The February 1983 storm was one in a series of low pressures that brought winter precipitation to
the northeastern United States that year. Overall the winter was unusually warm and stormy with most
of the storms that affected the mid-Atlantic bringing liquid precipitation due to above normal
temperatures. Snowfall amounts from the storm ranged from six inches along the Ohio River to nearly
20 inches in the mountains. Most of West Virginia saw an average of ten inches of snowfall. Due to
the aerial coverage of the ten inch snow contour, this was ranked the number one Nor'easter to
affect West Virginia. In the metro areas from Washington D.C. northward into southern New England
between 12 and 16 inches was recorded. The brunt of the snow fell on the 11th of February, although
lingering upslope snow persisted in the mountains on February 12th.
A 1040mb surface anticyclone moved slowly east across southern Ontario into southwestern Quebec
from February 10th to the 11th. Low pressure originated near the Texas Gulf coast on the evening of
February 9th and then moved east over the Gulf of Mexico on the 10th. The low continued up the coast
and intensified further when it reached the Carolina coast. Surface pressures never fell below
1012mb in the urban corridor of the northeast. The cyclone really deepened when it reached southern
New England on February 12th. With the high pressure?s slow propagation to the east, the surface low
pressure that moved up the eastern seaboard allowed for snow opposed to rain, which was uncommon
with weather systems during the winter of 1983.
At 850mb, an anticyclone drifted east across southern Ontario. This allowed a period of cold
advection over West Virginia under a northerly wind component during the days preceding the storm.
The 850mb low was an open wave when it reached the Texas / Louisiana border, then became a closed
low the morning of the 10th. The low tracked east along the Gulf coast states before heading
northeast up through Carolinas. Once the low reached eastern North Carolina on the morning of the
11th, it continued to deepen wrapping in cold air on the back side. This was one of the reasons for
heavy snow east of a line from Clarksburg to Charleston to Williamson. Temperatures at 850mb started
out between 0C and -5C, and as the low passed to the east, temperatures fell to -10C on the
The 500mb analysis depicted zonal flow across the United States with an embedded wave of low
pressure traversing Texas on the 10th. This weak wave intensified as two short-waves combined in the
southeastern states. The first one over the Gulf Coast states headed east, while the second moved
through the central plains embedded in the mid level jet. The mid level trough deepened across the
southeastern United States as the two waves became one. The circulation eventually became closed off
across eastern North Carolina the night of the 11th. It returned to an open wave when it passed
through New England.
A couple of things worked in tandem that brought warning criteria snow to the forecast area. The
first, West Virginia was 1.5 degrees latitude to the left of the 850mb low track. Second, moderate
to heavy snow typically occurs with lows that move northeast and lastly, the 850mb temperatures were
-5C and cooler.
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