January 26th, 2016

Winter Storm – January 21—23, 2016

Posted at 4:08 PM ET

winter-storm-jan-21-23-16-smallFrom January 21-23, a significant winter storm affected areas of the United States from the Southeast to the Mid-Atlantic to New England. The winter storm, unofficially named “Jonas” by the Weather Channel, produced significant snowfall totals from Washington D.C. to the New York Metro area, breaking many daily snowfall records. Strong winds together with blowing snow often reduced visibility below a quarter mile. Strong onshore winds brought hurricane-force wind gusts to some areas and drove a storm surge impacting areas of Delaware and New Jersey.

The storm also produced freezing rain over areas of the Carolinas, Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia, with severe thunderstorms over the Southeast. Media reports indicate at least 46 fatalities as a result of the storm. The storm rendered severe disruption to transportation including road, rail, air and local transit. The storm developed and strengthened along the boundary separating arctic air from warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic.


Three day snowfall accumulation - 72 hours ending 7 a.m. EST, January 24. Source: NOAA/NOHRSC

Hazard data illustrated in the CAT-i map was taken from GC AdvantagePoint®, Guy Carpenter’s web-based risk management platform. GC AdvantagePoint users can view impacted areas on any map as well as see how their portfolios were affected. Please contact your broker or cat modeling analyst for further information.


Media reports indicate at least 46 fatalities associated with the storm, resulting from vehicle accidents, carbon monoxide poisoning and heart attacks while shoveling. Significant coastal flooding was reported in some areas of New Jersey resulting in flooded homes. At least 250,000 lost power during the storm. The storm also rendered severe transportation disruption to affected areas, including road, rail, air and local transit systems. Nearly 12,000 flights were cancelled over the weekend. Around 2,000 flights were cancelled or delayed Monday according to media reports. Some areas affected by the storm also suffered disruption to retail, restaurants and entertainment. It will take time to reliably assess the full economic and insurance impacts of this event.

Washington D.C.

At least one fatality was reported when a person collapsed while shoveling snow, according to media reports. Federal government offices were closed as of noon Friday and remained closed on Tuesday. The Washington D.C. mayor stated that city public schools would remain closed on Tuesday. The city suffered significant transportation disruption to road, rail and air, as well as local transit. Rail and bus services resumed limited service on Monday. Officials reported that all but one line on the Washington D.C. subway system would resume service Tuesday. Media reports indicate that the city has applied for federal disaster relief to aid in the cost of the snowstorm.

New York

Media reports indicate at least four fatalities in the state as a result of the storm. Emergency officials responded to over 400 auto accidents and towed over 200 vehicles by Sunday morning, according to the New York Police Department. A travel ban was issued to allow for snow removal and to preserve routes for emergency vehicles. The travel ban was lifted Sunday morning. After significant disruption, New York City subways, buses and Metro-North Railroad service were operating normally by Monday morning.  Partial service on the Long Island Rail Road was restored on three of its twelve branches according to media reports. The New York Stock Exchange opened as usual on Monday morning, as did New York City schools. Snow removal efforts are ongoing and have been challenging for areas of New York. Entertainment, restaurants and retail were all severely disrupted, including cancellation of a concert at Madison Square Garden.

New Jersey

At least three fatalities were reported by media in association with the storm. Coastal flooding was a significant concern due to storm surge, with moderate to major flooding affecting areas of Atlantic and Cape May Counties. Ocean City, Stone Harbor and Cape May experienced flood levels surpassing those of Sandy (2012) according to media reports. Road closures and some evacuations were necessary and many homes flooded on North Wildwood’s north side. Reports also indicate significant beach erosion as a result of storm surge and heavy surf. Power outages affected more than 90,000 customers during the storm, with most service restored by Sunday afternoon according to reports. 


Media reports indicated at least seven fatalities connected to the storm. A roof collapse was reported at a church in Downington, Pennsylvania. On Friday night, a collision resulted in over 500 automobiles, trucks and buses stranded on a 16-mile stretch of interstate 76 in Somerset and Bedford Counties. At least 400 people sought refuge in shelters and hotels until their vehicles were freed. Philadelphia area SEPTA transit service was suspended on Sunday, with some exceptions. Many schools remained closed on Monday, with ongoing closures or delayed openings on Tuesday in the Philadelphia area.


