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What is a Nor’easter and what states are affected by storms in that area?

The US is a vast country stretching across the American continent from sea to sea with some regions affected by violent types of storms like Nor’easters.

Nor'easters can pack a punch

The United States is a vast country with its mainland stretching from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic. The geographical diversity from coast to coast and the seasonal weather patterns provide ample opportunities for severe weather any time of year.

One of these types of storm that can be especially powerful are Nor’easters. “These storms may occur at any time of year but are most frequent and most violent between September and April,” states the National Weather Service.

What is a Nor’easter?

Nor’easters get their name from the strong and continuous northeasterly winds over costal areas. These storms typically develop within 100 miles, either east or west, of the East Coast in the latitudes between Georgia and New Jersey.

Two common features of Nor’easters are heavy precipitation and strong gale-force winds. The latter helps create dangerous rough seas and occasionally costal flooding in the affected areas. As well, the strong winds when combined with snowfall can create blizzard conditions. Tornados can also form as part of these powerful low-pressure systems.

They derive their power from the strong contrast between the warm moist air from the oceanic Gulf Stream colliding with the cold Artic air transported east by the polar jet stream. The temperature contrast is greater during the fall and winter, thus a greater chance of severe storms and more damage being caused.

It is also why they get stronger, unlike hurricanes, as they move ashore. The colder air inland squeezes the warmer moist air like a sponge resulting in heavy rain or snow.

What states are affected by Nor’easters?

Nor’easters generally make landfall from the Mid-Atlantic states up to the Atlantic Provinces of Canada. The heavily populated “I-95 Corridor,” the region between Washington DC, Philadelphia, New York City and Boston, is especially impacted by Nor’easters. However, the storms typically reach maximum intensity near New England and the Maritime Provinces of Canada.

Notorious past Nor’easters

Severe Nor’easters have resulted in billions of dollars in damage, disruption of transportation, disastrous coastal flooding and fatalities. Since records have been kept, there have been some especially powerful and destructive Nor’easters that have gone down in the history books.

The Great Blizzard of 1888 left 400 dead and dumped 40-50 inches of snow. The “Ash Wednesday” storm of March 1962 killed 40 people and damaged or destroyed nearly 4,000 structures from Florida to New England. The March 1993 “Storm of the Century” was ranked as a Category 5 winter storm affected the entire eastern US, causing 310 deaths and $6.65 billion in damage.

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