Superstorm Sandy Event Review

Synopsis and Highlights

Hurricane Sandy moved north off the Atlantic Coast and combined with a complex low pressure system and deepening trough over the eastern part of the U.S., and then turned west northwest and into New Jersey into Pennsylvania, slowing down and then drifting north. It produced an expansive area of high impact weather as it approached the coast and moved inland. Strong winds and heavy snowfall were the biggest impacts on southeastern West Virginia, northwestern North Carolina and extreme southwestern Virginia, lasting for 24-48 hours. One to two feet of snow with significant drifting was observed in the higher elevations, with a sharp reduction to little or no accumulation in the valleys. Winds gusted into the 50-60 mph range, with one gust to 70 mph at the Ashe County Airport in Jefferson, North Carolina. The heaviest snow was observed near Clayton, WV in Summers county West Virginia with 33 inches on the ground. The snow was generally of the heavy and wet variety being so early in the season, nevertheless with the strong winds there was considerable drifting of snow reported from the Appalachians of West Virginia down into northwest North Carolina.

The storm would have been memorable even if it had occurred in the middle of winter, however it's effects on the region in the month of October made this system historical. The most daily and monthly snow for October since 1959 was recorded at Bluefield, West Virginia.

Surface Loop of Sandy

Figure 1. Surface loop of Sandy.


500mb pattern loop

Figure 2. 500 mb map (~18kft aloft) showing the track of Sandy.


Figure 3. Snowfall totals from Sandy.


Below is the NAM (North American Model) forecast sounding for Lewisburg, WV. Click the image for larger size. Good lapse rates around 6C/km in the saturated snow growth regime (-14C to -18C) near 15,000 feet. Very deep moisture from the surface to above 20,000 feet. Strong winds squeezed underneath a low inversion around 3,000 feet off the ground. Wind gusts were forecasted around 60 mph. The combination of wrap around precipitation from Sandy and very favorable conditions for heavy upslope snow along the windward slopes north and west of Lewisburg, WV contributed to the higher totals.

NAM sounding forecast image for Lewisburg, WV


Below are some of the peak wind gusts in our area.


For another perspective on Sandy in terms of how it impacted the northern Virginia and Maryland area, see the review from the Baltimore/Washington office here.