Superstorm Sandy, record warmth defined 2012 weather

1st Street in New Suffolk is flooded by

1st Street in New Suffolk is flooded by Sandy. (Oct. 29, 2012) (Credit: Randee Daddona)

When it comes to memorable 2012 weather events, superstorm Sandy certainly was the blockbuster.

"This year will clearly be remembered and defined by the Sandy superstorm," said Brian A. Colle, professor in the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, Stony Brook University.

Still, some less dramatic weather events and scenarios affected Long Islanders' day-to-day lives, and here are a few of note.


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Snowstorm, Jan. 21

While dropping just a few inches overall on Long Island, it was "the only significant snow Long Island had" in the winter months early in the year, said Joe Pollina of the National Weather Service in Upton. The highest snowfall was in Orient, with 7.2 inches, and Southampton and Southold, with 6 inches each, according to the weather service.

News 12 meteorologist Bill Korbel calls it "the winter that wasn't," with "almost no snow" and "no really cold Arctic air outbreaks, which is quite rare for us."

Balmy March sets record-breaking trend

The year almost certainly will go down as the warmest since records started being kept at Islip MacArthur Airport in 1984, National Weather Service meteorologist Mike Layer said

As of Sunday, Islip was in the running to break the record set in 1998 for warmest average temperature of the year, which was 55.1 degrees. With one day left in the year, the average temperature recorded at the Ronkonkoma airport was 55.4 degrees.

At 57.5 degrees as of Sunday, Central Park was also on pace to break the record for the warmest average set in 1991 -- and those records have been kept since 1869.

Layer said one reason for the anticipated record highs was the "unusually warm pattern in winter" in March, when the jet stream stayed far north of Long Island and "kept cold air pretty far from us."

March broke the record in Islip for the highest average monthly temperature -- 55.7 degrees, up from the previous record of 53.5 degrees in 2010, said David Stark, weather service meteorologist in Upton.

Storms bring hail, July 1

Fast-moving thunderstorms were accompanied by hail, some the size of quarters, with 1.25-inch stones recorded in Babylon and 1 inch in North Great River.

One casualty of the violent thunderstorms was Glen Cove's historic gazebo, which was built in 1932 and is in the process of being rebuilt.

While hail in July may sound abnormal, that's not the case, Stark said, as it can be produced in any thunderstorm that has enough higher-atmosphere cold air.

Tornado, Aug. 10

A twister that touched down at 2:06 p.m. in central Suffolk County was a main feature of a storm system that otherwise downed trees and brought flash flooding.

With an estimated top wind speed of 85 mph, the twister created the most havoc in Bohemia, where trees were thrown into power lines, homes and cars, the weather service said.

The tornado got its start in Great River, then spun north into Connetquot River State Park, Bohemia and Ronkonkoma, traveling 41/2 miles, the weather service said.

It was on the ground about eight minutes, an unusually long time for a tornado, said meteorologist Dan Hofmann at the Upton-based service. "A lot of times when you get tornadoes spin up on Long Island, they are relatively brief," he said. "It was mostly tree damage, luckily."

Superstorm Sandy, Oct. 29

Forecast to hit just before Halloween, in its pre-landfall days it was nicknamed Frankenstorm because of factors converging to make it a powerhouse.

Among them: a high-pressure ridge in the Atlantic, preventing it from turning east; a low-pressure trough over land, drawing it toward shore; its slow progression, causing a buildup of water pushed ahead; hitting during the full moon, resulting in record storm surges.

The slow-moving Sandy, which joined up with an elongated region of low pressure, ended up encompassing "a huge area," and was the "perfect confluence of meteorological events," Korbel said.

"While there was little rain with the storm, the unusual track moving west . . . along with a full moon, caused incredible damage from ocean, bay and sound flooding," Korbel said.

Nor'easter, Nov. 7-8

Mother Nature's encore to Sandy, this storm hit just nine days later, dumping an unexpected 8.5 inches of snow in Woodmere and Albertson, 5.8 inches in Stony Brook and 4.2 inches in Islip. Maximum wind gusts reached 54 mph in Hither Hills State Park, near Montauk, the weather service said.

The brunt of the storm hit during the evening commute, causing the temporary closure of an icy Long Island Expressway and suspension of service on the Long Island Rail Road.

The timing for such a cold weather storm right on Sandy's heels was particularly unusual, Korbel said.

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