Major Long Duration Nor'easter
Friday-Saturday January 3-4, 2003

Coming only eight days after the severe Christmas day, 2002 Nor'easter plastered the area with record amounts of snow ranging from 15"-25" on average, the atmosphere reloaded with another knockout winter punch.  A second powerful Nor'easter hammered the Northeast with just about the same amount of snow as the Christmas day storm. The snow storm total of 20.8" at Albany, only two tenths of an inch less than the Christmas storm, shattered records again.  Exactly 12" of snow fell on Friday, January 3rd, setting a new 24 hour snowfall record for the day, breaking the old record of 9.8" that was set in a large storm in 1996.  The 8.8" of snow that then fell on Saturday, January 4, also broke the twenty four hour record for that date of 7.3" set previously in 1942.  The storm total of 20.8" was good for the second all time heaviest January snow storm at Albany since records began in the mid 1800's and was also heavy enough to fall right behind the Christmas storm ranking it as the 10th heaviest of all time.  The two storms combined produced an incredible 41.8" of snow at Albany...which, shy 5.6", was the total amount of snow dumped on Albany in the entire 2001/2002 season!

Unlike the Christmas storm, this storm progressed over a much longer period of time, lasting approximately thirty five hours.   The first flakes of snow, somewhat indirectly related to the main storm, began late at night on Thursday, December 2, amounting to flurries in the region.  Light accumulating snow began between 6:00am and 8:00am Friday morning as warmer, moist onshore flow moved inland over a dome of mid twenty degree air, rising, and creating the light snow.  Upper level low pressure, located over the Midwest during the morning of the 3rd, moved east into Pennsylvania by evening aiding in the production of a surface storm along the mid Atlantic coast.  The combined effects of the developing surface storm enhancing the onshore flow, and the lift in the atmosphere generated by the upper air low pressure system generated waves of moderate to at times heavy snow that progressed through the morning, afternoon, and night of the 3rd.  Snowfall rates climbed at times to as high as two inches per hour, but generally did not remain at that rate for more than an hour at a time in any one location.  The coastal storm tracked to southern New Jersey during the night, then south of New England to about Cape Cod by Saturday morning, January 4.  (This track was a bit south of the Christmas 2002 storm)  This storm's intensity remained considerably below that of the Christmas 2002 storm as well, and was moving much more slowly.  The slower motion of the surface storm and the path of the parent upper air low pressure system directly across New York and New England created a situation that supported a prolonged period of snow that fell at varying intensities through the storm's duration.  Snow in fact fell across a good portion of eastern New York and western New England well into Saturday evening.  Although, the bulk of the heavy accumulating snow had ended between 7:00 and 8:00 am on Saturday.   Only an additional 1"-3" of snow fell Saturday afternoon and evening.

As was observed in the Christmas day storm, several banding features developed with this Nor'easter.  The banding, however, was not as organized or as strong as was observed in the Christmas storm.  A semi stationary moderate to heavy snow band, however, did set up over especially Montgomery and Otsego counties, eventually affecting much of the Catskill region producing particularly heavy snow in those areas up to, and in a few cases, in excess of two feet. 

A strong blocking surface high pressure system over southeast Canada kept snow out of Hamilton, Warren, northern Washington, and Rutland counties through much of Friday the 3rd.  However, as the storm got going along the coast, moving closer, snow eventually arrived during the night of the 3rd. Much of the heavier north country snow, however, came with the storm's backlash on Saturday the 4th, as the system was pulling out. 

A period of mixed snow and sleet did occur across Ulster, Dutchess, and Litchfield counties, but was not sufficient to bring down snow accumulations significantly in those areas.

As the upper level mechanisms to produce snow with this storm were weaker than those observed in the Christmas day storm,   compensating mechanisms of a deep easterly flow around the storm center and the slower motion of the system took over to create snow of equal magnitude to the Christmas event.  The snow making easterly flow, however, was blocked by the Green Mountains and Catskills in places as mountain shadowing was observed with lighter snow totals in eastern Washington county, southwest Bennington county, VT and across western Greene county and even in parts of Schoharie county.  WxNet 6 spotters in Cossayuna in southwest Washington county  reported 19" of snow, but in nearby Salem, shadowed by a mountain, only   9" of snow was reported.  Similar effects were noted in Bennington, VT,  as well as in Ashland, and Lexington in Greene county.  These lighter snowfall totals, however, were much more the exception than the rule but very common to see in storm's of this nature.  In storms, like the Christmas 2002 event, where there are other mechanisms in the atmosphere generating lift and hence the snow, mountain shadowing effects are mitigated. 

