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Biggest snow chaos in New York since 1938: No one predicted that

Staff Writer |
A pre-winter storm slammed parts of the South and lower Midwest on Wednesday, swept across the United States on Thursday into Friday causing travel disruptions, massive power outages, school closures and numerous injuries and fatalities.

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It is the first snowstorm of the season to hit the New York City area. The storm brought several inches of snow to affected areas, slowing Thursday’s evening commute to a crawl and contributing to at least seven traffic deaths as it swept across the country.

The storm had a tremendous impact on the eastern U.S. for a number of reasons, according to AccuWeather Chief Meteorologist Elliot Abrams.

"First, it is the first storm of the year to affect such a large area," Abrams said. "Second, it is one of the earliest big November storms ever. The last time there was this much snow in New York City before the end of November was in 1938."

It snowed longer than expected. Meteorologists expected to see rain and sleet hold down the snowfall amounts.

"If it was expected to snow at a rate of 2 inches per hour for one hour, but then say it lasted three more hours (rather than changing over), then that's a difference of a half foot of snow," Abrams said.

"That's what happened in a lot of places, and it caught people off guard," Abrams said. "The storm had been well predicted in other aspects. For example, in New York City, we called for a rough afternoon commute on Thursday two days in advance."

There was 6 inches in New York City, about 8 inches Allentown, Pennsylvania, and 6 inches in Providence, Rhode Island. The highest amount was just over 18 inches in Mount Hope, New York, in Orange County up north from New York City, according to Abrams.

Only five November storms in the last 136 years have produced 6 inches or more of snow in Central Park.

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