Answers: 10 snowiest 'cities' aren't all in New York
By Chris Cappella, USATODAY.com
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
(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.
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 http://lwf.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/climate/online/ccd/snowfall.html.