National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce


The Winter of 2020-2021 across northern Ohio and northwestern Pennsylvania started out somewhat slowly with a quiet November across the region. A weak lake effect snow event targeted Northwest Pennsylvania on November 1, bringing light snow amounts to Crawford County and the Meadville area. November turned warm across the region with several climate stations recording a Top 10 warmest month with average monthly temperatures in the mid to upper 40s. After the Thanksgiving holiday, the weather began to change to a more active, colder pattern just in time for December. A low pressure system developed over the northern Gulf Coast on the evening of November 29 and moved northeast into the Ohio Valley on November 30. This system deepened considerably as it reached western New York on December 1 before departing into eastern Canada that evening. As the low tracked northeast towards Pennsylvania on November 30, rain overspread the area, transitioning to snow from west to east through the day. The transition took longer over portions of Northeast Ohio and Northwest Pennsylvania, including the Cleveland metropolitan area, where warmer air held on through the evening hours, preventing snow until late on the 30th. Once the transition from rain to snow occurred overnight, snow was persistent with half inch to one inch per hour rates of heavy, wet snow. By noon on December 1, snow accumulation totals were already ranging from 4 to 12 inches across North Central and Northeast Ohio. This first round of snow caused considerable issues for the morning commute on December 1 with numerous vehicle incidents and school closures across the region. The heavy snow load across the region caused numerous trees to become overwhelmed and fall during the snowstorm. This led to several power outages across the Cleveland metro area into Geauga County.  As the low departed to the northeast, the snow transitioned to an efficient lake-enhanced snow event which then focused on the traditional primary and secondary snow belt of Northeast Ohio and Northwest Pennsylvania. Additional new snow accumulations of 4 to 12 inches occurred during this phase of the event. In the end, widespread snow amounts of 8 to 24 inches fell across Northeast Ohio and Northwest Pennsylvania with the maximum in eastern Cuyahoga, southern Lake, northern Geauga, western Ashtabula counties in Ohio and southern Erie County in Pennsylvania. The highest snowfall measurement in Ohio was 26.3 inches by a trained snow spotter in Hambden Township in northern Geauga County. The highest snowfall measurement in Pennsylvania was 22.5 inches by a trained snow spotter near Corry in southeastern Erie County. The 9.5 inches of snow recorded at Cleveland Hopkins Airport on December 1 was the highest daily total for the official Cleveland climate station since 10.9 inches of snow was recorded on February 4, 2009. 


December continued to be active across northern Ohio and northwestern Pennsylvania as another two-part winter storm targeted the region for the Christmas holiday season. Low pressure developed over the southeastern United States on Christmas Eve and moved up the spine of the Appalachian Mountains through the day. Moderate to heavy snow entered northern Ohio late afternoon on Christmas Eve. By evening, snow became more organized across the area and snow bands, producing one to one and a half inch per hour snowfall rates, raked across the region, especially portions of Mid-Ohio. Snow was heavy enough at times to cause major issues on local interstate highways. Portions of Interstate 71 in Richland County and the Ohio Turnpike in Lorain County were closed during the nighttime hours on Christmas Eve. Snowfall amounts across the region were between 6 and 12 inches of snow with the first part of the event. The low quickly departed out of the region after midnight on Christmas morning, but very cold air infiltrated the region. This air mass, along with a wide open, warmer Lake Erie, allowed for lake effect snow to develop across the traditional primary and secondary snow belt region of Northeast Ohio and Northwest Pennsylvania. The initial snow was a more multi-banded setup during the day on Christmas, becoming more organized into a single dominant band across Lake Erie by the evening hours. This band set up along the lakeshore portions of Lake and Ashtabula counties in Ohio and Erie County in Pennsylvania and several hours of 2 to 3 inch per hour snowfall rates were observed with this lake effect snow band. Nearby Interstate 90 was heavily impacted by snow on Christmas night. Snow became more unorganized during the early morning hours of the 26th and conditions improved for most areas by daybreak. With the lake effect portion of the event, accumulations were mostly confined to the snow belt region. The lakeshore areas of Lake and Ashtabula counties in Ohio and Erie County, Pennsylvania received an additional 6 to 18 inches of snow. The primary snow belt counties had a more balanced distribution of 4 to 6 inches of snow, trailing to 2 to 4 inches into the secondary snow belt. The highest total snowfall measurement for the event in Ohio was 29.2 inches by a trained snow spotter and CoCoRaHS observer in the village of Madison in northeast Lake County. The highest total snowfall measurement for the event in Pennsylvania was 30.5 inches by a trained snow spotter in Lake City in northern Erie County.


