Did We Get A Blizzard?

The last storm slammed us with "near blizzard" conditions, but what does that mean? And what does it take to make it a blizzard?
The technicality of a blizzard was truly put to the test in the most recent, massive March snow storm. The storm dropped the 5th most snow of any March snow event in Burlington record books for the Queen City, while the 12th most snow of any winter month dating back to 1883. But was it technically a blizzard?

The answer is....no

There has to be certain criteria reached for a storm to be called a blizzard. There has to be three consecutive hours of wind gusts to 35 mph or greater and visibilities 1/4-mile or less. We came very close to that.

There was a time Wednesday afternoon between 3-7 p.m. when the Burlington International Airport had visibilities down to 1/4-mile visibility, but the wind gusts were only to about 25 mph. Then there was another time later that night between about midnight-3 a.m. Thursday where the wind gusts were 35-40 mph consistently, but the visibility was 1/2-mile, so a little better. I checked out Rutland, Springfield, Morrisville, Montpelier, and Massena and no blizzard criteria was met. Plattsburgh came VERY close just within a couple miles per hour of gusts and a slight improvement in visibility helped keep it sub-blizzard. Those are secure, accurate weather reporting stations. I can't say the same for all areas, but given the airports listed above that's what I've got for data to scroll through. Nonetheless there were whiteout conditions with this storm, making it very difficult to travel around.

Even though we didn't 'technically' get a blizzard, does it make a difference? Would 'blizzard warnings' gotten people's attention more than a 'winter storm warning'? Perhaps. But I agree with the way this one was handled.

Something different happened before this storm hit that usually doesn't happen. The National Weather Service put a message out via multiple platforms with information about the storm. I got an e-mail from the NWS Warning Coordination Meteorologist who had copied and pasted the weather service's message to emergency managers. In it, the note explained the upcoming storm with the following vocabulary 'near blizzard conditions' 'dangerous storm' and 'high impact'. Also on Facebook and Twitter the NWS was asking people to share the information with others. I think that was in an effort to raise awareness above the 'winter storm warning' but not have to push out a 'blizzard warning'. I admit, personally my ear will perk up more when I hear blizzard as opposed to winter storm, but I would like to keep that criteria of a blizzard.

By keeping the criteria of a blizzard, when an area actually gets a blizzard, it can be recognized by the public in better way. Thus, if another storm hits in the future, with blizzard conditions expected, we can tell the public that a blizzard is to be expected and what happened before could happen again. I strongly encourage using 'near blizzard' if forecasters have enough confidence because then we can relay that this storm won't be the worst potentially, but right up there with some of the highest impact ones.

An interesting tidbit? It doesn't have to be snowing in order for it to be a blizzard! *Blowing snow* counts as criteria for the visibility of 1/4-mile or less.
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