Devastating winter storm sweeps the nation

Dylan Bago, News Writer

In winter, it’s customary to expect storms and harsh weather, with the likes of snowstorms and hail being a constant worry for Americans. Late February is generally harsher and more unpredictable when it comes to weather, as the latter part of this month marks the beginning of a seasonal shift. This year, however, the nation was plagued by power outages, tornadoes, and heavy snow, all caused by one severe winter storm.

Beginning on Feb. 20, a slow-moving winter storm formed on the West Coast area, passing through the Midwest and New England as it drifted eastward. In its wake, the storm left behind a trail of destruction, bringing tumultuous weather and affecting the lives of millions. This devastating storm may have been caused by a polar vortex distortion, which forces Arctic winds to turn south and create severe weather conditions.

In a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal, University of Albany researcher Andrea Lang, describes the phenomenon and notes an additional trait of this distortion.

“Polar vortex disruptions have been known to result in a 50% increase in cold air outbreaks in the northern hemisphere and a shift in the storm tracks,” Lang said. “What is interesting about this event is that we are not looking at a short-lived reversal of the stratosphere’s high-latitude circulation. This event is forecast to persist for at least a week to 10 days.”

Typically, the longer a polar vortex disruption lasts, the more weather conditions can be affected, due to an influx of foreign winds. Since this phenomenon lasted an extended length of time, while most disruptions only last one to two days, many scientists believe that this storm may have been a result of this event.

In regard to the effects of the storm, areas on the West Coast were hit hard by the storm. Traditionally unused to snowy weather, states like California received abnormal amounts of snow and ice, with some cities in the area receiving up to 11 inches of snow. This marks the first time since 1989 that California has had snow, a testament to the unlikelihood of this situation. 

The Midwest, on the other hand, received the full brunt of the storm. According to, over 600,000 were without power in Michigan, and some cities like Portland received record-breaking amounts of snow, totaling upwards of a foot on some occasions. Over 300 flights were canceled due to heavy snowfall nationwide, and some highways like the I-80 were forced to close due to excessive amounts of ice. Furthermore, tornadoes were spotted in Illinois, likely caused by the turbulent storm winds, destroying homes and the environment in their path.

Ever since this year’s winter began, the New England area has only received less than an inch of snow. When the storm crossed the area, however, New England cities received three to ten inches of snow on average, the largest of this year’s winter. Temperatures dropped twenty to thirty degrees in cities like Pittsburgh and Washington D.C., but temperatures quickly recovered as the storm finally passed over America on March 1.

While the winter storm may have been devastating, the worst is now over. With a positive weather forecast for the rest of the year, Americans can look forward to improving weather conditions, with spring incoming and summer right around the corner.