One fatality was reported as a result of a heart attack while shoveling snow. Coastal flooding was a concern along the Delaware coast, causing road closures and some evacuations in the Oak Orchard Community, according to media reports. Reports also indicate that the driving warning and state of emergency for Delaware were lifted as of Monday morning.


Media reports indicate at least two fatalities related to the storm. A church roof collapsed in Montgomery County, Maryland. A woman was reported trapped in her car for three days in Accokeek. Power outages affected as many as 10,000 customers, with restoration to most by Sunday. A travel ban was in place in the City of Baltimore and lifted early Sunday morning, although residents are still advised to avoid non-essential travel to aid snow-removal efforts. Schools remained closed on Tuesday according to media reports.


At least nine fatalities were associated with the storm, according to media reports. In Loudoun County, a home burned to the ground on an unplowed road, where firefighters had to stretch hoses over 800 feet to reach the home; all occupants survived the fire. State police responded to nearly 1,600 vehicle crashes and over 2,500 disabled vehicles. Government offices and schools remained closed on Monday.

North Carolina

Media reports indicate at least six fatalities associated with auto accidents during the storm. About 150,000 customers lost power during the storm, with restoration to most by Sunday according to reports. The scale of power outages was associated with freezing rain affecting the state.

Meteorological Summary and Observations

With arctic air in place across the eastern United States and a boundary with warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean, conditions were optimal to produce a significant winter storm. An upper-level disturbance interacting with this boundary enabled the development of a low pressure area which tracked across the southeastern United States before transferring to the North Carolina Outer Banks. The low then tracked along the coast before moving out into the Atlantic well offshore of Atlantic Canada.

On January 21, the storm left eight inches of snow near Little Rock, Arkansas and 0.3 inches of ice in Mozelle, Kentucky. Severe thunderstorms in the warm sector of the storm produced widespread hail and non-tornadic wind reports. One tornado was reported in Lamar Co., Mississippi, rendering significant damage to 10 to 12 homes, according to the U.S. Storm Prediction Center (SPC). The storm then produced record-setting daily and event-total snowfalls, together with significant icing for areas of Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia and the Carolinas. The storm also brought windy conditions over a large area, with wind gusts of 75 mph reported at Dewey Beach, Delaware and Langley AFB, Virginia. Windy conditions together with blowing snow caused significantly reduced visibility from Washington D.C. to the New York Metro area, often reduced below a quarter mile.

Historical snowfall amounts were observed, affecting high-population areas from Washington D.C. to the New York Metro area. The snowstorm produced an event total of 26.8 inches of snow in New York Central Park, the second- highest total for any storm since 1869 and barely missing the 26.9 inches set in February 2006. Calendar day snowfall records were broken at New York Central Park, La Guardia Airport and JFK Airport, as well as Newark, New Jersey; Allentown and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and Baltimore, Maryland. Event total snowfall records were set at New York LaGuardia and JFK Airports; Newark, New Jersey; Allentown and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and Baltimore, Maryland.

The excessive snowfall amounts were a result of the slow motion of the storm, aggressive upper-level storm dynamics and abundant moisture. Rotation and expansion of the active area of snowfall led to higher snowfall amounts than first expected. Banding structures within the active area of snowfall, together with strong winds also caused snowfall accumulations to vary significantly from region to region. Winter storm and blizzard watches were issued by the National Weather Service well in advance of the storm.

The storm brought persistent strong, onshore winds, leading to a notable storm surge as high as 4 to 5 feet for coastal Delaware, Delaware Bay and southern, coastal New Jersey. This storm surge, coupled with a full moon and astronomical high tide, brought record-setting tidal levels to coastal areas of Delaware and southern New Jersey. A record tide of 9.27 feet was recorded (relative to mean lower low water) at Lewes, Delaware, surpassing the previous record of 9.20 feet recorded in March, 1962. Record high tides were also reported in Cape May and Stone Harbor, New Jersey, surpassing the tidal levels of Sandy (2012). The surge heights and resulting impacts for points north of Atlantic City were of much lesser severity.