Wind never became an issue with this Nor'easter, as the system did not explosively intensify along the coast.  The coastal storm, was in fact, only moderately strong in the end.  Therefore, no strong air pressure gradients developed to create wind therefore, blowing and drifting snow was minimized.   Temperatures did remain steady in the mid to upper 20's through the event which lead to a rather light, dry, and fluffy snow.  Nevertheless, trees and power lines, still coated with a layer of ice from the New Year's night moderate ice storm, were easily coated with the snow. The additional weight on power lines and branches brought some down leading to numerous power outages throughout the region which lasted up to two days after the snowstorm had ended. 

The graphic below illustrates the snowfall distribution from this storm as reported by the exclusive WRGB WeatherNet 6 weather watcher network.   The table below the graphic list the specific town by town WxNet 6 snowfall reports and those reports collected by the National Weather Service Cooperative Observers.

WeatherNet 6 Town By Town Snowfall Totals For the January 3-4 Major Nor'easter

Town Name

County

Snowfall Report

Town Name

County

Snowfall Report

Dalton, MA Berkshire 13.9" Clarksburg, MA Berkshire

16"

Adams, MA Berkshire 24" Pittsfield, MA Berkshire 14"
Alford, MA Berkshire 17" Lanesborough, MA Berkshire 12"
Albany Albany 20.8* Colonie Albany 17"
Knox Albany 24" Watervliet Albany 17.5"
Menands Albany 20.5" Selkirk Albany 25"
Cohoes Albany 19" Medusa Albany 15"
South Westerlo Albany 17" Germantown Columbia 17"
Hudson Columbia 16" Chatham Center Columbia 15"
Ghent Columbia 16.5 Ghent Columbia 16.5"
Boston Corners Columbia 14.5" Kinderhook Columbia 15"
Ancramdale Columbia 10.75" Taghkanic Columbia 14.7"
Stuyvesant Columbia 16" Claverack Columbia 17"
Dover Plains Dutchess 12.7" Rhinebeck Dutchess 16.5"
LaGrange Dutchess 11" Wingdale Dutchess 12.3"
Caroga Lake Fulton 16.5" Northville Fulton 15"
Mayfield Fulton 22.5" Johnstown Fulton 20"
Ashland Greene 9.5" Halcott Greene 8"
Athens Greene 20" Greenville Greene 18"
Jewett Greene 18" Cairo Greene 18"
Lexington Greene 9" Coxsackie Greene 16.5"
Catskill Greene 24" Indian Lake Hamilton 20"
Speculator Hamilton 14" Wells Hamilton 12"
St. Johnsville Montgomery 20" Sprout Brook Montgomery 18.5"
Ames Montgomery 19" Amsterdam Montgomery 20.5"
Canajoharie Montgomery 19" Glen Montgomery 24"
Palatine Bridge Montgomery 23.5" Rural Grove Montgomery 18"
Fonda Montgomery 21" East Stone Arabia Montgomery 25"
Worcester Otsego 14" Schenevus Otsego 21"
Cherry Valley Otsego 28" Center Brunswick Rensselaer 20.4"
Stephentown Rensselaer 18" Troy Rensselaer 20"
Nassau Rensselaer 16" Hoosick Falls Rensselaer 12.75"
Melrose Rensselaer 17.5" Speigletown Rensselaer 15.5"
Clifton Park Saratoga 19" Galway Saratoga 16"
Jonesville Saratoga 17.5" Saratoga Springs Saratoga 14"-19"
Edinburg Saratoga 14" Corinth Saratoga 14"
Gansevoort Saratoga 16" Malta Saratoga 22"
Providence Saratoga 18" Milton Saratoga 15.1"
Greenfield Center Saratoga 16" Charlton Saratoga 18"
Hadley Saratoga 15" Schenectady Schenectady 14.5"
Duanesburg Schenectady 15" Delanson Schenectady 16.2"
Scotia Schenectady 16" West Conesville Schoharie 18"
Summit Schoharie 14" Fulton Schoharie 20"
Jefferson Schoharie 13" Cobleskill Schoharie 16.5"
Esperance Schoharie 15" Howes Cave Schoharie 21.5"
Sloansville Schoharie 18" Woodstock Ulster 15"
Kerhonkson Ulster 13" West Shokan Ulster 14.8"
Marbletown Ulster 18.75" Phoenicia Ulster 11"
Kingston Ulster 16" Glens Falls Warren 13"
Bolton Landing Warren 9" Lake Luzerne Warren 13"
Whitehall Washington 16" Granville Washington 14"
Salem Washington 8" Cossayuna Washington 19"
Hebron Washington 14" Fort Edward Washington 14"
Landgrove, VT Bennington 19.1" Woodford, VT Bennington 36"
Manchester, VT Bennington 14" Bennington, VT Bennington 14"
Danby, VT Rutland 11.5" West Rutland, VT Rutland 9"
Shrewsbury, VT Rutland 14" Pittsford, VT Rutland 12"
Sharon, CT Litchfield 14"