High Wind/Heavy Snow Event
Wednesday-Thursday, March 5-6, 1997

The largest storm, meteorologically, to hit the Northeast during the winter of 1996/97 spread rain, very heavy wet snow , and high winds into the Northeast. The system developed over the Ohio valley during the afternoon and evening of Wednesday the 5th. A strong upper level disturbance working on a sharp temperature contrast zone over the eastern half of the country generated the surface low which began deepening over Kentucky midday Wednesday. The storm tracked to near Pittsburgh Wednesday night with a central pressure around 1008mb at 7pm. By 1am Thursday the center was between Elmira, NY and Binghamton with a pressure of 1004mb. The low then deepened rapidly between 1am and 7am with the pressure falling to 998mb at Boston. By 1pm Thursday, the system had raced to the western tip of Nova Scotia with a very low pressure of about 975mb. Finally, well out over the Canadian Maritimes at 7pm the storm's pressure was 966mb. The storm's pressure dropped 42 millibars in 24 hours, which is considered a moderate bomb.

The rapid drop in air pressure in the storm created a very tight pressure gradient over especially eastern New York and much of central and southern New England during the day Thursday which created a significant high wind event for the region. From roughly 7am to 2pm winds gusted frequently between 45 and 55mph in the Capital District and during the afternoon in New England to 60 and 75 mph. Extensive damage to trees, power lines and some buildings occurred as a result of the wind. High winds were responsible for the collapse of a hangar skeleton under construction at the Stratton Air base in Glenville, and the collapse of a concrete wall in downtown Albany. Trees and power lines were reported downed in every county throughout eastern New York with multiple reports of roof damage as well. The long duration of the high wind episode is responsible for the extensive amount of damage which occurred. The chart below contains a selected listing of the peak wind gusts.



Top Wind Gust

Duanesburg NY 62mph
Albany NY 56mph
Monticello NY 56mph
Schenectady NY 54mph
Pittsfield MA 52mph
Platte Cove NY 52mph
Stephentown NY 50mph
Caroga Lake NY 45mph
North Adams MA 43mph
Utica NY 43mph
Oxford CT 76mph
Worcester MA 72mph
Falmouth MA 61mph

The following is an hour by hour listing of the winds at Albany from 7am Thursday morning until 2pm, during the height of the winds.


Sustained Wind Speed & Direction


7:00am South Wind 8mph No Gust
7:13am West Wind 24mph Gusting 32mph
7:28am WNW Wind 26mph Gusting 32mphh
8:00am West Wind 38mph Gusting 47mph
8:38am   Peak Wind Gust, West 56mph
9:00am West Wind 33mph Gusting 48mph
9:17am West Wind 26mph Gusting 45mph
9:33am   Peak Wind Equaled, West 56mph
10:00am West Wind 36mph Gusting 47mph
11:00am West Wind 33mph Gusting 48mph
Noon West Wind 32mph Gusting 52mph
1:00pm West Wind 30mph Gusting 45mph
2:00pm West Wind 31mph Gusting 49mph

Wind was not the only major element to this storm system. Extremely heavy snow fell across northern New York and northern New England, and moderate rain fell across the central and southern parts of the region. Between a half inch and an inch of rain fell on average with .61" measured at Albany and .73" measured at WRGB in Niskayuna. As the storm deepened while moving through the northeast, the pressure falls induced a north, northeast wind which drained down cold air from Canada. That cold air supported the single heaviest snow fall of the season for much of northeastern New York and the mountains in Vermont. Most areas in that zone reported one to two feet of snow. The rain snow line was a sharp one running from Fulton county east through Saratoga, southern Washington county in New York through northern Bennington county in Vermont. The following chart is selection of some of the local snowfalls from this storm.




Indian Lake NY 9.0"
North Creek NY 9.0"
Piseco Lake NY 8.0"
Warrensburg NY 8.0"
Glens Falls NY 6.0"
Peru VT 5.0"
Hope NY 4.0"
Northville NY 3.5"
Saratoga Springs NY 2.0"
Dorset VT 1.3"
Albany NY Trace