Moderate to Heavy Nor'easter
The latest volley in what can be described as an all out siege on the Northeast by "Mother Nature" came in the form of the third intense storm of the month. This one, another coastal Nor'easter with the promise of another round of heavy snow, followed only three days after the December 11th snow melting soaking rain event.
This latest storm formed from a strong upper air disturbance in the powerful and active southern branch of the jet stream. The system moved across the southwest on the 12th to a position along the Texas, Louisiana border along the Gulf coast on the 13th. By the morning of the 14th the system moved to the Appalachians forcing a new surface storm to form immediately along the North Carolina coast. A powerful jet stream couplet as well as a conveyor belt of moisture came together to cause snow to break out over eastern New York and western New England early in the afternoon of the Sunday, December 14. Snow quickly became heavy, falling at rates of 1"-2" an hour through the afternoon. Now, different from the major Nor'easter of the 6th and 7th which moved east of New England, this storm rapidly intensified and tracked closer to the coast. The rapid strengthening and close coastal proximity allowed the system to spiral a warm layer of air into the region in the mid levels of the atmosphere. Surface temperatures remained in the 10s and low 20s through the storm, but the warm layer in the mid levels was sufficient to change the snow over to a prolonged period of sleet from the Capital Region on east and south in the region by the late afternoon and early evening. In fact, enough warm air came into the mid Hudson valley, to cause the sleet to changeover to a period of freezing rain. Bursts of heavy snow, however, continued to fall in the Mohawk Valley, as well as much of Schenectady and Saratoga counties on north in NY and from northern Bennington county on north in Vermont. The changeover to sleet reduced snow amounts from the Albany area on east and south. Had the precipitation remained all snow, totals in the Capital Region would have averaged 15"-20". As it was, snowfall in the Capital Region averaged 6"-15", with anywhere from 15"-20" reported from Syracuse eastward through the Adirondacks and throughout much of central and northern New England.
The system accelerated a tad on the 15th moving into the Gulf of Maine. As colder air returned to the mid levels of the atmosphere, sleet changed back over to snow before quickly ending. By mid morning all of the accumulating snow in the region had ended. Winds gusted to between 30 and 40 mph during the afternoon of Monday the 15th as the storm deepened creating blowing and drifting snow. Scattered flurries and snow showers redeveloped in the upslope areas east of the Hudson River, with no significant additional accumulation.
Snow accumulation distribution for the
December 14-15th, 2003 Nor'easter.
Storm Total Snowfall Observations for the December 14-15th, 2003 Nor'easter