Mother Nature has taken “white Christmas” to a whole other level in some years, stopping transportation in its tracks. This is a look at some more of the worst storms to hit the country during “the most wonderful time of the year.”
Northeast: Dec. 25-26, 2002
Unprecedented back-to-back snowstorms from late 2002 to early 2003 buried parts of the Northeast during the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. Both storms produced more than 20 inches of snow in many places, including Albany, New York. During the autumn and early winter, an active subtropical jet stream helped produce an active storm track up the Atlantic Seaboard, creating the stormy conditions.
The Christmas Day snowstorm was the biggest in the area since the “superstorm” of March 1993. Albany was hit with 21 inches of snowfall, with portions of western New England getting up to 16 inches. Considerable blowing and drifting snow produced whiteout conditions. The New York State Thruway (Interstate 90) was closed between the cities of Catskill and Syracuse — a stretch of 175 miles. Many people were stranded in the Albany International Airport (ICAO code: ALB) on Christmas night as flights were canceled.
Southern Texas: Dec. 24-25, 2004
The “Great Christmas Eve Snowstorm” of 2004 blanketed southeastern Texas. The band of heaviest snowfall — about 20 miles wide — stretched 100 miles from Victoria to Lake Jackson. Snowfall totals ranged from just 1 inch (in Pasadena) to a whopping 13 inches (in Brazoria).
Deep snowfall in Victoria, Texas, Christmas 2004. (Photo: William Luther/San Antonio Express News)
A blast of frigid arctic air, along with ample mixture, made the perfect environment for a snowstorm. The depth of cold air in the atmosphere over the region is typically much shallower than it was that Christmas Eve morning, making freezing rain or sleet more common than snow. The record-breaking storm resulted in the first white Christmas for some Texans, according to the National Weather Service.
Great Plains: Dec. 23-27, 2009
The “Christmas Blizzard of 2009” raged for 18 to 24 hours over parts of the nation’s heartland, from Iowa to south-central Nebraska and northern Kansas. Winds up to 60 mph created whiteout conditions.
Nearly 8 inches of snow was recorded on Christmas Day at the Central Nebraska Regional Airport (ICAO code: GRI) at Grand Island. This broke the previous Christmas Day record of 3 inches in 1941. Hastings, Nebraska, got more than 9 inches at the National Weather Service office, breaking the previous record from 1945.
Christmas Day 2009 snowstorm in Sioux City, Iowa. (Photo: Jim Lee/Sioux City Journal)
Sioux City, Iowa, also received a record 8 inches on Christmas Day, with a storm total of 20.7 inches. Winds knocked out power there to around 8,000 households and businesses and produced snow drifts of 15 feet.
East Coast: Dec. 26-27, 2010
People trying to catch flights the day after Christmas were out of luck. More than 7,000 flights were delayed or canceled at airports along the East Coast, and this storm was so strong and unstable it produced thundersnow, according to the History Channel, as well as gusts of 60 mph.
Rahway, New Jersey, got the most snow — 32 inches to be exact. The snow dragged New York City to a halt that year. Even former Mayor Michael Bloomberg acknowledged in a New York Times report that the 911 emergency systems had been “overwhelmed” and took blame for the poor response.