The Superstorm of March 1993: 20 years later

Date Posted: March 15, 2013
It has been 20 years since one of the most powerful extratropical storms to hit the U.S. swept across the eastern third of the country on March 12-14, 1993, bringing everything from record snowfall to deadly storm surge to devastating tornadoes. Dubbed the “Storm of the Century” by the media, the National Weather Service referred to the event as the Superstorm of 1993 in its post-storm survey report. Now, 20 years later, many NWS offices in areas affected by the storm are remembering the event through special Web pages and the use of social media.
“The twentieth anniversary of the Superstorm seemed to be an excellent opportunity to revisit the history of this unique event and summarize its impacts using a variety of sources,” said NWS Wilmington, N.C., Senior Forecaster Tim Armstrong, who put together a special Web page for his office commemorating the storm. The page contains detailed information, statistics and graphics related to the event.
Like many meteorologists, Armstrong was fascinated with weather from an early age and cites the Superstorm of 1993 as one of the two big storms of his childhood (the other being Hurricane Hugo in 1989) that helped steer him toward a career in forecasting. “During the Superstorm, I watched my parents’ home barometer drop below the mark set by Hugo and I experienced thunder snow and blizzard conditions for the first time,” Armstrong said. “This left quite an impact on me!”
Armstrong’s supervisor, NWS Wilmington, N.C., Meteorologist-in-Charge Michael Caropolo, notes that the Superstorm of 1993 was a historical event that impacted much of the eastern portion of the United States. “It was one of the most intense storms ever forecast by the NWS with incredible lead time,” he said. “People in the Northeast knew it was coming days in advance and knew the severity of the impact.”
Caropolo was a senior meteorologist at the NWS Forecast Office in Albany, N.Y., at the time, where he provided briefings to local partners — a process he describes as the precursor to today’s Decision Support Services. “By being proactive and working with our partners we were able to tell them the impacts of the storm before it hit so that they could be prepared,” he said.
Caropolo said the Superstorm of 1993 was noteworthy for several meteorological factors, including:
  • the lowest sea level pressure on record across the Southeast and Mid Atlantic
  • wind gusts over 100 mph from Florida into the Northeast
  • record-breaking low temperatures
  • record snowfall from Tennessee through West Virginia and into New York
  • coastal flooding in the South
In addition to the page that NWS Wilmington, N.C., has put together, the NWS forecast offices listed below have each created a special Web page or report discussing the storm and the effects it had on their local areas.
NWS Tallahassee, Fla.
NWS Tampa Bay Area, Fla.
NWS Melbourne, Fla.
NWS Birmingham, Ala.
NWS Greenville-Spartanburg, S.C.
NWS Huntsville, Ala.
NWS Jackson, Ky.