In a rare case in November, people in separate areas of the United States were fighting on Thursday both tropical storms and blizzard conditions.When Nicole made landfall over South Florida early Thursday as a Category 1 hurricane, the north-central United States turned into strong winds, bleaching conditions and snowfall up to 18 inches as the first winter storm of the 2022-23 season blew in the region.
“There can be winds at 50 or 60 mph in some cases, leading to blizzard conditions throughout North Dakota, the northwestern part of Minnesota and even parts of southern Canada,” said John Porter, AccuWeather’s chief meteorologist.
Nicole left more than 300,000 homes and businesses without electricity and caused the dangerous storms and flooding conditions that threatened Florida’s east coast on Thursday. The National Hurricane Center downgraded Nicole’s classification to a tropical storm after it made landfall.
The Weak Storm Was Still Expected To Bring Major Flooding On Thursday And Friday To The Southern Appalachian Mountains Across The Northeastern United States To North Carolina, West Virginia, West Virginia, Eastern Ohio And Western Pennsylvania, According To AccuWeather.
Hurricanes occurred at the same time as winter storms, but not often, experts said.
“(It happens) the end of hurricane season in October and November interferes with a common time of winter storms early in the season, particularly in the western United States, plains, the Upper Midwest, Great Lakes, and the Inlandeast,” said Alex Lammers, a warning meteorologist at the National Oceanic Administration’s Weather Prediction Center.
However, the three most active months of hurricanes — August, September and October — are usually too early that there is no significant snowfall in most parts of the United States, according to Porter.
“That’s why you see this disconnect in why this event is rather unusual, that you have this important blizzard synchronized across the northern plains and a hurricane to landfall with serious effects all the way to the East Coast,” Porter said.
Here’s a look at the occasions when hurricanes and winter storms occurred at the same time:
Sandy, the 18th so-called storm in the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season, was an example of a hurricane that made landfall, moving inland and intersecting with cold air, turning heavy rain into heavy snow, Porter said.
“You had all the damage along the coast, especially in New Jersey and New York, and all the effects of increased storms,” Porter said. “Then, not far in the mountains of West Virginia, there was a blizzard raging with more than 40 inches of snow accumulating.
As Sandy Center approached the coast of New Jersey, the storm lost its tropical characteristics as it moved over cooler waters and began handling a cold air mass over the eastern United States, Lammers said.
“It’s extremely rare to see snow directly in conjunction with a tropical cyclone or hurricane that has just lost its tropical properties,” he said.
Hurricanes Zeta and Eta
Hurricane Zeta made landfall over Louisiana in late October 2020 before moving to the southeastern United States, Lammers said. Meanwhile, a major winter storm hit the southern plains.
“Rain freezes and ice buildup in Oklahoma have led to widespread power outages and significant damage,” Lammers said.
The following month as early as November 2020, heavy rains caused by Hurricane ETA affected Florida, Georgia and Carolina. During the same timeframe, several winter storms affected parts of the western United States and the Upper Midwest, according to Lammers.
1804 New England Hurricane
Before the hurricane began to be named, a similar intersection to winter and tropical weather occurred in October 1804, when a hurricane affecting New England crossed pathways with cold air, turning rain into several inches of snow over the area.
Windsor, Vermont, experienced 48 inches of snowfall, according to AccuWeather.
Porter said the event also happened with Jenny in 1963, another hurricane in October that affected New England.
“We ended up with the cold air rushing behind the storm, and there was snow south to parts of northern Massachusetts,” Porter said. “The snow ended up accumulating two feet at the highest altitudes north of Maine.
Experts: Simultaneous unrelated hurricanes, blizzards uncommon
AccuWeather experts said there weren’t many examples of situations like those happening with Nicole and the first blizzard of the season, as no two storms are related to each other.
“It’s unusual for a big blizzard and a tornado to make landfall at the same time,” Porter said.
One such case concerns a night cyclone, which made landfall in Cuba in October. 18, 1996 Meanwhile, a rainstorm and heavy snow later dropped the Virginia Mountains.