National Climate Report - January 2016
January 2016 Blizzard

« National Climate Report - January 2016

January 2016 Blizzard

A slow moving, powerful winter storm pounded the Mid-Atlantic for consecutive days from January 22-24. Covering an area from Arkansas to Massachusetts, more than 100 million people were affected by the storm. The storm prompted governors from 11 states and the mayor of Washington, D.C. to declare a state of emergency. The storm paralyzed commuters as more than 13,000 flights were cancelled and travel bans were implemented in the cities of New York and Newark. Left behind in its wake were cities buried in snow, several of which broke long-standing all-time snowfall records.

All-time snowfall Records

LocationNew RecordOld RecordDate
Allentown, Pennsylvania31.9"25.9"Jan 7-9, 1996
Baltimore, Maryland29.2"26.8"Feb 16-18, 2003
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania30.2"24.2"Jan 7-9, 1996
JFK Airport, New York30.5"26.0"Feb 16-18, 2003
LaGaurdia Airport, New York27.9"25.4"Feb 11-12, 2006
Newark, New Jersey27.9"27.8"Jan 7-8, 1996


Based on the Regional Snowfall Index (RSI), the storm ranked at a Category 5, extreme, for both the Northeast. The storm ranked as a Category 4, crippling, for the Southeast. It ranked as a Category 3, major, for the Ohio Valley. Population, areal extent, and total snowfall are main components to the RSI calculation and can help determine the societal impact a storm may have. The storm dumped over 20 inches of snow on 21 million people in the Northeast and had a value of 20.138 placing it the fourth largest Northeast storm out of nearly 200 storms since 1900. The storm dumped over 10 inches on about 5.6 million people in the Southeast and had a value of 13.776, placing it 12th out of 153 storms since 1900. Based on a similar scale called The Northeast Snowfall Impact Scale (NESIS), the snowstorm had a score of 7.66, crippling. This was the fourth highest score since 1956. Only the storms of 1993, 1996, and 1960 rank higher.

 RSI Jan 22-24 2016

Comparison to 1996

Below is a comparison of the 1996 storm and the 2016 storm. One can draw their own similarities between the two storms, but the most obvious include: the areal extent of snowfall, snowfall totals and population affected. The maximum snowfall totals in both storms span from Virginia and West Virginia into southern Pennsylvania. Aside from Boston, the major metropolitan areas of Northeast had similar snowfall totals. The 1996 storm affected approximately 58 million people in the Northeast while the 2016 storm affected approximately 53 million. The difference of the total number of people affected was because of the 1996 storms' spatial extent. The 1996 storm covered about 70,000 more square miles across the region than the 2016 storm (1996: 162,000 square miles, 2016: 92,000 square miles). So while the 1996 storm encompassed a larger portion of the Northeast, the 2016 storm dumped as much, if not more snow, on the densly populated areas of the region. These large snowfall amounts in populated areas contributed to a high NESIS score.

1996 2016
1996 January snow storm 2016 January snow storm

Citing This Report

NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information, State of the Climate: National Climate Report for January 2016, published online February 2016, retrieved on September 19, 2019 from