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Remembering the late October almost Halloween snow in 2011

Fresh October snow
Fresh October snow(Aubrey Urbanowicz)
Published: Oct. 28, 2021 at 8:11 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 28, 2021 at 9:46 PM EDT
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - On Friday October 28th, 2011 it was a day with rain. Cold air was expected to come in later in the evening and change that rain to a wet snow as the storm moved through the area and developed into a Nor’Easter. This storm was nicknamed the Snowtober storm.

I remember forecasting that storm with George Hirschmann. I had only been at WHSV a year at that point. We had timed everything out, went over it twice. What time the cold air was coming in, a transition with rain and snow, and when the snow would start accumulating. We had planned on a transition period in the early evening of a rain snow mix or snow just so wet it wouldn’t accumulate until late evening. Our forecast was for 1-3″ of snow. We had planned everything out, right?!

I was assigned to go get video that evening and I remember my heart sinking. Around 7pm on that Friday night, the rain turned to snow, and it was sticking. Almost immediately! A forecasters nightmare.

That was a good 3 hours ahead of schedule. Well, that’s not good. What we didn’t count on, was the rain, as it was falling it was heavy at times which cooled the air quicker. That extra few degrees was enough to change the rain to snow a few hours sooner.

The problem with an October snow? There’s still leaves on the trees. This time of the year the snow is also going to be wetter, which is a heavier snow. Add that weight with the leaves still on trees and it’s a recipe for down tree branches, large limbs, and power outages. Millions were without power across the Northeast and parts of the Mid-Atlantic.

Locally, about 4,000 customers lost power.

October 2011
October 2011(WHSV)

While October snow is unusual and rare, it’s not the earliest snow for our area. The earliest was October 10, 1979 and that snow was about double what the October 2011 storm was. I have some copies of papers from Clayton Towers. He was a well known weather watcher from Bridgewater. An avid weather enthusiast.

In his papers Mr. Towers wrote, " Power was out as many trees were damaged. Schools were closed for two days. This was the greatest surprise of my lifetime so far in weather. It was unbelievable!”

Below is an image of the snowfall from the October Halloween snowstorm. In one spot in New Hampshire, 31″ of snow was recorded!

from NOAA
from NOAA(NOAA)

According to the Dale Enterprise (Rockingham County) weather records, measurable snow has happened 6 times in recorded history, which is more than 125 years of record.

In fact, an interesting note about the October 2011 snowstorm was that it was the biggest snow of the season! That year we had a La Nina phase which typically means a ‘dud’ of a winter.

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