The mid Atlantic’s Greatest Storm of the 20th Century

47 years ago, the nor’easter regarded by the National Weather Service as the “Greatest Storm of the 20th Century” in the Baltimore/Washington area was roaring through the region.  Named “The Great Atlantic Storm” by the U.S. Weather Bureau, also known as “The Five High Storm”, because it was on the coast for five consecutive high tides, and referred to as the “Ash Wednesday Storm”, it produced a record 10″ of snow in Baltimore on March 6, 1962, one day before Ash Wednesday.  The wind, snow and rain impacted the entire mid Atlantic region from the beaches to the mountains.  The Baltimore/Washington National Weather Service office has produced a list of the greatest storms of the 20th century with a description of each.  Their summary of the March ’62 nor’easter is posted below.  For the complete list click here:  Greatest Storms of the 20th Century.

Tom Tasselmyer

The strongest nor’easter of this century struck the Mid Atlantic Region on March 5-9, 1962. It is known as the “Ash Wednesday Storm”. It caused over $200 million (1962 dollars) in property damage and major coastal erosion from North Carolina to Long Island, NY. In New Jersey alone, it was estimated to have destroyed or greatly damaged 45,000 homes. The Red Cross recorded that the storm killed 40 people. It hit during “Spring Tide.” When the sun and moon are in phase, they produce a higher than normal astronomical tide. Water reached nine feet at Norfolk (flooding begins around five feet). Houses were toppled into the ocean and boardwalks were broken and twisted. The islands of Chincoteague and Assateague were completely underwater. Ocean City, Maryland sustained major damage especially to the south end of the island. Winds up to 70 mph built 40-foot waves at sea. Heavy snow fell in the Appalachian Mountains. Big Meadows, southeast of Luray, recorded Virginia’s greatest 24-hour snowfall with 33 inches and the greatest single storm snowfall with 42 inches. Nearly two feet of snow fell from Charlottesville (21 inches) to Luray (24 inches) to Winchester (22 inches). Roads were blocked and electrical service was out for several days. Washington and Baltimore fell into the mixed precipitation zone.
damage caused by Ash Wednesday storm of 1962Virginia Beach, March 1962
Picture from: Hurricane Survey, Norfolk Virginia: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Norfolk, VA, October, 1959.


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