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Letter from the Editor: Dodging ‘Snowmageddon’

by on January 29, 2020 12:04 PM

I’m one of those adults who thinks it seemed to snow a lot more when I was a kid than it does now.

I’ve never been that guy telling the kids I walked five miles through snow drifts on my way to elementary school. But as the Blizzard of 1978 bore down on the University of Rhode Island campus, I did have to walk about a half-mile through stinging, icy snow blowing so hard in my face that I turned my back to the wind and backpedaled some of that distance.

Mostly, though, I love snow as long as I don’t have to drive in it.

So, with just a couple of inches of snow here and there, the first month-plus of this central Pennsylvania winter didn’t seem very wonderland-like. At Town&Gown, we even had designs on doing a ride-along with a snow-plow driver to see what it’s like out there in a big storm. But, at least in the first third of the season, that big storm didn’t happen.

That got me thinking: Is my gut feeling that we’re getting less snow now than we used to based in reality? Historically speaking, only slightly. Since 1893, seasonal snowfall has averaged 45.9 inches in State College, according to the National Weather Service. The 30-year average from 1981-2010 was 45.6 inches.

The numbers jump around a lot from season to season, and this past decade, on the whole, was relatively quiet.

Here are the snow totals (in inches) for State College over the past 10 winters, according to the National Weather Service:

2009-10: 49.1

2010-11: 38.4

2011-12: 19

2012-13: 43.6

2013-14: 51.8

2014-15: 51.5

2015-16: 17.9

2016-17: 37.8

2017-18: 34.1

2018-19: 40

That’s an average of 38.38 inches of snow per season over the past 10 years.

The first decade of the 2000s saw an average of 42.84 inches of snow, but the snowiest winters were much more severe, with 83.6 inches in 2002-03 and 71.4 inches in 2003-04.

The 1990s were snowier, with an average of 53 inches per season. That average was helped along significantly by three crazy snowy winters in 1992-93 (92.5 inches), 1993-94 (an incredible 109.3 inches!), and 1995-96 (99 inches).

But in the decade from 1980-81 to 1989-90, State College averaged just more than 41 inches of snow, with a high of 69.1 inches in 1981-82.

So, when it comes to those “snowmageddon” events, we’ve dodged the bullet lately. But remember, February is just beginning!



Mark Brackenbury

Editorial Director

[email protected]


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