22 Years ago: Remembering the March Superstorm of ’93

“The Superstorm of ’93”, also referred to as “The Storm of the Century”, is regarded as one of the most powerful mid-latitude cyclones in recorded history to affect the East Coast of North America.  On March 12-14, 1993 a high amplitude trough caused extreme bombogenesis to occur along the Gulf Coast. The deepening surface low pressure center intensified on a northeastward path up the U.S. East Coast causing damaging high winds, heavy snow, storm surge, and tornadoes.  NCDC attributed 208 deaths to this storm in the United States.

13 March 1993 18z Infrared Satellite Image

13 March 1993 18z Infrared Satellite Image

In Tallahassee, FL a 976.5 mb pressure was recorded as the surface low passed. An intense squall line caused several tornadoes and 80-100+ MPH wind gusts over the Gulf Coast and Florida.  The high winds from the deepening cyclone and squall line caused a 12 foot storm surge near Pine Island, FL.  A 109 MPH wind gust was reported in Dry Tortugas, FL.  NCDC reports 44 deaths are attributed to this storm just in the state of Florida.

12 March 1993 Storm Surge Map for Florida

12 March 1993 Storm Surge Map for Florida

6 inches of snow fell in parts of the Florida Panhandle.  17 inches of snow was reported in Birmingham, AL with 6 foot snow drifts!  56 inches of snow was reported on Mt. LeConte, TN and 43 inches in Syracuse, NY.  The NWS Office in Ashville, NC reported a 4.2 to 1 snow/water ratio and  NCDC reported 5.3 to 1 snow/water ratios nearby (normal snow/water ratio is 10 to 1).  This was very heavy wet snow, which caused many roof collapses across the region.

12-14 March 1993 Snowfall Totals

12-14 March 1993 Snowfall Totals

High winds slammed the length of the East Coast and Appalachians.  A 71 MPH wind gust was reported at LaGuardia Airport in NYC, and a 81 MPH wind gust was reported in Boston. Wind gusts of over 100 MPH were reported on many of the higher Appalachian summits.  A record low pressure of 960mb was recorded in White Plains, NY.  Surface pressure records were broken at many locations along the East Coast.

I still remember my Grandparents calling several days after the Superstorm had passed to tell us about their experience in Dandridge, TN.  They were without power for days and had to trudge roughly 100 yards through hip-deep snow, high winds, and white-out conditions to my uncle’s house next door to stay warm and have food and fresh water.  This was a very dangerous task for an elderly couple in a rural part of town in blizzard conditions.  Nearly 3 feet of snow had fallen over their area with much higher drifts.  30 inches of snow was reported only 30 miles away in Gatlinburg, TN.  They all huddled around a kerosene heater in my uncle’s living room as they waited out the storm.  Only 300 miles north in Moraine, OH my house received only a few inches form this historic event.

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