The word “nor’easter” typically conjures up images of streets covered in snow piles and power lines blown apart by high winds. But what exactly makes a storm a nor’easter?
“There is no hard and fast definition,” said Rich Otto, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Weather Forecast Center. “It‘s kind of a loose term.”
Broadly speaking, the term characterizes a weather system in which winds off the east coast collide with surface winds from the northeastern and mid-Atlantic states in the midst of areas of low pressure. .
Nor’easters typically occur between November and March, Mr Otto said, but they can also form earlier in the fall and late spring. Storms can develop 100 miles east or west of the coast, from as far south as Georgia to New Jersey and beyond to the north, according to the weather service.
Their effect can be seen in the form of heavy snowfall, freezing rain, sleet and strong winds. Wind speeds in a northeast can reach the force of hurricanes, with precipitation typically varying between one and two inches. Snowfall can add up to a foot or two on average, but can be “quite variable” overall, Otto said.
In March 1993, during the so-called Storm of the Century, a nor’easter produced four feet of snow in some areas, according to the weather service.
Since nor’easters can produce dangerous conditions such as power outages, icy roads and fallen trees, Mr Otto said it was recommended that people prepare in advance for the storm, stocking up on basic necessities such as batteries and extra food early, to avoid traveling during the worst weather conditions.