Saturday, February 9, 2013

Snow baby snow

Well the storm's all done, and it's officially the 5th largest snow fall in Boston since they started keeping records.

Snowstorms are a really interesting test of how people perceive data.  For example, the blizzard of '78  is absolutely legendary in these parts.  And yet, it's not the biggest snow storm on record.  Here's the list:

1. Feb. 17-18, 2003 27.6 inches
2. Feb. 6-7, 1978 27.1 inches
3. Feb. 24-27, 1969 26.3 inches
4. March 31- April 1, 1997 25.4 inches
5. Jan. 22-23, 2005 22.5 inches
6. Jan. 20-21, 1978 21.4 inches
7. March 3-5, 1960 19.8 inches
8. Feb. 16-17, 1958 19.4 inches
9. Feb. 8-10, 1994 18.7 inches
10. Dec. 26-27, 2010 18.2 inches

That first one was my senior year in college.  It was a Monday, but the Monday was a holiday. We had a lot of warning, and things weren't that bad. The blizzard of '78 was also a Monday, but not a holiday.  The snow fell faster during the '78 storm,  and the city had less warning.  There had also been another record setting storm (#6 on the list) just a few weeks earlier.  

These are the things that data hides.  Only half an inch of difference, but the impact was much different.  

Another storm that doesn't make the list was in the winter of '08 when everyone got let out of work early because of snow, at which point it promptly worsened.  People still cringe when they talk about that day.  It took people up to 9 hours to get home.   Luckily for me I worked night shift at the time and slept through the whole thing.  

Anyway, I survived yet another storm on the top ten list, and I can even open my door without it running in to a snow bank.  That's good bcause I was about to have to put the dog out through the window.


  1. People often forget that there were two massive storms in 1978. What made the second storm less devastating than it could have been was there was a heavy rain storm on Super Bowl Sunday that wiped out the bulk of the snow on the ground. It made for some flooding, but there was at least some room to put the snow when the second one came along. My recollection is that they called the first storm the "storm of the decade" and when the second one came it was the "storm of the century".

    1969 fades from memory but it just wouldn't stop snowing. People in Buffalo are used to that, but we weren't. From memory, the first day we got around a foot, but each of the next three days we got another 4 inches each day so they could never really get the roads cleared. It was great to get a week off from school, which followed the February vacation!

    1. I think we might get in to the flooding thing here this week. Tomorrow it's supposed to be 45 degrees and raining.

      According to the list above btw, it looks like "storm of the decade" and "storm of the century" were not just hyperbole.

  2. Well, Boston is the Hub of the Universe.

    1978 was worse west and south, getting up over 3 feet in northern RI. It wasn't bad in NH. 1969 I only remember waking up and seeing 2 feet of snow on the roof, clean and sharp.

    1. I wouldn't so much say that Boston was the hub of the's really wherever I am.

      Oh, and I had to shovel two feet of snow off my roof this afternoon. Much less fun when you're worried about roof collapses and all.