Major Nor'easter (Heavy Snow)
Monday, March 31, 1997

This was the big one, in fact one of the larger nor'easters to strike the Northeast in some time and it came after a very mild Easter weekend with temperatures in the 60's on the 28th and mid 50's on Easter Sunday the 30th.

An area of strong jet stream energy carving out an active upper air low pressure trough Sunday afternoon generated a surface low pressure system over the Ohio river valley. This low was accompanied by rain over much of the Ohio valley region. The low and associated rain arrived in eastern New York and western New England late Sunday night and continued into Monday morning. The surface low jumped to the New Jersey coast early Monday morning and began rapidly deepening in classic nor'easter fashion. As the low intensified air began rising vertically around the storm at a very rapid rate which created quite a bit of cooling in the atmosphere, enough cooling to change the heavy rain over to snow by about 10:00 am in the Capital District. Snow continued at the rates of 1" to 2" per hour all day and well into the night. The low moved very slowly along the coast gaining strength though the day spilling back a continuous supply of moisture supporting the extended period of heavy snow.

Temperatures remained at or slightly above freezing for the duration of the storm which meant the water content of the snow was extremely high. The extreme weight of the wet snow made it very unfriendly to trees and power lines. Snow fall amounts of one, two, and in some cases three feet downed thousands of trees and power lines throughout the local region. At one point, an estimated 70,000 households were without power in the Capital Region. Gusty winds to 30mph, and in some higher elevation cases, of 50mph also aided in the widespread tree damage. Parts of New England were lashed by 50 to 70mph wind gusts at the height of the storm which produced widespread power outages in that region.

Snow amounts were outstanding in places. Albany measured 15.3", the greatest amount from a single storm since the March blizzard of '93. The 15.3" was also the tenth largest March snow storm and the precipitation from it ranked as the sixth wettest twenty four hour period in March at Albany. Of note was the amount of snow which fell at Boston, MA, 25.4", most of it on April 1. This was the largest April snow on record at Boston, the largest twenty four hour snow on record, and the third largest snow storm on record for any month of the year at Boston. Parts of the Catskills in New York were locally ground zero with the help of upslope flow along the eastern slopes squeezing out every ounce of snow. Parts of Greene, Schoharie, and Albany counties measured over 30" of the white stuff. The Berkshires in western Massachusetts and the higher elevations in southern Vermont were also pasted with up to two feet of snow. However, areas not to far north and west of Albany, through Montgomery, Fulton, and Warren counties on north, were on the northern fringe of the storm and were only coated with between one and five inches of snow. The following is a list of selected snowfalls from the region from this, the largest storm of the 1996/97 winter season.

County

Town

State

Snowfall

County

Town

State

Snowfall

Albany Berne NY 26.0" Columbia Copake NY 11.0"
Albany Albany NY 15.3" Dutchess Stormville NY 20.0"
Albany New Baltimore NY 8.0" Dutchess Rhinebeck NY 13.0"
Fulton Gloversville NY 2.0" Dutchess Poughkeepsie NY 5.0"
Greene East Jewett NY 37.0" Hamilton Indian Lake NY 6.0"
Greene Prattsville NY 29.0" Herkimer Little Falls NY 5.0"
Greene Cairo NY 13.0" Montgomery Tribes Hill NY 3.0"
Greene Athens NY 7.0" Rensselaer Stephentown NY 18.0"
Saratoga Clifton Park NY 15.0" Schenectady Niskayuna NY 13.0"
Saratoga Saratoga Springs NY 10.0" Schoharie Gilboa NY 28.0"
Saratoga Ballston Spa NY 7.0" Schoharie Schoharie NY 10.0"
Warren Warrensburgh NY 5.5" Schoharie Cobleskill NY 9.5"
Warren Glens Falls NY 4.0" Ulster Slide Mountain NY 23.0"
Washington Greenwhich NY 8.0" Ulster Saugerties NY 3.0"
Washington Hebron NY 6.0" Ulster Bearsville NY 1.9"
Bennington Peru VT 12.5" Berkshire Lenoxdale MA 20.0"
Bennington Sunderland VT 10.3" Berkshire Dalton MA 16.0"
Bennington Dorset VT 5.6" Berkshire North Adams MA 12.0"
Litchfield Norfolk CT 21.0" Litchfield Bakersville CT 19.0"