Major snowstorms affecting Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, and Albany, New York f r om 1888 to 2003 were studied to discern changes in the response to urban snow events. These cities managed snow poorly in the past, but are generally adept today thanks to lessons learned from past snowstorms and improved technology Nonetheless, modern snowstorms can still disrupt life and business. This potential for disruption obligates a collaboration among city government, meteorologists, and the general public to minimize the negative impacts of snow.
A snowstorm's impact is determined by much more than simply the amount of snow that falls. While storms with large accumulations are disruptive, factors such as snow intensity and storm timing are often just as influential. Additionally, nonmeteorological factors such as governmental response, actions by the general public, and weather forecasting and dissemination influence the impact of a snowstorm.
Both meteorological and nonmeteorological influences can be considered by rethinking snowstorms as snow events. Using the word “event” in place of “storm” reminds us that a snowstorm's disruption is affected by much more than variations in the storm itself; humans play an important role as well. Ultimately, both forecasters and others involved in snow prediction and preparation should consider the range of social and physical factors when planning for snow events.
Department of Geography, Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York