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After two mild winters, Long Island getting shovelfuls of snow

South Emerson Avenue in Montauk is snowy again

South Emerson Avenue in Montauk is snowy again on Thursday.  Credit: Gordon M. Grant

Maybe it's La Niña. Maybe, it's due to a shift in the polar vortex.

Or maybe, News 12 Long Island meteorologist Rich Von Ohlen said, it's just because weather is cyclic, with "a couple of weeks of nothing" followed by "one day of insanity."

Whatever the case, we went from two uncommonly mild winters on Long Island, with little snow, to the winter of 2020-21 — where we have had a handful of major storms barraging us with snow, ice, strong winds, freezing rain and plain old nastiness.

"Last winter and the winter before that was so quiet," National Weather Service meteorologist James Tomasini said Thursday, as another major storm began blanketing Long Island in snow. "I know that's why we're feeling that this year has been bad . . . Sometimes, we enter these favorable patterns for storms. The past few weeks, we've had a pattern that's favorable — and this is the result."

Or, as von Ohlen said: "Weather is cyclic. We've known that forever. I'm a strong believer in cycles and balance, that when we have a quiet period [of weather], expect a loud period."

Consider that after a snowstorm hit us with 7.8 inches in December, Long Island received less than a half-inch of snow in January.

But already this February we've had more than 20 inches of snow.

And, we are still counting.

All of which follows the winter of 2019-20, when we had just 8.7 total inches of snow, according to records from the National Weather Service.

Which followed the winter of 2018-19, when we had a grand total of 15.1 inches.

In fact, since the National Weather Service began tracking records at Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton in 1947-48, Long Island has had 17 winter seasons when we've had more than 50 total inches of snowfall — and 26 winter seasons when we've had less than 20 inches, eight of those with fewer than 10 inches for an entire winter.

The snowiest winter on record was 1995-96, when 90.8 inches fell.

The mildest winter? Two years later, in 1997-98, when just 4.5 inches of snow fell.

Last year, Long Island saw no snow in February or March. This year has put that to shame.

The snowiest February on record was 1967, when 32.5 inches of snow was recorded. That was followed by 31.5 inches of snow that March, the weather service said.

On the other hand, we not only didn't see a snowflake last February, but the weather service said Long Island had zero snowfall in February 2012 and February 1998, with trace amounts in February for 2002, 1988, 1984, 1981 and 1953. Several times — 1992, 1982, 1980, 1981 and 1954 — we saw measurable amounts between 0.3 inches and two inches in February.

Of course, the weather service said Thursday we could see more snow — or, maybe, sleet and freezing rain — come Monday. But again, that remains to be seen.

"It's the next possible chance of snow," Tomasini said. "But that's still several days out."

"I think we're in for another quiet period," von Ohlen said, adding he doesn't think we will have another snowfall this winter.

The official start of spring is March 20.

As for whether or not it will snow again before then is anyone's guess.

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