Malloy is no Meskill – How 2011 and 1973 Compare

It’s staggering to think that as of 8 p.m. Sunday 50% of the town of West Hartford is heading into their 9th straight night without power and in many cases without heat.

Putting this storm in historical perspective is relatively easy to do on one hand and a little more difficult on the other hand. In terms of October snowstorms this snowstorm was unprecedented. 12″-20″ of snow across a large portion of the hills and Farmington Valley is unheard of for October. Double digit snow totals in Hartford and places like Middletown and Wallingford is equally remarkable.

But how does the damage from this storm compare to other winter storms?  An unusual late or early season snowstorm can produce tree and power line damage (remember the April 1, 1997 storm?) when the snow can be so wet and heavy it clings to tree limbs and weighs them down.

For snowstorms I can’t think of anything in the last 100 years that came close to last weekend’s historic storm. What about ice storms though?The December 1973 ice storm may have come close to the October 2011 snowstorm for tree damage in many areas. The ’73 ice storm dropped an inch of freezing rain in many areas and was followed by 3 bitterly cold days.

Here’s a look at the December ’73 weather records at Windsor Locks

  • 12/16 – High 27, Low 24, 1.7″ snow
  • 12/17 – High 32, Low 16, 1″ snow, 1.19″ precipitation
  • 12/18 – High 24, Low 10
  • 12/19 – High 16, Low 3

With some people in the dark for a week in 1973 and such bitterly cold weather that followed the suffering after the great ice storm was worse than what we’ve just gone through.

It’s difficult to quantify the amount of tree damage from this storm and the amount of tree damage in ’73. The great ice storm was also widespread impacting the shoreline and the hills from New York to Rhode Island. It’s also hard to say how an ice storm 40 years ago would impact the today’s power infrastructure but I’m guessing the impact would be similar to the October snow storm.

As October snowstorms go this may have been the worst since colonial times. As winter storms go destruction like what we just saw is not a once in a 500 year event. Ice storms can and have been crippling with the potential to produce even more suffering when followed by bitter cold.

Governor Malloy has certainly been more visible than Governor Meskill was back in 1973. Instead of a weekend ski trip it’s been a seemingly endless 8 day trip to the Armory. This is one comparison between the two storms that is easy to make.

Note: Please post any pictures or memories you have from the 1973 ice storm. There’s very little literature about the great ice storm, unfortunately.

Odd Use of Social Media



Not everyday you see large companies take to social media to call out individual meteorologists.

The point here is that yes the actual accumulation forecast was off by a couple inches and yes the start time and changeover time was off by a couple hours but it was a damn good forecast. For 36 hours out I couldn’t be any prouder of a forecast.

By Friday morning we were mentioning widespread power outages and historic amounts of snow that would shatter all sorts of records. The message appears to still not be getting through. I don’t get it.

Off to night number 8 of dark and no heat….

Surprise Storm for CL&P?

At a press conference this morning CL&P President and COO Jeff Butler commented that this storm was “far more significant than what had been forecasted.”

Interesting. Obviously CL&P either has a private forecasting firm that is just plain bad or they were not listening to some of us degreed meteorologists on TV in the state that were forecasting a crippling snowstorm. Friday morning Bob Maxon and I were forecasting up to a foot of snow that was “record-shattering and historic”. 36 hours out it’s not everyday we use words like “record-shattering” and “historic”.

In addition we were playing up the “impact” more than the actual amounts. With leaves on the trees and the heavy, wet type of snow expected we knew power outages could be a huge deal. It happened in greater Albany in 1987 and was most certainly on our minds.

Here’s my blog post from Friday morning 10/28:
“One of the reasons I’m unusually concerned about this storm is that the amount of leaves on the trees make them particularly vulnerable to damage. If the snow is of the heavy and wet variety we could have major and widespread power outages. We’re in uncharted territory here in terms of this type of storm this early in the season.”

This is from Thursday 10/27 (a full 48 hours before first flakes):
“A major snowstorm is on the way and will likely be a historic and unprecedented early season snowstorm. All the parameters and models are showing significant snow totals across the state.

Obviously the time of year gives me pause. The biggest October storm in the greater Hartford area was only 1.7″ back in 1979. The biggest storm in the entire state was 9.5″ in the town of Norfolk on October 4, 1987. Still, records are made to be broken and I am quite confident that in many areas this will be the biggest October snowstorm in recorded history.

