Super Hurricane Sandy Brought Snow in October to SWVA Cardinal News


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The day Superstorm Sandy landed 10 years ago – October 29, 2012 – plays second fiddle in Virginia’s time until the 29e day of another month of the same year.

That, of course, would be June 29, 2012, the day of the destructive and murderous derecho that descended on most of the state. Ironically, the part of the state least derecho-affected, the far southwest of the state, may claim Sandy’s most memorable impacts, and diametrically opposed to the sweltering heat of derecho day.

Nationally, however, Superstorm Sandy was the biggest weather story of 2012, affecting 24 states and causing damage estimated at $65 billion, with economic and political shock waves that lasted for many years, may – not yet fully resolved.

Like the 10e anniversary of Superstorm Sandy is remembered this week, he will be remembered as a monstrous pre-Halloween “Frankenstorm” that transformed from a powerful hurricane into a sprawling, swirling extratropical low pressure system, devastating the coast of New Jersey and causing inland impacts as far west as Lake Michigan.

Sandy wasn’t quite the Virginia storm, but it kicked up waves on the coast as it passed offshore in the latter stages of its hurricane phase and, once inland, crossed roaring, cold winds that knocked out power to a few. mile mostly in the mountains on the west side of the state.

Sandy’s main legacy in Virginia, however, was heavy wet snowfall concentrated in a few southwestern counties of the state west of Interstate 77, unprecedented amounts in the region for October, an extension of similar snowfall that hit much of West Virginia.

This map shows total snowfall after Super Hurricane Sandy. West Virginia had by far the widest distribution of heavy snow, but some isolated larger amounts also occurred in southwestern Virginia. Also note the light shades of light snow accumulation along Blue Ridge farther east. Source: National Weather Service.

Some of the highest elevations in Wise and Dickenson counties, near 3,000 feet, reported more than 2 feet of snowfall, with 6 to 12 inches not uncommon even up to around 1,600 feet before falling. to minor amounts below.

(Climate researcher Wayne Browning has an in-depth analysis of Sandy and its snowfall in southwestern Virginia on his High Knob Landform blog, linked here: q=Sandy)

Coming from northwesterly winds wrapping around Sandy’s circulation center to the north, the snow tended to dry out as it crossed Appalachia, as it often does.

Light accumulations made it as far east as the New River Valley — Blacksburg hit 0.6 inches, its first measurable October snowfall in 50 years — and the higher elevations of Blue Ridge. Showers flew on winds blowing up to 60 mph even in the Roanoke Valley.

There is no real official “superstorm” meteorological nickname, but the term has been applied by media and popular usage to a few storms with extraordinary intensity and unorthodox synoptic development.

The first ‘superstorm’ is what many Virginians call ‘the 1993 Blizzard’, a powerful low-pressure system that formed from the merging of energy in three different branches of the jet stream above from the Gulf of Mexico. The storm then moved up the east coast, causing coastal storm surge, tornadoes in its warm sector over Florida and more snowfall volume than any broad-swath US storm. east of the Mississippi River.

Sandy became a “superstorm” when a deep southward dive of the jet stream, or polar trough, captured what was once a Category 3 hurricane, pulling it west-northwest within the land as the circulation widened but maintained much of its intensity.

This movement caused an unusual perpendicular crash on the New Jersey coastline, as most hurricanes and northeasters pass just offshore, causing widespread damage from storm surges and winds sometimes blowing in excess of 80 mph. .

Sandy’s impact emphasized at the time the role of human-influenced climate change. The general scientific consensus on Sandy a decade later is that its primary causes were rooted in natural variation, but warmer oceans, higher sea levels, and possibly displaced atmospheric features related to climate change have rendered it more intense than it otherwise would have been.

Sandy wasn’t the first or last time a hurricane or hurricane remnants were sucked into a polar low. In fact, it happened only four weeks ago.

The remnant circulation from Hurricane Ian has integrated into an upper level trough, leading to the development of a northeasterly low that has built up strong waves along the coast in the Tidewater area, East Coast and the Chesapeake Bay.

