Monday, January 19, 2015

Departing Storm Turned Into An East Coast Ice Disaster

A Pennsylvania DOT web cam caught this
pileup on an ice covered highway Sunday.  
Yesterday and last night's storm unexpectedly turned out to be one of the most disastrous of the winter as freezing rain froze roads over a wide area of the East and caused zillions of car crashes, some of them fatal.

Up and down the East Coast, the National Weather Service, and virtually all other weather forecasting outfits, had predicted ahead of the storm that roads would freeze over in freezing rain from Maryland to Maine.

They sure did, and they did more than anyone expected.

In hindsight, which is always 20/20, I'm thinking weather forecasters should have been more strident in warning about the icy roads that were coming. But many of the highways froze more extensively and much more suddenly than anyone could have predicted.

At least five people were killed and dozens injured in crashes and pileups across the Northeast on Sunday. 

Parts of major highways closed in the chaos from Pennsylvania to Vermont, and people who were not involved in actual crashes had to wait on closed highways for hours. A hockey game broke out on a stretch of Interstate 95 in Connecticut as traffic halted amid the ice.

On top of this, there's late word from WPTZ-TV as of 9 a.m. today that two people died this morning in a crash on an icy highway in Essex, Vermont.

I often rail against people driving too fast for the conditions and I'm sure that was a reason for some of the crashes across the Northeast. But the pavement froze so suddenly and in such a slippery fashion that I don't think many motorists could have prevented the crashes they were in.  
Dawn broke on a snowy scene in
St. Albans, Vermont this morning.  

As bad as this was, imagine if this hit during a weekday? The worst of the ice hit during what would normally be the morning commute. But this was a Sunday, so fewer people were on the road than say, a Tuesday.

The rain and freezing changed to snow as expected across Vermont, but snowfall totals were slightly less than expected.

It took a little longer than originally thought for rain to change to snow, but the National Weather Service had said that was a possibility as they were forecasting the storm early Sunday.

Still, much of Vermont received two to six inches of snow, with eight inches being the most reported in Barton.

For the record, I was forecasting 5.5 inches of new snow for my property in St. Albans, Vermont. I received 3.0 inches, but a band of snow approaching my area early this morning might boost that total slightly.

Light snow is continuing in parts of northern Vermont this morning, and before all is said and done, some of the ski areas will certainly be reporting more than eight inches of snow from this storm.

The weather will be calmer across the eastern United States this week. A small storm looping southeastward from Canada could give parts of the Mid-Atlantic region  one to four inches of snow Wednesday or Wednesday night. Stay tuned on that one.

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