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Climate: 2003-4 Winter Season Recap

By Edward Moran
Published on June 5, 2004

Climate articles:

The winter of 2003 - 2004 featured the second straight snowy winter for Long Island with a few locations receiving just over 60 inches of snow. The map below shows the winter totals across Long Island and nearby areas.

Although snowfall totals were slightly lower than during the prior season, this winter produced the coldest temperatures in 10 years. The snow season got off to a quick start on December 5 - 6 with 15.5 inches of snow falling on Smithtown during a two-part nor'easter. Several towns just to the east measured snow totals between 18 and 20 inches, making the storm arguably the greatest snowfall so early in the season

The period from January 7 through February 1 featured the coldest stretch of the winter with numerous intrusions of very cold air, three of which dropped temperatures to near or below zero while keeping daytime temperatures no higher than the low to mid teens. Snowfall was also plentiful during this period. During the morning of January 15, 6 to 8 inches of snow fell along the north shore while air temperatures hovered just below 10 degrees.

The big storm during the period occurred on January 27 and 28 when a general covering of 10 to 15 inches of snow blanketed the north shore of Suffolk County. In Smithtown, 13.5 inches fell, 8 inches of which fell in just a 3 hour period. In Nassau County and in New York City, an extended period of light freezing rain and freezing drizzle that occurred for much of the afternoon into the early evening left an icy glaze on most surfaces before the precipitation turned into heavy snow. The precipitation did not arrive on the north shore of Suffolk County until very late in the evening, at which time it began as all snow.

With seasonal snowfall totals already nearing 50 inches across parts of the island by late January and indications that the cold stormy pattern would continue, the possibility of rivaling the incredible snow season of 1995-96 did not seem out of the question. However, February turned out be neither unusually cold, nor stormy. Most of the island received little more than an inch of snow for the month. A memorable storm on February 6 began as snow, but caused significant flooding from heavy rains and melting snow. Even so, patches of snow from the January storms survived into the first week of March.

Most of March was also rather mild except for the last 4 full days of Winter. From March 16 through 19 snow fell each day with the total for the period ranging from 6 to 12 inches across the island. The first day of Spring was exceptionally bright with full sunshine reflecting off of fresh snow cover, which melted for good within a day or two.

2003 - 2004 Winter Snowfall totals for Long Island
  Map of seasonal snowfall totals for Long Island and vicinity, Winter of 2003 - 2004