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Top 5 Weather Defining Moments of New England's Winter

Updated: Mar 21, 2023

It's officially spring now. While this winter was not as harsh as others in the past, it did provide us with some memorable moments. Here are the five events that defined New England's winter of 2022-2023.

5. Cold, dark Christmas; warm New Years (December 24-January 1)

Our first arctic blast of the season arrived just in time for Christmas Eve, following a monster storm (more on that later). On the evening of December 23rd, a cold front roared through the region.  New England had already experienced hundreds of thousands of power outages from the cyclone when the front brought near hurricane force wind gusts to places, causing more damage and many more outages.

Damaging winds from the arctic front left many in the dark and cold Christmas Weekend. Photo: National Grid

This arctic front brought the coldest Christmas in decades to areas of New England. Boston experienced a high temperature near 60 degrees on December 23rd, followed by a high of 20 degrees on Christmas Eve and 27 degrees on Christmas Day. The morning low in Boston on Christmas Eve was the coldest in 33 years. Burlington, Vermont saw a high of 56 on December 23rd followed by 14 on Christmas Eve, a temperature drop of 42 degrees. Many people in New England had a very cold and dark Christmas because there were still well over 200,000 outages across the region over the holiday weekend.

The cold did not last long, as was the case throughout the winter. Only a week later, on New Year's Eve, Boston hit 54 degrees. New Year's Eve was mild throughout the region, even late into the night. As the clock struck midnight on January 1st, a rainstorm kept temperatures mild. My hometown in New Hampshire was a pleasant 50 degrees at midnight (with no rain!). This was a significant increase from the teens at the stroke of midnight on December 25th.

4. Late-January storm train (January 19-26)

One of the biggest stories this winter for America as a whole has been the relentless storms smashing California for nearly the entire season. The state did get a break in January when a weather pattern flip temporarily cut off the atmospheric rivers. This pattern shift provided New England with its own mini storm train. The region was hit by three messy winter storms in less than a week.

Tree damage in New Hampshire on January 23. Photo: The Brattleboro Reformer (Kristopher Radder)

On January 19th, the first of these storms arrived. This storm dumped moderate snow on central and northern New England and moderate rain on southern New England. During this storm, over 10,000 people lost power. Storm #2 began on January 22nd, just two days after storm #1 had passed. This storm was more powerful and snowy than the previous one. This storm dumped more than a foot of snow across much of northern New England. This was a heavy, wet snowstorm that knocked out power to over 100,000 and caused widespread tree damage. This storm caused coastal flooding as well.

Coastal flooding in Massachusetts on January 23. Photo: NBC10 Boston

The storm train's finale arrived just two days later, bringing heavy snow, nearly a foot in places, over 2 inches of rain, and high winds. On January 25, I wrote in a forecast post:

"Not even 48 hours after the last storm dropped over a foot of snow in spots, broke trees and knocked out power to over 100,000 customers across New England, another storm is going to bring heavy snow, rain and powerful winds."

Flood warnings were issued for several rivers in southeast Massachusetts and Rhode Island as a result of torrential rain. Fortunately, this storm did not cause widespread outages, as it could have. The train came to an end after this storm. The next live updates feed (for a storm) from New England Storm Center would not be needed again until February 22nd.

See snow totals from January 19-20; January 22-23 and January 25-26.

3. Christmas Week Cyclone (December 22-23)

New England hadn't seen a storm like this in a while. From New England to the upper Plains, this storm will be remembered as historic. This storm killed over 100 people, caused over $5 billion in damage, and knocked out power to over 7 million people in the United States and Canada, including over 400,000 in New England. Because of its devastating effects on the lakes region, this storm has been dubbed the Blizzard of the Century. The blizzard has been compared to the region's all-time worst blizzards, which occurred in 1977 and 1978.

Coastal flood in Boston on December 23. Photo: AP (Micheal Dwyer)

Back in New England, the storm was more indicative of a hurricane than a winter storm. Several inches of wind-driven rain fell on the region, causing flooding. Massive tree damage was caused by near hurricane force wind gusts. Mt. Washington experienced a top gust of 151 mph. The entire coastline was affected by severe coastal flooding, but it was among the worst in northern New England history. Portland experienced its fourth highest tide ever.

Sea foam blankets Wells, Maine on December 23. Photo: NECN

Here's a list of weather alerts that were issued across New England for this storm, including marine alerts off the New England coast: High wind warning, flood warning, coastal flood warning, storm warning, hurricane force wind warning, wind advisory and winter weather advisory.

While this storm was mild and rainy for New England, it was not completely snow free. Snow fell in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont. Waterbury, Vermont received the most snow from the storm, with 10.6 inches. An intense arctic cold front, as previously discussed, caused a flash freeze at the storm's tail end. This storm has earned a place among the legendary storms of New England. The only reason I decided not to place this at number one is because the next two events are much more "wintry".

