Nor’Easter With a Temper: Remembering the Blizzard of 1996

I’m looking out my window, seeing the melting aftermath of last week’s winter storm/Bomb Cyclone. His name? Grayson. His temper? Fierce and impactful. All told, snowfall totals were between fifteen and seventeen hard-hitting and widespread inches. But, Grayson had nothing on the Blizzard of 1996.

January 1996

January 1996 marked the halfway point of the school year. I was in seventh grade, and January meant preparing for midterm exams – the first time my classmates and I would be taking them. January would be review time for the exams.

School ended that week, and my parents took my brother and myself out for dinner (we did this every Friday), and to the video store for video game rentals. Your typical Friday night.

It Wasn’t Snowing When I Went To Bed…

January 6, 1996 was a normal Saturday for me. I got up early to go to my routine Saturday morning babysitting job, came home for lunch, and had a friend over. My parents groccery shopped for the post-Christmas family party we were hosting the next day. Until that point in my life (all thirteen years of it!), I hadn’t witnessed any huge snow storms in our area, so we weren’t worried about a little snow. It was already snowing in Washington, D.C. that evening, but we thought nothing of it.

I distinctly recall it not snowing when I went to bed that night, and this forecast isn’t exactly full of spoiler alerts…

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January 7th and 8th, 1996: The Blizzard of 1996

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You may remember him from Good Morning America, but for most of my life, Sam Champion was my local meteorologist. :-)

The next two days yielded heavy snow and wind. Now, a Nor’easter is common in this area (this recent storm was a Nor’easter, and we had a rain-type Nor’easter last January), but a snow event Nor’easter is a Nor’easter on steroids. I’ve always been fascinated by meteorologists saying that if a rain Nor’easter were to be a snowstorm, we’d wind up with a ridiculous amount of snow. I recall the year of Hurricane Sandy that if we’d had snow instead of rain, we would have had five feet of snow.

Can you imagine?!

The Weather Channel: (spoken with monotone) No. No I cannot. I’ll let my huge snowflake paint a picture for you.

I grew up in Southern New Jersey, in an area serviced by both the Philadelphia, PA and New York City media markets. When all was said and done, Philadelphia topped out at approximately 30.7 inches, with New York City topping out at between 20 and 30 inches (depending on where you lived). I grew up in Southern Ocean County, where we had two feet of snow (if you lived along the coast in the same county, you escaped with 10-14 inches).

The repercussions of the Blizzard of 1996 were bad for New Jersey. Roads (including the New Jersey Turnpike for the first time in history) closed, schools shut down for the entire week (including mine), and the snow stuck around for a bit. And from what I recall the roads were bad. When we’ve had snowstorms in the past (and even ones we’ve had in more recent years), life only shuts down for one day. This time, the impact was far-reaching and widespread.

I’ve never seen anything like it since.

All told, we missed five days of school, plus a sixth for the observance of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday.

“Extreme” Impact

The Northeast Snowfall Impact Scale rated the Blizzard of 1996 at “5,” or “Extreme.” The only other storm to receive this distinction is the March Superstorm of 1993. I didn’t recall this storm, but after looking it up, I found out we weren’t impacted by it. The storm resulted in 154 people killed, $1 billion in damage, and nine “disaster area” states.

Once my school reopened, the midterms were a week away, and were postponed due to the lost week.¬† I don’t recall much about that school year or week standing out, but I found out later on that the school stopped building snow days into the calendar, citing that “we didn’t use them.”

They never did build them in, at least, not while I was still going to school. We also never had a snowstorm quite like it between that time and high school graduation in 2001.

I’ll leave you with another highlight of WABC’s coverage of the storm…

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…as well as the Weather Channel’s Local Forecast for Philadelphia.

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Allison L. Venezio
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Allison L. Venezio

Secretary/Blogger-Writer at Allison's Written Words and Retroist
Allison is a Secretary by day, a writer/blogger by night (and during lunch breaks and in the mornings before work), a nostalgia geek (and a geek in general), worshipper of Thor (and Chris Hemsworth), and honorary Avenger (she has a pin, so it is official).She collects Itty Bittys and Funko Pops, loves anything that takes her back to childhood, and has confessed her love for Kenny Loggins.Oh, and she listens to Chicago...alot.If any of this piques your interest, she'd love for you to visit her personal blog, Allison's Written Words, where she talks about alot of the same stuff she talks about here, and more!

She can be found at allisonveneziowrites.com.You can follow her blog on Facebook (facebook.com/allisonswrittenwords) and on Twitter @AllisonGeeksOut.
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5 thoughts on “Nor’Easter With a Temper: Remembering the Blizzard of 1996

  1. Max Power says:

    I was going to Stevens Tech in Hoboken at the time. The snow was so bad that the city was closed to traffic for several days while public works used front-end loaders and dump trucks to take the piled snow to the river. The spring semester was delayed for at least a week for that.

  2. One of my cousins worked for Stevens Tech as an athletic trainer, I don’t remember if she still was in early ’96. I can’t believe they dumped in the Hudson River – the city of Philadelphia did the same thing after the same blizzard by dumping in the Delaware. Caused lots of flooding.

  3. Interesting. I don’t really remember this one, which makes sense because it was no where near us up north in Ottawa. Although I do recall around this time as the 15th of Jan was opening night at the new Palladium where we had Senators vs. Canadiens and I know we hadn’t had any new snow for a good week or so. But your experience reminds me a lot like our Ice Storm of 98 where things were completely shut down for a week (and more depending on how remote you lived). I don’t feel like those sorts of situations happen much anymore. Then again, I am not in school and work is never closed for weather so maybe I don’t notice.

  4. I have great memories of this blizzard. Everything shut down and you had to walk everywhere. Nothing was open where I was accept a Burger King that was about a 30 minute walk in the snow. One of my favorite Burger King meals.

  5. redgreen17, I remember seeing something about that ice storm on the news back then!

    Garry, lol of course you do! Your area got hit worse than mine. That Whopper must have been worth that walk!

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