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Climate: The Blizzard of January 2005

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Blizzard conditions occurred over most of the region during the storm of January 22-23, although at many locations the conditions may not have met the criteria for official designation as a blizzard. The Blizzard designation requires that certain criteria for high winds (greater than 35 MPH) and low visibility (less than 1/4 mile) be met for 3 consecutive hours.

Snowfall totals over Long Island and nearby areas, January 22 - 23, 2005.  Click to see the entire mapHeavy snowfall had already occurred over Long Island Saturday afternoon and evening by the time a secondary coastal low began to intensify rapidly and dramatically increase the winds on Long Island. However, the pattern of snowfall became quite erratic with numerous lulls in the snowfall passing over Long Island as the temperatures dropped and the winds howled overnight. This kept most locations from meeting the 3-hour criteria, in spite of the blizzard conditions that occurred at times. Before daybreak on Sunday, heavy bands of snow on the backside of the low pivoted through causing blizzard conditions island wide. With temperatures in the teens, heavy snow falling and winds gusting over 50 miles per hour, visibilities did drop to near zero with occasional whiteouts and extensive drifting. During this time peak wind gusts near 65 MPH were measured on Long Island.

During the storm a coastal front formed and oscillated over Long Island for a time. Temperatures steadily rose from the lower or middle teens at the beginning of the storm to near freezing for a time Saturday evening. Over the south shore of Suffolk County temperatures rose to just above freezing for a few hours as heavy snow was falling Saturday evening, causing the snow to become quite wet and cling to trees and power lines. The weight of the snow combined with increasing winds caused numerous trees and power lines to be downed and resulted in scattered power outages. Overnight, as the developing coastal low rapidly intensified, the colder air which had retreated only a few miles to our north was quickly drawn back over the island and temperatures plummeted back into the teens, turning the snowfall back into the fine powder it had been earlier on Saturday.

Had the storm formed a little farther to the south, as was anticipated, we would have avoided the dry slotting around the storm and experienced more of the all out blizzard that occurred in eastern Massachusetts. Even so, between 12 and 20 inches of snow fell island-wide with the highest amounts falling over the eastern half of the island.

The following are some still images and a video from the north shore of Long Island during and after the storm. Click on the video icon to play the brief video showing conditions in Smithtown during the storm or click any of the still images to enlarge them.

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The first flakes of the storm swirl across the Sunken Meadow Parkway - January 22, 2005 Visibility reduced for drivers shortly after the onset of snowfall - January 22, 2005
View on the Nissequogue River from the bluffs, Kings Park, NY - January 22, 2005 Fishing in the snow, Nissequogue River - January 22, 2005
Suburban street in Smithtown, NY at the start of the blizzard of 2005 - January 22, 2005 Suburban street in Smithtown, NY at the start of the blizzard of 2005 - January 22, 2005
The snow became wetter for a while during the evening as temperatures flirted briefly with freezing before plummeting again later in the evening - January 22, 2005 Snowy Night - January 22, 2005
Snowy Morning - January 23, 2005 Snowfall in Smithtown, NY - January 23, 2005
Suburban street in Smithtown, NY following the blizzard of 2005 - January 23, 2005 Snow blown away from base of tree - January 23, 2005
Sunshine after the blizzard - January 23, 2005 Late afternoon following the blizzard.  Much of the cleanup had been completed - January 23, 2005
Clear skies at dusk following the blizzard.  The driveway has been cleared - January 23, 2005 Peaceful evening following the snowstorm, Smithtown, NY - January 23, 2005