Weekly wrap-up: Blizzard of 2016 ranks 4th among worst winter storms of past 100 years

Millions of Americans found themselves digging out this week after the Blizzard of 2016 slammed the mid-Atlantic and parts of the Northeast with several feet of snow.

NOAA announced on Thursday that the blizzard has been rated a Category 4 winter storm on NOAA's Northeast Snowfall Impact Scale (NESIS). NESIS ranks winter storms on a scale ranging from Category 1, "notable," to Category 5, "extreme."

"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," Paul Kocin, co-developer of NESIS and meteorologist of NOAA's National Weather Service, said. The storm covered about 434,000-square miles and impacted about 102.8 million people.

The Blizzard of 2016 ranks as the fourth worst winter storm to impact the Northeast, behind the Blizzard of 1993, which ranks first, and the Blizzard of 1996, which ranks second.

During the blizzard, heavy bands unleashed snow at rates of 1-3 inches per hour, causing extremely hazardous conditions, AccuWeather Meteorologist Brett Rathbun said.

At least 52 people died as a result of the snowstorm, according to the Associated Press.

Widespread snowfall totals of 1-3 feet were reported and in several instances road crews had trouble staying ahead of the snow. In Glengary, West Virginia, a staggering 42 inches was measured by a National Weather Service Spotter.

AWESOME: Skier speeds through snowy New York City streets

Washington, D.C., Baltimore and New York City received more than 2 feet of snow during the event. Philadelphia received just under 2 feet. All four major cities shattered daily records for the most snow on Jan. 23, according to Rathbun.

The storm brought travel disruptions across the region as government officials urged their constituents to remain in their homes while emergency crews tended to the roads. According to FlightStats, nearly 9,500 flights were canceled and another 29,444 flights were delayed last week. In Pennsylvania, the National Guard was called to assist with stranded motorists on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

From Friday, Jan. 22, through 7 a.m. Monday, Jan. 25, the Virginia State Police responded to 1,562 traffic crashes and another 2,502 disabled vehicles across the state.

While many areas were left to overcome feet of snow, coastal areas were lashed with powerful winds that helped to exacerbate flooding in shore communities.

"As the blizzard moved along the coast, strong easterly winds combined with high tide levels, resulting in major flooding along parts of the New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland coasts," AccuWeather Meteorologist Steve Travis said. "Beach erosion was also severe along the coasts."

Large chunks of ice could be seen floating down streets of several communities. Floodwaters in city of North Wildwood, New Jersey, reached a record height of 9.26 feet, which was 6 inches higher than during Superstorm Sandy, Mayor Patrick Rosenello told WCAU in Philadelphia. Several residents were forced to evacuate.

Sea Isle City, New Jersey, Mayor Len Desiderio told CBS Philly that this flooding event was worse than what occurred during Sandy due to the low temperatures and high winds.

For the first time in 140 years, the ban on sledding at Capitol Hill was lifted. As a result, hundreds of eager participants were able to enjoy some winter fun at one of the nation's landmarks.

Stormy conditions continued to bombard Florida through much of the week. An EF1 tornado caused two injuries when it swept through parts of Coconut Creek and Pompano Beach, Florida, on Wednesday.

Also on Wednesday, several cities in the state set rainfall records. West Palm Beach received 4.79 inches, breaking the record of 3.47 inches set in 1980. Daytona Beach was inundated with 2.37 inches surpassing the previous record of 1.72 from 1937.

Tornado flips cars in Coconut Creek, Florida

Three people died in two separate avalanche across the West on Sunday, Jan. 24. One skier perished in the backcountry near Mount Baker Ski Area in Washington, while two others died just outside of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in Wyoming. Since Jan. 16, 10 people have been killed by avalanches in six different states, the Colorado Avalanche Information Center said.

Across the globe, an unusual cold snap is being blamed for the deaths of more than 65 people in eastern Asia, the AP reports. The city of Guangzhou, located in southern China and known for a humid subtropical climate, received snow on Sunday for the first time since 1967, the AP said.

Several AccuWeather meteorologists and staff writers contributed content to this article.


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