Remembering December 2020's Big Northeast Snowstorm

December 14, 2021 // Article by: Steve Copertino

Let's revisit December 2020 and one of the biggest snowstorms ever to impact the interior Northeast. And while it did produce a significant snowfall along the I-95 corridor, it was nothing compared to what happened a little over 100 miles to the northwest. 

An area of low pressure began to develop along the Mid-Atlantic coast on Wednesday, December 16th. This low then deepened as it tracked northward towards Long Island. At the same time, a large area of Arctic high pressure was "parked" over southeast Canada. This provided a supply of deep, cold air needed to sustain a long duration snow. Lots of moisture was lifted over this dome of cold air and this allowed snow to spread across eastern New York and western New England during the night of December 16th. Bands of heavy snow quickly developed and produced initial snowfall rates of 1-2" per hour. By early on the 17th, low pressure couldn't go any further north due to the big blocking high, so these heavy snow bands began to slow down and "pivot" northwestward. This resulted in snowfall rates up to 6" per hour across parts of northern New York, Vermont, and New Hampshire. Snowfall amounts in these areas reached 2-3 feet before the snow finally tapered off late on December 17th.


Snowfall map from December 16 - 17th, 2020. North-Central PA through Upstate NY, and into parts of VT and NH saw 30+ inches of snow in spots!

Albany recorded snowfall rates of 2-3" per hour between 2 - 8 AM on the 17th, just missing out on that "mega" snow band to the north. An Albany National Weather Service meteorologist measured an astounding 22" of snow in Schenectady between those same hours of 2 - 8 AM on the morning of the 17th. Elsewhere across the region, snow amounts of 1-2 feet were common until you got towards the southern Adirondacks where amounts dropped off due to being on the fringe of the storm. Officially, Albany International Airport measured 22.9" of snow. This was the 8th largest snowstorm on record and the 4th largest in December.

In Binghamton, NY, this was the biggest winter storm on record with a whopping 40 inches of snow.  And like parts of western New England, an intense band of snow stretched through this area and into northern Pennsylvania producing snowfall rates of 4 - 6 inches per hour.  This resulted in some locations receiving nearly 3 feet of snow in just 12 hours.  This led to lots of impassable roads across the region as plows just couldn't keep up with the heavy snowfall.  The highest amount of snow reported from the storm was near Newark Valley, NY where an incredible 44 inches piled up.

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