2. Early-February arctic blast (February 3-4)

It seems only fitting that we got the most severe blast of arctic air New England has seen in a long time during a winter that was mostly dominated by a mild weather pattern. This arctic blast was called "once in a generation" by the National Weather Service of Gray, Maine. This was stated by that office a few days before the blast:

"...the air mass looks supportive of temps falling into the -20s in and north of the Whites and western ME Mtns. The combination of wind and cold will likely necessitate wind chill headlines for portions of the forecast area. Current forecasts are for temps to plummet Thu night...with little if any recovery readings continue down below zero. Wind chills may fall below zero sometime early Fri morning and not recover back above zero until sometime Sun afternoon. Wind chills colder than -30 are possible for large sections of the forecast area. This has the potential to be a once in a generation type cold shot...even if it only lasts 24 to 48 hours."

Steam devil on Lake Champlain in Vermont on February 4. Photo: NWS Burlington

The magnitude of the blast increased as the event approached. We (New England Storm Center) released our first wind chill forecast map on January 31st, with the -40s being the coldest zone. We updated our map the next day to include a -50s zone. We updated the map again the next day. I added a -60s zone in this update, which I couldn't believe I was doing. This was not an overstatement or exaggeration. The coldest wind chill recorded in a populated area was -61 degrees in Frenchville, Maine.

Mt Washington summit on February 4. Photo: Mt. Washington Observatory Livestream

Boston experienced a low air temperature of -10 degrees, the city's coldest temperature in over six decades. Mt. Washington came close to a new all-time low temperature record for New Hampshire when it dropped to -47 degrees. The state's all-time record of -50 from 1885 stood. Mt. Washington did, however, likely set a new all-time low wind chill for the entire United States when it dropped to an incredible -108 degrees (there is no official record kept of wind chills). During this event, some interesting things happened, which you can read about here. This event appeared to be destined for first place on this list, until...

1. The Great Nor'Easter of 2023 (March 13-15)

A big snowstorm may have taken the entire winter to arrive, but it did. At the beginning of March, there was a significant shift in the weather pattern. In a March 6 blog post, I stated:

"This setup also increases chances for late season snow. The way the jet stream sets up could lead to storms more likely to form into nor'easters that track just off the coast...With the colder air in place, nor'easters will have plenty of energy to feed off of. On top of this, the atmospheric river looks to continue, with storms continually ejecting into the west and tracking across the country. The middle of March looks to feature very active weather for New England."

The very next day, I made my first mention of a potential nor'easter developing, saying:

"Next week looks to get active again, with a potential long duration storm coming around mid week, March 14-16."

Satellite image of the Great Nor'Easter of 2023. Photo: NOAA

Everything began to come together gradually, and before we knew it, a powerful storm was on its way, with snowfall over a foot expected in some areas, as well as strong winds and coastal flooding. As it approached New England, the storm intensified rapidly. Cold air was the one thing that did not cooperate for this storm. When the storm hit, there was no cold air to speak of in New England. This resulted in a lot of rain at first for lower elevations.

The storm, like a strong winter nor'easter, was capable of producing its own cold air and was eventually able to drop snow across all of New England. Some truly massive numbers were recorded in the areas that began in the snow. Several communities in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts received at least 30 inches of snow, with some receiving 3 feet. The highest total was 42 inches in Readsboro, Vermont.

Car buried in Vermont on March 14. Photo: Chris Walker

This storm ended up being a long duration event, with some areas receiving snow for up to 36 hours. Snowfall rates exceeded 3 to 4 inches per hour for several of those 36 hours. With this much heavy, wet snow, widespread tree damage occurred, causing major power outages once again this winter. At its peak, nearly 215,000 customers were without power, with some outages lasting days.

Wind, coastal flooding, and rain had less of an impact than snow, but their effects were felt. Three consecutive high tide cycles resulted in minor coastal flooding. The highest reported gust was near hurricane force (71mph), with rainfall ranging from 1 to 2 inches. This storm is now a member of the New England Snowstorm Hall of Fame. With a maximum of 42 inches, this storm made it into the top three in the hall of fame. 

New England Snowstorm Hall of Fame top 5 storms (by maximum snowfall)

Storm Name



Jackpot Zone

The Great White Hurricane


March 11-14 1888

Southern VT Western MA, CT

The Great Nor'Easter of 2020


December 16-17 2020

Western NH

The Great Nor'Easter of 2023


March 13-15 2023

Central MA Southwest NH Southern VT

Blizzard of 1978


February 5-7 1978

Southeast MA RI

Blizzard of 2013


February 8-9 2013

Central CT



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