I’m not sure if global warming has anything to do with the freak storm that has been dumping snow and sleet up and down the Northeast. But New Jersey has been having some strange weather. In a four-month span, the state has seen record-breaking heat, an earthquake and Hurricane Irene. Now, as of Saturday, October 29, we and New York have seen the snowiest day ever in October since records have been kept in the 1800′s. Around 11:30 am the snow started falling, with a foot piling up in some areas and almost five inches in my town.
People have been calling the storm a “Halloween blizzard,” with echoes of the 1991 storm in the Twin Cities. We lived in Minnesota from 1998 – 2000, and, when Halloween came and we stood in line to trick or treat the governor’s house, many mentioned that blizzard which left mounds of the white stuff in its wake. We haven’t gotten quite that much snow here in the pre-Halloween storm of 2011 but it’s been bad enough. Over a million people have lost power and utility companies are working round the clock. There’s been plenty of accidents as cars have spun out on slippery roads.
Most of all, trees, many bedecked with brightly colored leaves, have lost branches or simply come crashing down trunk and all under the weight of the snow. All afternoon and evening, we’ve heard cracks, thuds and a sound like firecrackers popping as tree branches have come down, one on a utility line a few feet from the end of my driveway. As Adrian Benepe, commissioner of New York City’s Department of Parks and Recreation, commented:
What made the storm particularly threatening, according to Mr. Benepe were the confluence of three factors, heavy snow, high wind gusts, and, “what is really abnormal is trees that are almost in full leaf.”
With more than 2.5 million trees occupying the 5,000 properties within the city parks departments’ jurisdiction, there had been roughly 800 calls logged into the city’s 311 system, by evening, about fallen trees or limbs from across the five boroughs, though about half came from Staten Island.
Benape said that people were advised to stay out of all parks which cannot be closed as their entrances do not allow for such. One women was hit by a falling tree branch in Central Park and treated for minor injuries.
Here’s what Zuccotti Park looked like, with protesters enduring the storm under tarps, tents and umbrellas.
Photo by jorenerene
On a late afternoon walk, my son and I had to sidestep police tape strung across part of our street where we saw power lines hanging limply and trees that looked as if one of Zeus’ thunderbolts had struck them.
Photo by the author
A “perfect storm” of factors led to this pre-Halloween storm:
A large and deep high pressure system sliced cold air into the region Friday and today, dropping temperatures into the 30s and 40s in advance of the storm.
Simultaneously, a storm system developed off the coast of North Carolina and strengthened rapidly as it moved up the Eastern Seaboard last night.
The intensity of the precipitation falling today actually allowed snow to fall, despite the fact that temperatures were above freezing in many places. In a phenomenon called “dynamic cooling,” heavy rain dragged down colder air from the upper atmosphere. That allowed precipitation to freeze and fall as snow.
Temperatures should be up in the 50s F (13-14 C) by Wednesday, so the snow will not be here to stay. As Sunday will still be in the 40s, some of the snow might still be around on Monday, making even the most walkable neighborhoods somewhat slushy. I guess Mother Nature thought she’d send a little early trickery our way.
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Photo by the author