|January 16 2022
Midwest to Northeast Snowstorm, Southeast Ice Storm: (1/14 - 1/17)
By: Tony Fracasso, WPC Meteorologist
A multi-faceted and long-lived storm system brought a variety of wintry precipitation types to a large area of the Lower 48 east of the Rockies in mid-January 2022. The system had its origins in Canada starting on Thursday January 13th as a fairly benign clipper system. By late that evening into Friday the 14th, an area of low pressure along the frontal boundary slipped southeastward into northeastern Montana and the Dakotas while an arctic front over the Great Lakes pushed southward, bringing in colder air to much of the East. Light to moderate snow fell across the northern Plains and Upper Midwest on Friday as a new area of low pressure developed to the south over Nebraska and Kansas, moving into Missouri by early Saturday, January 15th. Snowfall amounts on Friday ranged from 4-8" over central North Dakota, southwestern Minnesota, and across much of Iowa where over a foot of snow fell in the Des Moines area.
On Saturday, January 15, the upper trough associated with the developing frontal system closed off into an upper low over Kansas/Oklahoma, promoting strengthening of yet another surface low pressure center over Texas that became the dominant center thereafter. The arctic front to the east continued to surge southward into southern Georgia as cold Canadian high pressure moved across the Great Lakes and into southeastern Canada, supplying the East Coast with cold air on northeasterly winds ahead of the system. With high pressure extending back to the Corn Belt, northerly flow into the Lower Mississippi Valley allowed rain to change to snow over northwestern Arkansas, accumulating up to a foot in some locations in the Ozarks with an inch or two in other areas.
By Sunday, the surface low continued to deepen to around 998mb (29.47 inches of Mercury) through Alabama, with light snow on its northwest side and a cold rain over much of South Carolina with surface temperatures near or just above freezing. A wedge of cold air east of the Appalachians continued to maintain cold air into the Carolinas through the day, supporting freezing rain over interior Virginia northward to Maryland. Sleet and some snow fell over the upstate regions of North and South Carolina where some locations received more than six inches of snow. The surface low reorganized over eastern North Carolina Sunday afternoon and once again deepened as it moved toward the Washington, D.C. area by late in the evening. Snow began to break out to the north and northwest, from Ohio eastward through the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic as the low continued northward.
Early on Monday, January 17, an intense band of snow developed over western Pennsylvania and lifted northward into western New York. About 20 inches of snow fell over the Buffalo, NY area as this band lifted northward, accumulating over 4 inches per hour at one point. The surface low continued northward and then northeastward on Monday through central and eastern New York and into New England, bringing a changeover from snow to rain closer to the coast as warmer air was drawn in from the Atlantic. Before the changeover, 6 to 12 inches of snow fell over parts of the interior Mid-Atlantic with considerably less along the I-95 corridor to the coast. The system finally exited New England late Monday evening as a mature cyclone with a central pressure around 980mb (28.94 inches of Mercury).
The large geographical footprint of the storm system resulted in widespread impacts over several days. Over the Upper Midwest and Corn Belt, many traffic accidents were reported (especially over Iowa) due to the heavy snowfall. As the system strengthened over the Southeast, impacts became much more widespread. The heavy snow and icing caused several hundred thousand people to lose power during the storm, including about 100,000 people in both Georgia and South Carolina. To the south, areas of Florida saw severe weather including tornadoes which were also responsible for power outages. As the system progressed into the Carolinas, colder air was accompanied by flurries all the way into the Florida Panhandle.
Throughout North and South Carolina, the snow and ice resulted in many traffic accidents including two fatalities on I-95. The National Guard was activated and assisted in helping stranded motorists. Local roads and portions of major interstates were closed during the storm from the Southeast northward along the Appalachians. Several thousand flights were canceled due to the storm, many of which were either in or out of Charlotte or Atlanta. For upstate South Carolina, this was their heaviest snow since 2014 with just over six inches of snow reported in the Greenville-Spartanburg area. Farther north, the mixture of snow, sleet, and freezing rain along with strong winds resulted in power outages extending through parts of the Mid-Atlantic into the Northeast as the storm lifted northward. The New York City area saw wind gusts to near 60 mph with mostly rain while coastal flooding was observed over parts of Connecticut on Long Island Sound. Impacts to much of Northern New England were less severe than farther south even as this system brought about 6-12" of snow to the region.