Selected unofficial wind, freezing rain and snow observations follow:

Selected Storm-Total Snowfall Estimates (unofficial)
Source: National Weather Service
Glengary, WV 42.0
Shepherdstown, WV 40.5
Shenandoah Junction, WV 35.5
Philmont, VA 39.0
Gainesboro, VA 38.0
Bluemont, VA 35.0
Dulles International, VA 28.3
Alexandria, VA 19.0
Reagan National Airport, VA 17.8
Richmond, VA 11.4
Redhouse, MD 38.0
Clear Spring, MD 37.0
Williamsport, MD 33.2
BWI Airport, MD 29.2
Baltimore, MD 16.0
Mechanicsburg, PA 36.9
Somerset, PA 35.5
Allentown, PA 31.9
Lehigh Valley International, PA 31.7
Harrisburg International, PA 28.6
Philadelphia International, PA 22.4
JFK Airport, NY 30.5
Hicksville, NY 29.6
La Guardia Airport, NY 27.9
New York Central Park, NY 26.8
Brooklyn, NY 27.0
Yonkers, NY 20.5
Islip, NY 25.9
Mine Hill, NJ 35.0
Morris Plains, NJ 33.0
Newark International, NJ 28.1
East Brunswick, NJ 24.0
Trenton, NJ 22.0
Mount Holly NWS Station, NJ 20.5
Atlantic City International, NJ 13.4
Woodside, DE 17.2
New Castle Co. Airport, DE 16.1
Dover, DE 14.2
Newark, DE 12.0
Washington D.C. Nat’l Zoo 22.4
Anacostia 19.0
Monroe, CT 21.0
Norwalk, CT 16.0
Bridgeport Airport, CT 12.0
West Harwich, MA 15.5
Nantucket, MA 11.5
Boston, MA 8.2
Old Fort, NC 16.0
Lawson, KY 19.4
Argyle, KY 19.0
Liberty, KY 19.0
Fairview, NC 12.0
Asheville, NC 8.0
Dillard, GA 7.5
Macedonia, GA 6.0
Clayton, GA 4.9
Oxford, MS 2.0
Clarksdale, MS 1.0
North Little Rock, AR 8.0
Austin, AR 7.0
Harvest, AL 3.5
Crossville, AL 2.5
Lafayette, TN 13.5
Jamestown, TN 11.0
Nashville, TN 7.1
Chesnee, SC 7.0
Landrum, SC 6.0
Block Island, RI 13.0
Providence, RI 7.0
Rockville, RI 10.0
Ironton, OH 9.5
Athens, OH 7.0


Selected Storm-Total Freezing Rain Estimates (unofficial)
Source: National Weather Service
Mozelle, KY 0.30
Corbin, KY 0.25
Bowling Green, KY 0.22
Carrboro, NC 0.25
Garner, NC 0.25
Snow Hill, NC 0.20
Fort Mill, SC 0.50
Jefferson, SC 0.25
Lancaster, SC 0.25
Clarksville, TN 0.23
Westmoreland, TN 0.15
Franklin, VA 0.10


Selected Peak Wind Gusts (unofficial)
Source: National Weather Service
Dewey Beach, DE 75
Siasconsett, MA 73
Nantucket, MA 69
Ocean City, MD 62
Ocean City, NJ 61
Atlantic City International, NJ 58
Langley AFB, VA 75


Sources: Reuters, Associated Press, The New York Times, The Weather Channel, U.S. National Weather Service, U.S. Storm Prediction Center, U.S. Weather Prediction Center.

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Guy Carpenter publishes CAT-i reports for major natural catastrophes worldwide. These reports cover catastrophes including worldwide tropical cyclones, earthquakes, major UK and European floods and any other natural event that is likely to incur a significant loss to the (re)insurance industry. Please email CAT.i@guycarp.com if you wish to be added to the free email distribution list.

Guy Carpenter compiles RISK-i reports for major technological or man-made events worldwide. These reports cover risks to property, transport and life including explosions, fires, crashes, engineering disasters and terrorist attacks that are likely to incur a significant loss to the (re)insurance industry. Please email RISK.i@guycarp.com if you wish to be added to the free email distribution list.

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