Everyone associates the term Nor’easter with terrible storms and large amounts of snow that occur along the eastern seaboard. While these winter storms may bring violent winds and heavy snows, and are more common during cooler weather, they can actually occur any time of the year. Carrying with them heavy rain, snow, and high winds, they can produce a great deal of damage in a very short period of time.
Nor’easters are cyclonic storms that rotate counterclockwise. These extreme low pressure areas, while possible throughout the year, are most prevalent from September through April. The nor’easter gets its name from the fact that it travels along the eastern coastline of North America, and the inclement weather blows in from a north easterly direction. The upper east coast and the lower Canada coastline, usually feel the brunt of these storms that may carry with them winds of over 50 mph. Since it occurs along the ocean, there is also danger of coastal flooding, and erosion. Nor’easters produce large waves and often cause severe damage along beaches, as well as damage to homes and ships.
Nor’easters are born from the combination of two major factors, the cold polar air coming down from Canada in the north, and the warm water that enters the coast line from the south and the Gulf Stream. They can form either over land, or over the ocean, but when these two fronts combine, there is potential for a major storm. As the cold air forces its way beneath the warm air, and the warm air travels over the cold air, the air pressure continues to drop, and the cyclone becomes stronger. When the cyclone forms, the converging temperatures combine, and eventually, the front dissipates.
While Nor’easters normally bring a great deal of rain, pockets of snow within the storm may also bring several feet of snow. These areas sometimes remain stationary, gaining strength before they travel northeast depositing large amounts of snow in the process. This is particularly hazardous and costly, in view of the fact that the eastern seaboard is the home of some of the largest cities in the country, and a large percentage of the population.
Particularly severe Nor’easters can extend well inland, affecting areas that may be far from the actual coast. Fortunately, those who live along the eastern seaboard or anywhere in the path of one of these horrific storms, are well aware of the dangers and the consequences of being unprepared.