). As the storm continued on its northeastward movement, it gradually weakened and dissipated later on the 14 th March 1993.

Figure 1. Life cycle of the “Storm of the Century”. The number next to the storm is its central pressure in millibars. Arrows show direction of movement. Time is Eastern Standard Time. (courtesy: National Weather Service).

Figure 2 below shows the enhanced satellite image as the surface low was still rapidly deepening in the Gulf of Mexico at 2AM EST on March 13 th 1993. At this point, it was already affecting the entire East coast from Miami, Florida to Portland, Maine.

Figure 2. A color-enhanced infrared satellite image that shows a developing mid-latitude cyclone at 2 a.m. (EST) on March 13, 1993. The darkest shades represent clouds with the coldest and highest tops. The dark cloud band moving through Florida represents a line of severe thunderstorms. (Courtesy: NOAA).

Figure 3 below, shows the surface weather conditions 2 hours later at 4AM PST 13 th March.

Figure 3. Surface weather map for 4 AM (EST) on March 13, 1993. Lines on the map are isobars. A reading of 96 is 996 mb and a reading of 00 is 1000 mb. (To obtain the proper pressure in millibars, place a 9 before those readings between 80 and 96, and place a 10 before those readings of 00 or higher.) Green shaded areas are receiving precipitation. Heavy arrows represent surface winds. The orange arrow represents warm, humid air; the light blue arrow, cold, moist air; and the dark blue arrow, cold, arctic air. (Courtesy: NOAA).

Tables 1 and 2 below show some of the extreme records that were broken all over the eastern seaboard during the 12-14 th March 1993 “Storm of the Century”.

Table 1: Snowfall Totals recorded during the 12-14 th March 1993 “Storm of the Century”. (data courtesy: National Weather Service)

Table 2: Record Low temperatures (?F) recorded during the 12-14 th March 1993 “Storm of the Century”. (data courtesy: National Weather Service)

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