ITHACA, N.Y. — Despite a total shutdown of the city for almost two days, the Blizzard of 2017 is not a snowfall record-breaker in Ithaca.
The official snowfall measurement for the city of Ithaca will almost certainly remain at 14.9 inches, said Kat Hawley, a National Weather Service meteorologist based in Binghamton. A reported 15 inches fell during the Blizzard of 1993. And both blizzards were eclipsed by the Feb. 14, 1914 storm that beat the city with a record of 26 inches. Other notable snowfall includes 21 inches in 1961 and 18 inches in 2010.
But that doesn’t mean that some Ithacans didn’t, in fact, see more snowfall than was officially reported– collecting official numbers can be tough.
Before we delve into that, here are the official snowfall amounts per the NWS:
- Caroline Center: 24.8 reported at 8:54 a.m. Wednesday by a trained spotter
- Etna: 22 inches reported at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday
- Northeast Ithaca (Likely referring to the town of Ithaca): 17.8 inches reported at 3 p.m. Wednesday
- Ithaca: 14.9 reported at 8:22 a.m. Wednesday
- Lansing: 14.2 reported at 7:55 p.m. Wednesday
- Northwest Groton: 13 inches reported at 7 a.m. Wednesday
- East Ithaca: 12.5 inches reported at 7 a.m. Wednesday
- Southeast Ithaca: 10.5 inches at 8 a.m. Wednesday
- Northwest Trumansburg: 15.6 reported at 8 a.m. Wednesday
But if these are the official numbers, why are so many people convinced we got so much more snowfall in Tompkins County?
Hawley said there are two primary reasons for what seems like a discrepancy: training and location.
She said the National Weather Service trains official weather spotters twice a year in multiple locations.
“We actually teach a class in teaching people how to measure snow,” she said.
During the 90-minute training sessions that happen in the fall, people are taught the best techniques for measuring snow.
For instance, Hawley said measurements need to be taken 10-15 feet away from buildings and trees, preferably in an open field, because structures and trees impact snowfall and wind.
Spotters are also encouraged to measure at least three locations to reach an average number and must provide photos of the measurements.
Measurement submissions are also accepted via Facebook in some instances, but Hawley said people are asked questions about the measurements to ensure it’s a “good spot.”
“I want to make sure it’s accurate,” she said.
Hawley also said that one’s exact location is enough to cause a discrepancy from official numbers.
“It’s going to vary very differently even within a mile,” she said.
For instance, winter storms often create bands of snow that can hammer an area while a location just a few blocks away gets much less snowfall.
With trained spotters working throughout the region to keep track of the snowfall totals, 14.9 inches is likely what’s going to be the storm total.
But those of us who braved the Blizzard of 2017 in Ithaca will always suspect differently.
Featured photo by Mike Blaney/The Ithaca Voice