How Much Snow Actually Fell?

It’s been one crazy year. Arguably 2011 has been the most wild year of southern New England weather in many, many years.

The October 29-30 snowstorm is the most memorable snowstorm of my lifetime for a whole host of reasons. It’s also one of the most anomalous storms I can think of in Connecticut. We get tornadoes, hurricanes, and ice storms every once in a while but the October snowstorm was absolutely unprecedented.

So the question remains – how much snow actually fell. The observation that came in from the official climate site in the greater Hartford area at Bradley was 20.3″. That’s too high. The National Weather Service has removed the observation pending further review.

It’s important to know the official way to measure snowfall to make sure we’re not comparing apples and oranges. Many people think total snowfall is just sticking a ruler in the snow at the end of the event and seeing what’s on the ground. That’s snow depth… not total snowfall.

The correct way is to measure on a white of light colored board (piece of plywood is fine) and away from any obstructions like trees or your house. After the first flakes fall you should measure and clear the snowboard every 6 hours and/or when the snow ends. In certain cases clearing a snowboard can result in higher totals when there is significant compaction (a fluffy snow) or significant melting (when temperatures are above freezing).

Unfortunately after this snowstorm we received very few snowfall reports as did the National Weather Service. The reason why? People didn’t have power! Here are some of the observations sent in to me or the National Weather Service that seem legitimate:

  • Hartland – 25.0″
  • Norfolk – 21.3″
  • Harwinton – 20.0″
  • Litchfield – 19.0″
  • Collinsville – 18.9″
  • Suffield – 17.0″
  • West Hartford – 13.0″
  • Tolland – 12.5″

Based on the neighboring snowfall reports I have a hard time in buying the 20.3″ measurement at BDL. Our observer in Collinsville is meticulous and accurate and I doubt Windsor Locks was able to accumulate more snow than Collinsville. In fact BDL likely saw 1″-3″ less than Collinsville did. My guess is that BDL picked up 15″-17″ of snow from this event if “correct” clearing protocols were followed. The maximum snow depth may have only been about 14″ from the storm.

Still, 17″ of snow would be a top 10 snowstorm for the greater Hartford area. The old October monthly record of 1.7″ has been shattered by an exceptional margin. In fact the earliest 6″ snowstorm prior to October 2011 in Hartford was November 11-12, 1987!!!!

4 thoughts on “How Much Snow Actually Fell?”

  1. Didn’t we have this same problem a few times last winter with questionable amounts of snow reported at Bradley? The Boxing Day storm comes to mind… and a few after that one.

    1. Yup, you’re right. The problem was fixed from January 2011 (it wasn’t the Boxing Day storm). NWS said they were looking into it but they haven’t gotten back to me yet. We’ll see.

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