It’s possible, but at this point not likely, that the storm will trend west and bring more rain as opposed to snow. It’s something to watch. The big concern for this storm may be damage to trees and powerlines given the amount of trees that are still fully foliated!”

The NWS was banging the drum too on Friday. Here are two discussions from Friday morning and Friday afternoon from the NWS in Albany. Notice the use of the word catastrophic!

“WE ARE NOT GOING TO TAKE ANY CHANCES WITH THIS STORM. THERE COULD
BE A MAJOR SOCIETAL IMPACT ACROSS A LARGE PORTION OF THE FCST
AREA. LEAVES ARE ON THE TREES IN THE VALLEYS /ESPECIALLY FROM THE
CAPITAL DISTRICT SOUTH/…AND ACROSS SOME OF THE HILLS. 3 TO 6
INCHES OF HEAVY WET SNOW COULD BE VERY PERILOUS BRINGING DOWN
NUMEROUS LIMBS AND POWER LINES. WE HAVE TRIED TO EMPHASIZE THIS IN THE
WATCH STATEMENT ! POTENTIALLY…THERE COULD BE NUMEROUS POWER
OUTAGES. DESPITE NOT HITTING THE 7 INCH OR GREATER CRITERIA…WE
FEEL THIS WATCH IS NECESSARY DUE TO THE POTENTIAL SOCIETAL IMPACT.”

“POWERFUL WINTER LIKE STORM WILL DEVELOP ALONG THE MID ATLANTIC COAST
ON SATURDAY AND AFFECT THE REGION THROUGH SATURDAY NIGHT AS IT MOVES
QUICKLY NORTHEAST. MODELS ARE GENERALLY IN AGREEMENT THAT THIS WILL
BE A HISTORIC OCTOBER SNOWSTORM FOR MUCH OF THE REGION. THE HEAVY
WET SNOW WILL LIKELY PRODUCE MAJOR TO CATASTROPHIC DAMAGE TO TREES
AND POWER LINES IN THE AREAS WHERE WARNINGS HAVE BEEN ISSUED AND
EXTENSIVE FOLLIAGE REMAINS ON THE TREES.”

I understand the need to make excuses but this should not have been a surprise. For one of the most anomalous storms of our lifetimes this was exceptionally well predicted 36-48 hours out.

Exceptional Damage Following Historic Freak October Snow

The northwestern half of Connecticut will be picking up the pieces for days and even weeks following a spectacular and historic October snowstorm that has not just broken, but shattered, every long-standing weather record.

Even with temperatures at or above freezing (in fact in some areas the entire storm occurred at 34 degrees) snow had no problem accumulating in many areas. Snowfall totals exceeded expectations or wound up on the high end of my ranges in many towns because getting snow to accumulate at some marginal temperatures is just remarkable.

Instead of starting as rain in the greater Hartford area the storm began as snow around 2 p.m. With an inch of snow the power began to flash by 4 p.m. and by just before 5 p.m. we switched to generator power for the duration of the storm (in fact I’m writing this on generator power, 15 hours later).

Studio Lights Go Dark as Engineers Switch to Generator Power

Remarkable damage occurred after dark and in many areas the full extent of damage won’t be known until later today. What sounded like shotgun blasts through the night was trees snapping in half. The night sky lit up with flashes from both lightning and transformers exploding.

The first 6″ of the storm in most towns was a heavy, water-logged paste. The second (or third, in some cases) 6″ was more fluffy. Here’s a look at the front of our building around midnight. Take a look at the poor saplings in the background.

NBC Connecticut Around Midnight

It’s been a marathon here at the station no doubt. From the morning show on Saturday to coverage all day and night yesterday the NBC Connecticut gym turned into my personal bedroom for the night.

The Sailboat Blanket is Soft!

Here are 2 tweets that stand out this morning:

@CTLightandPower Unprecedented damage from this storm. Please prepare for worst case scenario – a week or more without power. Call 211 for shelter info.

@bobmaxon 25 years of weather forecast/coverage….I’ve never seen anything like this. On the heels of Irene, this is unreal

I’m ready for a drink. And a nap.