Storm Next Week Versus Deadly Storm of '62

No two storms are ever exactly alike, and the case with the storm on the East Coast in March 6-7, 2013, may be no different. However, there may be great similarities to other storms over the past and particularly one that occurred in 1962 on the same date.

The Ash Wednesday Storm, as it was called, caused everything from feet of snow to high winds and extensive coastal flooding.

The storm which formed on the 5th, stalled along the mid-Atlantic coast and blasted areas with heavy precipitation, gales and storm surge for days. Over 40 people were killed, over 1,000 others were injured and damage reached $200 million 1962 dollars.

Chief Meteorologist Elliot Abrams and the majority of meteorologists concur that the storm of 1962 and the storm next week bare great similarities on the historical weather maps and what is projected to occur.

The storm caused extensive damage to boardwalks and beaches and flooding in communities from North Carolina to Long Island with beach erosion as far north as Maine.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), during the Ash Wednesday Storm of 1962, part of Steel Pier at Atlantic City, N.J., was destroyed and NASA's Wallops Island facility sustained extensive damage. Chincoteague and Assateague islands were completely submerged. Winds reached 70 mph and offshore seas approached 40 feet. Two feet of snow fell from Charlottesville to Winchester, Va., with 18 inches of snow falling as far north as the middle of Pennsylvania. Snow fell as far south as Alabama.

This surface and upper atmosphere weather map from March 6, 1962 appears from the archives of the U.S. Department of Commerce. We apologize for the faded appearance.

The keys to the storm for next week in terms of impact are how strong it becomes, how far north it turns and how long it lingers along the mid-Atlantic coast.

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Odds are against a storm lingering for three or four days like the Ash Wednesday Storm, so damage and flooding are likely to be less severe.

However, next week's storm could slow down, as the storm gets very strong for a day or two.

Dollar-value damage has the potential to be worse than the 1962 storm, due to new development in coastal areas since then, inflation and the danger that shoreline fortifications have been damaged during Sandy.

"The storm in '62 hit at a time of high astronomical tides; There was a new moon on March 6, 1962," according to Elliot Abrams, "Fortunately, the storm next week will be occurring multiple days well away from the new and full moon."

Abrams is not dismissing the potential for significant coastal flooding, due to onshore flow for a couple of days, but suggesting that at least it would not be made worse by the phase of the moon.

The worst impact from water-level rise would occur around the high tide cycle that generally occurs two times per day.

The worst effects from the storm from surge, wind, rain and snow from the mid-Atlantic to southern New England would span Wednesday and Thursday, if the storm makes the northward jog and pauses, instead of heading quickly out to sea.

The storm next week is scheduled to occur about a week ahead of the 20th anniversary of the "Storm of the Century," otherwise known as the "Blizzard of '93."

That mid-March storm developed over the Gulf of Mexico and turned northeastward riding up the Appalachians and Atlantic Seaboard with great damage and coastal flooding, high winds and feet of snow and did so at most locations for a mere 24 hours.

While completely different storms in terms of track and/or origination, the storm next week has the potential to deliver very damaging, dangerous and disruptive consequences for a heavily populated part of the nation, just as the Ash Wednesday Storm of 1962 and the Blizzard of 1993.

The storm of 1962 and 1993 were meteorological monsters and the storm next week has the potential to be the same from an impact standpoint alone.