If we go strictly by snowfall totals; the Blizzard of 2015 beats out the Blizzard of 2013. Here are the official numbers from TF Green Airport (this was a very close call):
Blizzard of 2015: 19.1″
Blizzard of 2013: 18.0″
But listening to people discuss the storm on the streets of southern New England, most will tell you that the Blizzard of 2013 was a tougher storm to get through. They will point out 2 parts of the 2015 blizzard that made the aftermath easier to handle:
1) Drier, fluffy snow was easier to shovel
2) Drier, fluffier snow didn’t stick to trees and power lines leading to less power outages.
I decided to quantify the the difference in the snow consistency between the 2 blizzards. I did this by looking at the total liquid equivalent (how much water there would be if you melted all the snow) for the 2 storms. Notice that the Blizzard of 2013 had about 0.5 inches of liquid more than the Blizzard of 2015.
Total Liquid for Blizzard of 2015: 1.08″
Total Liquid for Blizzard of 2013: 1.63″
That doesn’t sound like a lot, but it can make a big difference in the snow consistency. To get an idea of how “wet” or “dry” the snow was between the 2 storms, we can calculate the average snow to liquid ratio:
2015 Snow-Liquid-Ratio = 19.1(snow)/1.08(liquid) = 17 to 1
2013 Snow-Liquid-Ratio = 18.0(snow)/1.63(liquid) = 11 to 1
This is actually quite a difference. A 10 to 1 ratio is used as a number for the “typical” New England snowstorm; the Blizzard of 2013 came in very close to that ratio. As we know, a typical New England snow is a pain to shovel once we get more than several inches. It’s also heavy enough to weigh down trees and power lines. Once we get into the range of a 15:1 or a 20:1 ratio (Blizzard of 2015), the snow becomes a lot lighter and fluffier.
THE WIND MAY HAVE ALSO MADE A DIFFERENCE
Both the Blizzard of 2013 and the Blizzard of 2015 were windy, but the difference between the 2 storms actually surprised me when I first looked it up. Here is a summary of the wind gusts at TF Green.
Blizzard of 2015: From 1AM to 9AM on January 27 (Tuesday), there was at least one gust over 40 mph every hour. The peak gust during this time was 48 mph.
Blizzard of 2013: From 7PM to midnight during the peak of the storm on February 8th, winds frequently gusted between 40 and 60 mph. The peak gust during the time was 63 mph.
It should be noted that parts of eastern Massachusetts were extremely windy during the Blizzard of 2015. Nantucket and parts of Cape Cod recorded winds gusts in the 70s (mph). But the TF Green data above demonstrates that the extreme winds made it further west into Rhode Island in 2013 than they did in 2015.
IT WAS LIKELY A COMBINATION OF DRIER SNOW AND RELATIVELY WEAKER WINDS THAT LED TO LESS POWER OUTAGES FOR THE BLIZZARD OF 2015
Forecasting exact snow consistency is tough, and the snow was certainly a little drier than I anticipated. That’s a good thing, because the last issue we need when we are clearing away the snow is for the power to go out! -Pete Mangione