With the change of the calendar year, winter took a bit of a break with some slightly warmer than normal temperatures and widespread rain to kick off 2021, followed by a dry spell for the first half of the month. A few area rivers went into flood stage after rounds of rain were combined with snow melt from the Christmas snowstorm. Eventually, winter returned to the region and a return of colder air allowed for the lake effect snow machine to get started again. A surface trough over the eastern Great Lakes region allowed for light lake effect snow showers to develop during the late afternoon on January 17th. As colder air aloft and better surface convergence developed over eastern Lake Erie, lake effect snow became more organized into a single band during the early morning hours of the 18th. This band pushed into Northwest Pennsylvania before dawn and snowfall rates increased to one inch per hour across Erie County. As the band became more organized, snowfall rates increased briefly to 2 inches per hour and visibility decreased to a quarter mile or less through the late morning and early afternoon hours. Snowfall became so intense that an accident involving a jack-knifed tractor trailer occurred on Interstate 90 in North East Township and closed the highway for several hours. No deaths or injuries were reported with this accident or at all during the snow event. By late afternoon on the 18th, snow began diminishing across the area and quickly ended by evening. The highest snow total for this event was 19 inches in Greenfield Township. To end the month of January, a low pressure system developed over the Oklahoma panhandle on January 29th and moved northeast towards the Ohio Valley for January 31st into February 1st. This system brought abundant moisture into the region and allowed for heavy, wet snow to enter Central and Northwest Ohio. However, snow ended up being fairly inefficient and most snowfall amounts were in the range of 4 to 7 inches with many of the impacts occurring on the 31st. The maximum two-day snow total was 9.5 inches at the Findlay Water Treatment CO-OP Site.


The middle of February featured another robust synoptic system, but this system brought significant impacts to Northwest and North Central Ohio. Low pressure developed over the northern Gulf of Mexico on the morning of February 15 and moved northeast into the Tennessee and Ohio River Valleys through the afternoon and evening hours. Well ahead of this low pressure system, a band of snow overspread the region with a weak front during the morning hours of the 15th, allowing for a quick inch or two of snow across the area. As the low crept closer to the region, deepening over the Ohio/Pennsylvania border and bringing ample Gulf moisture into the region, a broader area of precipitation moved through the area during the afternoon and evening hours. For much of Northwest and North Central Ohio, this precipitation fell in the form of snow with snowfall rates over one inch per hour and visibility of one half mile or less during the late afternoon and evening hours. Snow totals in this region ranged from 8 to 15 inches and many Level Three snow emergencies were issued for impassable or high impacts on area roadways. Meanwhile, over Northeast Ohio, a nose of warmer air just above the surface allowed for snow to melt and for the end precipitation type to be a mix of sleet and freezing rain with snow accumulations less than 2 inches in several locations. Impacts across this region were much less significant, especially with well-treated roadways ahead of the event. Behind the low pressure system, colder air surged into the region and lake effect snow developed over Lake Erie and entered Northeast Ohio on the 16th. By the late evening of the 16th, an additional 6 to 8 inches of snow fell in portions of the snow belt, adding to the wintry mix from the night before. For the entire event, the highest total snowfall measurement in Ohio was 15.5 inches by a trained snow spotter in the city of Bowling Green in central Wood County. Toledo Express Airport reported 14.5 inches of snow on February 15-16, which is the 4th highest two-day total for that site in its period of record since 1873 and allowed for February 2021 to be the 7th snowiest ever.


March across the region ended up being fairly warm and dry. Temperatures were in the Top 10 warmest all time for March at many climate stations and it was the least snowiest or Top 5 least snowiest March for many locations as well. However, winter did not entirely give up as some lake effect snow bands impacted the Cleveland and Akron areas on April 1st and prompted widespread motor vehicle accidents across the region with heavy snow squalls. Another cold snap moved through the region on April 20-21, bringing one final heavy round of snow to the region with 4 to 8 inches of snow in the Cleveland metro area and this late snow and freeze delayed some crops through the area, especially in Northwest Pennsylvania. In the end, the winter season ended up being a below normal season, even after several potent snowfall systems, as there were large breaks with little to no snow between events. This winter was somewhat significant for Northwest Ohio, as it was the snowiest winter since 2014-2015.


This is a map that depicts the snowfall across northern Ohio and Northwest Pennsylvania for the 2020-2021 Winter Season.


Summary of Snowfall at Climate Sites 

(Preliminary until Certified by NCEI)



2020-2021 October '20 November '20 December '20 January '21  February '21 March '21 April '21 May '21 Totals
Toledo (TOL) 0 1.3 4.6 6.4 22.7 0.0 5.2 0 40.2
Mansfield (MFD) 0 4.1 10.9 7.7 16.2 T 5.5 0 44.4
Cleveland (CLE) 0 0.8 23.3 6.5 12.6 T 8.7 0 51.9
Akron-Canton (CAK) T 0.7 20.1 9.9 13.8 T 2.6 T 47.1
Youngstown (YNG) 0 2.4 30.4 8.8 11.9 0.1 3.9 1.6 59.1
Erie, PA (ERI) 0 1.1 25.9 21.3 11.2 0.5 4.3 0 64.3