Taking a look back at some of Rochester’s biggest snowstorms

Weather Blog

ROCHESTER, NY (WROC) – For its size, Rochester, New York is one of the snowiest cities in the nation. We are no stranger to bitter winds, nose numbing cold, treacherous ice, and, of course, big snowfalls. Now… some winters are easier than others to handle, and over time many are forgotten, but *some* snowstorms, are simply unforgettable. 

We know that this winter will bring some variation of La Nina, a global phenomenon defined by below normal water temperatures in the central and eastern tropical pacific. This in turn has an impact on global weather patterns. Take a look at some of the snowfall totals for La Nina winters in Rochester. They are impressive, but have some variation. 

Knowing all of this, let’s look back on just a few of Rochester’s more memorable snowstorms that happened in La Nina winters. See if you can remember living through some of these furiously flaky times!

Number one on the list are the back to back March snowstorms of 1999. The first storm, deemed the Blizzard of ‘99 arrived on March 4th with snowfall rates of 2-3 inches an hour! 22.3 inches of snow fell in total. That caliber of snow paralyzed the region and triggered chaos on the roads. We hadn’t even finished the clean up process when the second storm arrived on March 6th dropping more than a foot and a half of snow in 24 hours! Snow drifts reached 4-6 feet in places. To this day those two, one day snowfalls rank among the top 3 in Rochester weather history. 

Do you remember the great Leap Day storm of 1984? If you do, do you know that it dragged on, and on… for 6 days?! The worst of the snow was on the last two days of the month. When all was said and done Rochester ended up with a whopping 32.7 inches of snowfall. The Rochester area was briefly in shut down mode with normal life not resuming until March 1st. We save the best for last. The king of all snowfalls in La Nina years, albeit a weak La Nina year, happened 25 years ago in January of 1996. With 23 inches of snowfall recorded in 24 hours it remains the largest single day snowfall in Rochester weather history. The bulk of the snow wasn’t actually from one organized system, but rather was the result of lake effect off lake Ontario!

To be clear, just like ice cream, La Nina comes in a variety of different flavors and styles. Some La Nina years have brought below normal snowfall, while other La Nina years, like the ones highlighted here, have over performed! A repeat performance of these highlighted events from past La Ninas is unlikely, but it does give you an idea of what winter is capable of in a La Nina year.

-Meteorologist Josh Nichols

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