The transfer between Ian as a tropical entity and Ian nor’easter’s son wasn’t particularly smooth, which was a great break for the Virginia interior.

Ian’s tropical rotation and rain shield quickly diminished and the barely perceptible center of circulation meandered over Old Dominion for a few days, bringing mostly drizzly weather and spotty showers. Only then did the trough absorb what was left of Ian’s rotation for a powerful offshore storm, but not damaging winds or flooding over inland areas.

A much smoother transition from a major hurricane to a powerful extratropical depression occurred 58 years before Sandy with Hurricane Hazel.

Hazel would probably have been dubbed a “superstorm” in modern parlance. In October 1954, Hazel made a destructive Category 3 swat at many of the beaches Virginians frequent today on either side of the North Carolina-South Carolina border, as she was already crossing from ‘a hurricane to a powerful extratropical depression, captured. by a polar trough much like Sandy.

The extratropical manifestation of Hazel carried hurricane-force wind gusts, at times exceeding 100 mph, across Virginia and much of the mid-Atlantic, northeast and southeast Canada.

Weather maps for the Appalachian Storm of November 1950 (left) and Superstorm Sandy of 2012 reveal clear similarities, with the Appalachian Storm positioned farther west in Ohio than the center of circulation from Sandy, Pennsylvania. Southwest and southern Virginia are circled. Source: National Weather Service.

Sandy’s pattern also resembles the Great Appalachian Storm, which dropped gargantuan amounts of snow across parts of the Ohio Valley and Appalachia (hence the name) over the Thanksgiving weekend of 1950.

In this case, a deep plunging trough with extremely cold arctic air captured a low-lying developing surface on the Carolina coast and pulled it northwest across Virginia, eventually stalling and turning at above Ohio.

In Virginia, heavy snowfall penetrated eastward to the Blue Ridge, with Roanoke reaching up to 8 inches on a very white Black Friday (long before it was called Black Friday). Almost everywhere west in Virginia had a foot or more. The snow cut sharply just to the east, however, as Lynchburg and Danville had only a trace of a few tenths of an inch.

As with Sandy 62 years later, the Appalachian storm of 1950 became so enveloped that cold air worked around its back in Virginia while warmer air was pulled around its east and north side in New -England and southeastern Canada.

We can be thankful there’s nothing quite like Sandy this year sending Halloween decorations into the air.

Humpback Bridge near Covington with some recent fall foliage. Roanoke reader Suzanne Vail recently made the trip to the covered bridge to enjoy the fall colors. Courtesy of Suzanne Vail.

Weekly weather statistics

So many places in the southwest and southern Virginia reached freezing point or lower in the past week, but one major climate station didn’t: Roanoke.

Roanoke fell to 34 on Friday and Saturday morning, and was 35 to 37 on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday morning. But no 32. No official gel.

Your part of or near Roanoke in the Roanoke Valley may have made the mark of freezing, but it didn’t at the official weather station at Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport.

And it doesn’t look like it will hit freezing point the rest of October, which means it will be the fourth year in a row that Roanoke hasn’t had its first fall frost until (at least) November. . It will be a record streak of fall frosts after October 1, dating back to 1912.

A colorful maple tree in Roanoke. Foliage is near its peak in the Roanoke Valley, along the Blue Ridge and in western Piedmont. Courtesy of Suzanne Vail.

Upcoming weather

What you really want to know is what he will be doing at trick-or-treating time on Halloween.

Monday evening is still five days away, so there is still room for manoeuvre.

That’s a good thing, because right now it looks like a cool, wet pattern that will definitely develop into Sunday and possibly extend into Monday as well.

The high to the northeast will wedge to the south against the mountains – now lacking arctic air so no freezing/frozen issues to be feared. But the humidity from the south will invade the cooler air mass, so showers with temperatures in the 40s and 50s seem to be in store Sunday through Monday.

If we’re lucky, Monday night will be on the back of it all for some improvement and not quite as wet. But just think about how to keep your little ghosts and goblins dry if it rains or rains.

Journalist Kevin Myatt has been writing about weather for 19 years. His weekly column is sponsored by Oakey’s, a locally owned family funeral home located throughout the Roanoke Valley.


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