National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

February 1983

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 11th.

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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