The intense coastal storm is now clearing Atlantic Canada and steadily weakening. Blizzard and winter storm warnings have been discontinued, although winter weather advisories remain for select areas of New England. This storm lived up to expectations as an intense, impactful, and historic coastal storm, despite challenges on the forecast track and the especially sharp edge of the snow shield. Blizzard conditions with snowfall amounts of two to three feet affected a widespread area of New England and wind gusts exceeded hurricane force in some areas. The strong winds also produced a storm surge with greatest severity to coastal Massachusetts.
Impacts have been quite severe. There were at least two fatalities as a result of this event. Roof collapse may be a threat for older structures or flat roof buildings. Transportation disruption including air, road and rail was especially severe for many areas of New England, and also for the New York Metro area under storm preparation. Many power lines were taken down and caused power outages for affected areas. Closer to the coast, the storm surge and wave activity caused significant structural damage to a number of coastal properties, including foundation damage. While it is clear that transportation and business disruption will be notable contributors, it is too early to estimate the full scope and severity of this event.
Peak reported snowfall exceeding 12 inches by county (preliminary, unofficial). Source: U.S. Weather Service.
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Approximately 45,900 customers across the affected area were without power. The Long Island Railroad restored partial service to its electrified branches at 12 p.m. EST Tuesday. Boston’s public transit is now running and Amtrak trains to New York and Washington are operating on a limited schedule. Reports indicate at least two fatalities related to the storm in Long Island.
The storm was the heaviest snowstorm on record for Worcester, Massachusetts and the sixth heaviest for Boston with 34.5 inches and 24.6 inches of snowfall recorded respectively. The heaviest snowfall was recorded outside of Boston with 36 inches in Lunenburg, Massachusetts and 35 inches reported in Auburn, according to the National Weather Service (NWS). Power outages affected about 34,000 customers, including most of Nantucket Island.
At the coast, the storm surge and wave activity caused a seawall breach in Marshfield, Massachusetts causing damage to at least 11 homes according to local law enforcement. Several of the homes suffered structural and foundation damage, and are no longer habitable as a result. Local police urged people to evacuate the area before the next high tide, expected at 5 p.m. EST Tuesday.
Snow totals in New York City ranged between 9.8 inches in Central Park and 11.4 inches at La Guardia Airport. New York City lost an estimated USD200 million in economic activity with the storm and according to media reports the transit system closure would have a notable impact on small businesses and hourly workers.
Further east, parts of Long Island saw more than two feet of snow with wind gusts to 60 mph at Westhampton Airport. The heavy snowfall totals could have easily affected the New York Metro area with a slight shift in the storm track.
Providence, Rhode Island saw its fourth heaviest snowstorm on record with 19.1 inches of snowfall according to media reports.
Portland, Maine saw its fourth heaviest snowstorm on record with 23.8 inches according to media reports.
Meteorological Summary and Observations
Despite forecast challenges on the exact track of the storm, and a very steep decline in snowfall with distance, this storm met forecast expectations as an intense, impactful and dangerous event. Amounts of two to three feet of snow were observed over a widespread area, with wind gusts exceeding 50 mph, and even 75 mph in select locations.
The storm originated as a typical wintertime frontal system (clipper) moving from the U.S. Midwest to the Mid-Atlantic States. Once the system reached the Atlantic, the cold air of the system and the relatively warm waters of the Atlantic interacted to cause rapid development of a strong coastal low off of the Outer Banks. The coastal low then moved to the north, passing offshore of eastern Massachusetts, into the Gulf of Maine, and then into Atlantic Canada. The storm is now clearing Atlantic Canada, where up to 18 inches (45 centimeters) of snow are expected by the Meteorological Service of Canada (MSC).
The combination of cold air, abundant moisture from the Atlantic, and aggressive mechanics of the storm produced very strong winds and excessive snowfall for affected areas. The combined wind and snowfall caused greatly reduced visibility and blizzard conditions over many areas of New England.
The track of the low was further to the east than expected, leaving lower snowfall amounts to the west for areas warned of heavy snowfall in initial forecasts. A remarkable decline in snowfall was observed from 30 inches in Orient, New York to 24.8 inches at Islip Airport, to 9.8 inches in Central Park in New York City and just six inches at Newark Airport.
For the most severely affected areas, blizzard conditions were in place according to NWS estimates for 14 hours at Marshfield, Massachusetts, 11 hours at Nantucket, Massachusetts, and nine hours at Boston Logan Airport. Blizzard conditions were also in place for three hours at Beverly, Massachusetts, four hours for Newport, Rhode Island, and 5.1 hours for Westerly, Rhode Island.
Sources: Reuters, Associated Press, The Weather Channel, U.S. National Weather Service, Meteorological Service of Canada.
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