The Strongest Nor’easter of the 20th Century

Forty eight years ago, the storm that the National Weather Service considers the strongest nor’easter of the 20th century, was pounding the region with wind, rain, and snow.  The storm is remembered by a few different names:  “The Great Atlantic Storm”, “The Five High Storm” because it lingered over 5 high tides, and “The Ash Wednesday Storm” because it was at its peak on Ash Wednesday, March 7, 1962.  It was the result of the combined effects of deep low pressure on the coast and a higher than normal “spring tide” that occurs with the new moon.

On the coast the storm produced hurricane force wind gusts, heavy rain, coastal flooding that swamped Chincoteague and Assateague Islands, and beach erosion from 40 foot waves that reshaped the  inlets around Ocean City.  In the mountains it was a blizzard, dumping 3 to 4 feet of snow in the Blue Ridge of Virginia.  In the transition zone between rain and snow, Baltimore recorded 10″ of snow on March 6th.

It was a very costly storm, with 40 fatalities and $200,000,000 in property damages (1962 dollars).

Tom Tasselmyer


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