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Posted 10/2/2003 9:01 AM Updated 10/3/2003 2:42 AM
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Answers: 10 snowiest 'cities' aren't all in New York
Q: Do we find all the 10 snowiest cities in the contiguous 48 states in New York? I am not referring to mountain areas.

A: No. But, if you exclude mountain areas — Blue Canyon and Mt. Shasta, Calif.; Lander, Wyo.; Flagstaff, Ariz.; Sexton Summit, Ore. — then three additional cities in New York make the National Climatic Data Center's list of top 10 snowiest places, for a total of ... four. The list of the 15 snowiest places (I hesitate to call them "cities" as a couple are merely reliable weather stations at Ranger stations, although the NCDC keeps them on its list) are below.

Your question points out a misconception about New York state winters. It may be snowy in spots, but there are snowier places. The misconception started in the winter of 1976-77 when Buffalo was hit with an impressive storm that flashed lightning and rolled thunder while dumping a relatively meager 12 inches of snow on the city. It wasn't the snow itself that made history, but rather winds that gusted nearly to hurricane force in the storm's wake.

A foot of snow is nothing for a city that routinely sees heavy amounts of lake-effect snow. But, this wasn't lake-effect snow. It was late January and Lake Erie was already frozen when wind gusts to 69 mph blasted across the giant snow-covered skating rink and blew a lake's worth of snow into western New York, including the city of Buffalo, effectively burying it. Arctic temperatures combined with the wind to make it feel like 60-degrees below zero. Thousands of people caught off guard at work and on their way home were stranded for as many as four days – until the howling wind abated. The city streets and highways were clogged with buried cars and trucks for a week.

Following what started as an innocent snowstorm and ended as a national and even international news story, a large East Coast newspaper incorrectly referred to Buffalo as the "snow capital" of the USA. Subsequent notable snow events, such as the record 38 inches of snow that fell there in 24 hours in December 1995 and the seven feet of snow that buried Buffalo over a five-day period beginning Christmas Eve 2001, have fueled this misconception.

(Related: Read more about Buffalo's infamous blizzard)

Buffalo averages 93.6 inches of snow a year and is the 11th snowiest U.S. place on the list, outside Alaska, when mountain locations are included. When the mountain locations along with Alaska are excluded, it jumps to sixth place, and two other New York cities sneak onto the list: Rochester and Binghamton.

To put New York's snowfall in perspective, however, you should take a look at a National Weather Service Web page that has a map showing the state's average annual snowfall. Elevation is everything with the Tug Hill Plateau between Watertown and Syracuse receiving more than 200 inches of snow a year. Details in the text on the same Web page read: "In Erie county, including the city of Buffalo, annual snowfall ranges from less than 80 inches to more than 160 inches over a 15-mile-wide area that is inhabited by nearly 500,000 people!" That's what makes New York unique when it comes to hefty snowfall.

Top snowiest U.S. cities

It should be noted that had Alaskan cities been included in this list, they would dominate much like you thought New York dominated. Valdez, Alaska — site of the world's most environmentally damaging oil spill in 1989 — tops the list of snowiest U.S. places with 326.0 inches a year.

The National Climatic Data Center has the complete list of official observing stations' average snowfalls on its Web site at