What exactly is a blizzard?

What exactly is a blizzard?

I'm grinning from ear to ear this afternoon as I stare at our 7-day forecast. Why? Well, in what could be a busy, snowy—even icy weather pattern, we're settling into some of the quietest and calmest conditions in the country. Be sure to click on the weather tab on this page for the complete details. I said it this morning on the news- we're going to be the envy of our friends and neighbors to the East, with their blizzard conditions and snow drifts that will be measured in FEET, not inches.

As it now stands, the area from NYC Northeast to Boston could receive more than 2 feet of snow before this system wraps itself up Wednesday. Even for that area, it's a lot. And while it's up for debate on whether or not this will be a "historic" storm, the crippling domino effect of flights and travel will be felt for days. Here in Memphis, nearly all flights to and from the NYC area have been canceled. I'm expecting that to last the next few days as well. Blizzard conditions will ultimately ground all air travel, as planes just cannot fly when the winds kick up.

Which brings me to my little "weather lesson" of the day. What exactly does it mean when we say "blizzard conditions"? Obviously, we have a picture of what a blizzard looks like; white-out scenes, empty streets, trees swaying… But there is actually criteria for wind which officially makes a storm a "blizzard". Yes- I said wind. A snowstorm itself can dump 2 feet of snow on an area, but if there's no wind involved, well, that's just not technically a run of the mill snowstorm (although still a headache!)

In order to have a blizzard, you must have a prolonged period of time where the winds are at least 35 mph during a snowstorm. And let me tell you, the winds could be close to 50 or 60 mph over areas of the Northeast tomorrow! That's definitely tropical storm force, and getting close to hurricane-strength!

It will be tough going for nearly 50 million people over the next few days… if you have friends or family there, especially in more rural areas, you might want to check on them before electricity is inevitably lost. The good news is that they should see plenty of sunshine by the weekend. For us? Let's enjoy the near 60 degree weather this week!

Andrew Kozak