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Remembering Pittsburgh 'Snowmageddon' 10 Years Later

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - You always remember the big one. Well, until the next big one arrives. For 10 years now, "Snowmageddon" has been the "big one" here in Pittsburgh.

The snow storm arrived on Friday Feb. 5, 2010, with accumulating snow showers lasting for nearly the next 24 hours.

When the snow finally slowed down, more than 21 inches of snow had fallen in Pittsburgh, with even higher totals south in West Virginia. The storm was known not only for the big totals, but the fact that it seems that everyone saw piles of snow.


Despite ending on Saturday, there was so much snow around, schools were forced to cancel classes well into the next week. A major problem became where to put all the snow.

While everyone remembers Snowmageddon, February 2010 would have been a monster snow month without the big storm. In all, 48.7 inches of snow fell during the month, with 21 inches of that falling on the Feb. 5 and Feb. 6.

Since then, the snowiest month this area has seen is 24.1 inches of snow in January of 2011.

And recently, it's been even slower, with this year being the slowest so far -- just shy of 13 inches of snow so far this season with only 4.2 inches of snow recorded at the National Weather Service for the month of January. That's the lowest January total since 1998. It's been so slow forecasters, are saying we are in a snow drought.


Fred McMullen with the local National Weather Service explains, "We haven't had those big winters with significant snowfall... Our average is about 41 inches a year."

"When I am talking significant, I am talking about more than 70 inches or more a year, for a long time, since 2010."

And while they are calling this a drought right now, forecasters say that nothing has fundamentally changed about our set-up when it comes to making a big snow storm happen: a big push of cold air to the south with very warm air pushing inland along the coast.

"For us to get big snow, we need either a clipper system or we need a system going up the east coast and for both those systems you need cold air in place and we haven't had cold air in place so we just get rain."


It is a winter storm track that isn't too common, with McMullen likening it to the family taking the scenic route to grandmas. The system has to dip south and then perfectly ride the coast towards and just south of our area, putting us into the sweet spot when it comes to the heaviest snow.

It's so rare it doesn't happen very often.

Every 40 years, we average a 2 foot snow storm. Every 15 years or so we see more than 15 inches of snow. And wouldn't you know it, about every 10 years we average a system that brings a foot or more of snow our way. So clearly that drought is due to be broken any day now.

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