HAGERSTOWN, Md. – Last weekend’s blizzard was the fourth-most powerful snowstorm to hit the Northeast in at least 66 years, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Thursday.
The agency gave the storm a rating of 7.66 on the Northeast Snowfall Impact Scale, which ranks storms according to inches of snowfall, geographic reach and population affected. That bumps down to No. 5 the Presidents Day weekend storm of 2003, which had a score of 7.50.
The blizzard last Friday through Sunday affected 102.8 million people and covered about 434,000 square miles in 26 states, NOAA spokeswoman Maureen O’Leary said.
Almost 24 million people saw more than 20 inches of snow and 1.5 million got more than 30 inches, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Paul Kocin, who helped develop the scale. He called the storm a slightly smaller version of a January 1996 blizzard, No. 2 on the list, which covered a similar area.
“This storm ranks up there with the great blizzards of the past 100 years in terms of amount of snowfall, size of impacted areas and population affected,” Kocin said in a statement.
The scale doesn’t take into account other misery metrics, such as storm-related deaths, flight cancellations and power outages.
The scale encompasses data going back to 1950. It assigns each storm a numerical value and a category on a five-tier scale ranging from Category 1, “notable,” to Category 5, “extreme.” The recent storm’s numerical value puts it in Category 4, “crippling.”
A different NOAA scale, the Regional Snowfall Index, also classifies the weekend storm as a Category 4, “crippling” event, and ranks it as the sixth strongest snowstorm since 1900.
The storm dropped snow from Louisiana to Maine and across parts of the southern Midwest. It also caused major coastal flood damage in New Jersey.
At least 52 people in 11 states and the District of Columbia died in storm-related incidents including car accidents, carbon monoxide poisoning and heart attacks while shoveling snow.
The most powerful storm on the NESIS scale is still the so-called Storm of the Century, which dropped more than 30 inches of snow in spots along a swath from Mississippi to Maine in March 1993. That extreme late-winter blast, characterized by NOAA as a superstorm, scored 13.2 on the scale. It affected more than 100 million people and caused more than $2 billion in property damage in 22 states, according to NOAA’s website.
This weekend’s storm’s economic impact is still being calculated. Earlier this week, economists at Moody’s Analytics pegged the lost economic output to $2.5 billion to $3 billion. That estimate just represents lost income for hourly workers and skipped consumer spending. It doesn’t include damage to roads or other infrastructure.
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