News & Features
Shop Magazines
Customer Service
Try the Free App
Try the Free App
Customer Service
The teacher's online companion to Science World, providing your middle school and high school students with science news and rich informational texts that connect STEM to the Common Core

Sledding after a winter storm in Shelby, North Carolina.
Close Caption
AP Photo/The Star, Ben Earp
Will Winter Ever End?
Waves of winter storms are crippling the eastern and southern United States

By Sean Price | for  

For most of this winter, it’s been snowy with a chance of disaster up and down the East Coast. Heavier-than-normal snowfalls have hit big cities like Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.

Many air travelers have been unable to fly, and thousands of people have been left without power. In addition, slippery, icy roads have posed a serious danger to drivers.

The southern United States has also felt some of nature’s winter fury. Ice and snow have plagued cities like Atlanta, Georgia, and Raleigh, North Carolina. These areas often go through entire winters without any serious snow or ice. As a result, city officials and residents have not been adequately prepared for even small amounts of the frozen precipitation (water that falls from the atmosphere).

WINTER IN GEORGIA

Two weeks ago, three inches of ice and snow built up on roads in Atlanta. State and city officials encouraged schools, businesses, and government offices to let workers go home early to beat the storm. The idea was to help people avoid driving in the storm. But when all those cars hit Atlanta’s streets at once, it resulted in a big traffic jam. Helicopters had to rescue stranded drivers.

Atlanta was better prepared this week when the most recent winter storm (called “Winter Storm Pax” by the Weather Channel) hit the area. The National Weather Service had issued a memo ahead of time, calling the storm “an event of historical proportions.” So most residents of Atlanta stayed home, and a second crisis was averted.

SNOW END IN SIGHT?

Winter Storm Pax did cause plenty of damage in other places across the South, especially Tennessee, Virginia, and the Carolinas. It was responsible for at least 16 deaths (many from traffic accidents) and hundreds of thousands of power outages.

The storm then moved up the Atlantic Coast and blasted the Northeast. Areas in the region are better prepared for this type of weather. But storms as big as Pax produce blizzard conditions that can disrupt daily life anywhere.

“This has just been a brutal winter where it never really has gotten warmer,” said New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. “And so the natural melting away of snow and ice is not happening.”

And the snow just keeps coming. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is a government agency that keeps track of ocean and weather conditions. It reported that 49 out of all 50 states had at least a little bit of snow on the ground on February 13—even tropical Hawaii!