NOAA ranks snowstorm as fourth-worst for Northeast since 1950

According to a NOAA rating system, last weekend's storm was the fourth-worst for the Northeast since 1950.

Last weekend's snowstorm was the fourth-biggest to strike the Northeast since 1950, dumping more than 30 inches of snow on 1.5 million people and affecting nearly 103 million people in all, according to government meteorologists.

The storm was rated as "crippling," the second-highest category on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Northeast Snowfall Impact Scale, also known as NESIS. The scale takes into account the amount of snow a storm drops, the size of the area it affects and the number of people who live within that zone.

NOAA meteorologists' calculations rank the storm behind the "Storm of the Century" of March 1993, the blizzard of January 1996 and a historic nor'easter storm of March 1960.

"When looking at other similar snowstorms in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic, this one was one of the biggies," said Paul Kocin, a NOAA meteorologist who developed the scale along with National Weather Service Director Louis Uccellini.

Only the two largest storms in the rankings, the 1993 and 1996 events, have earned a rating of 5, or "extreme," the highest category on the scale. Last weekend's storm was the first to earn a 4 on the NESIS scale since the blizzard of February 2003, which now ranks just below it at No. 5.

The storm covered about 434 thousand square miles. Among the 102.8 million people affected, almost 24 million of them were hit by more than 20 inches of snow.

A record 29.2 inches of snow fell at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport from Friday night through Saturday night, making it Baltimore's largest snowfall recorded within a three-day period.

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