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Oh Snow Close: The Almost-Record-Setting Winter That Wasn’t

By Terry Eliasen, WBZ-TV Meteorologist, Executive Weather Producer
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BOSTON (CBS) – What a truly bizarre winter in Boston!

It unofficially began with a blockbuster Nor’easter on October 29-30th.

Remarkably, Boston only got 1.0” of snow while nearby suburbs had 6-12” of the heaviest, wettest snow imaginable – and it was measured in feet in the higher elevations.

Check: Current Conditions | Weather Map Center | Interactive Radar 

Many folks were preparing for the worst. After last winter’s snow blitz, if this is how we were going to kick off this winter than we better hold on tight. Many schools cancelled classes for nearly a week due to widespread power outages. Towns like Westford even made plans to cancel part of February and April vacations in an effort to make up for what everyone figured would be a winter full of snow days.

New Englanders geared up. Snow blowers were gassed up and tested, and if you didn’t have one, you were searching all the stores. The winter supplies were gobbled up faster than bread before a blizzard, and you couldn’t find a generator in the entire Northeast.

Just one problem – winter never showed up for the party.

Mother Nature called in sick and we were all left holding the party streamers and shovels.

November arrived and was insanely warm, the second warmest on record, actually. But we weren’t going to be fooled. New Englanders had seen this trick before. We knew that bitter cold and blinding snow were just one bad Jetstream away. But it kept going and going and going. Heck, it was over 60 degrees on Black Friday and that was just the start. Five of the last 6 days in November were warmer than 60. And it didn’t end there.

December wound up being the sixth warmest on record, and any hope for a white Christmas went up in smoke. Snow was a distant memory. We had no measureable snow all month; just two days with a trace.

We made it all the way to January 10th before we got our next snow accumulation, and it was just 0.5 inches.

We got a few small storms the rest of the month, the biggest of which dropped a whopping 2.9” in Boston on the 21st, which by the way, still stands as our biggest snow accumulation of this entire season.

We appeared to be on record pace, cruising through February without a flake. It seemed inevitable that we were going into the record books. The least snowy February was a given and we had our eyes on the big prize – the granddaddy of all records – the least snowy winter ever.

Not since 1936-1937 (when the record of 9.0” was set) had there been this much excitement building. The March forecast came out from the National Weather Service and it looked like our 9th straight month of above normal temperatures was a lock. This was it, we had made it!

But wait, this was a leap year… one more February day this year…February 29th. Hmmm, you don’t think….oh boy.

It happened. Like a cruel joke, all of those pretty graphics the meteorologists had prepared went up in smoke. No more least snowy February; no more least snowy winter; heck, we couldn’t even get mildest February on record. On the last day of the leap year month, with just a few hours to go, it actually started to snow in Boston. A total of 0.9” fell before midnight on the 29th, pushing us to the 8th least snowy February – not exactly something you will want to tell your grandkids about.

And it wasn’t even worth it. Let’s face it, this was a lame snow storm by Boston standards. Sure folks to the north and west got 6-12”, ski areas are as happy, and snow covered as they have been all season.

But Boston might as well be Miami this year: trying to accumulate snow is next to impossible. While folks just 5 or 10 miles away were cranking up their snow blowers and making snowmen, the city of Boston only managed to squeak out a total of 1.3” from the more-than-30-hour storm.

And wouldn’t you know it, before this event, Boston was 1.2” ahead of the record for least snowy winter ever.

Boston now stands at 9.1” for the 2011-2012 snow season, just 0.1” above the all-time record.

So, congrats to the record-setting winter of 1936-1937.

You can pop the corks on the champagne just like the undefeated Miami Dolphins of 1972 did in 2008 when the Patriots lost on one of the final plays of the Super Bowl, ending their nearly record-setting, perfect season.

Will we remember this winter in 10 or 20 years?

Probably not. It will just be a cruel punch line to some dumb joke at a conference for meteorologists.

Nice try Mother Nature, we almost made it.

Might as well bring on the 60s.

You can follow Terry on Twitter at @TerryWBZ.

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