Exploring January weather on Long Island

New years mean new goals, new opportunities, new weather patterns! A fresh start can often quickly translate to fresh snow. Geoff Bansen tells us what we should expect and looks back on some of the month's wildest weather.

News 12 Staff

Jan 2, 2020, 12:25 PM

Updated 1,606 days ago


Happy New Year! Happy New Decade!
New years mean new goals, new opportunities, new weather patterns! 
A fresh start can often quickly translate to fresh snow.
While the days are getting longer, they are also getting colder. More cold air means more chances for snow. All it takes is one dip in the jet stream, and one ambitious storm to run into said cold air for a traveler's nightmare (and a student's wonderland!)
January kicks off with daily average highs/lows of 39/24 degrees. By month's end, those numbers barely change (38/24) which shows a generally even playing field for the month.
The month's all-time warmest day was January 29, 2002, when it reached 69. Compare that with -8 on the 18th back in 1965.
There's a good chance you remember January's biggest snow event, as it happened only a few years ago in 2016. Nearly 2 feet fell at MacArthur Airport on Saturday the 23rd, with even more piling up in Central Park. This was partially due to the fact that the snow began falling just after midnight on the 23rd and wrapped up around midnight on the 24th, maximizing the 24-hour output.
But it wasn't the snowiest month. That honor belongs to 2011, where 34.4 inches fell. As for the highest total precipitation (rain and snow liquid equivalent) 1996 takes the cake with 8.96 inches. On the flip side, the driest month was in 1985 with less than an inch of precipitation (0.90).
January is actually the 4 driest month for Long Island. When you think of all of the snow we have gotten over the years, this may seem strange. Meteorologically speaking, however, it actually makes sense for two reasons. First, cold air can hold less water than warm air. Secondly, the jet stream often takes big southern dips in January, allowing that bitter cold arctic air to encroach upon us. For that reason, many storms can often stay south of us.
But every now any then the two combine to blast the area with wintry weather.
January 4, 2018: Blizzard
A fast moving, powerful coastal storm produced 10-16" of snow, with winds gusting over 60 mph, leading to whiteout conditions. More than 200 traffic accidents were reported, as well as many stranded motorists. All area airports were shut down, with thousands of passengers stranded at JFK airport for days. Even the postal service stopped delivering! 23,000 power outages left much of Long Island in the dark. Governor Cuomo declared a State of Emergency for Long Island.
January 7-8, 1996: Blizzard
In the snowiest winter on record, the Blizzard of ‘96 only accounted for about 20-25% of all snow. In other years, this would be much higher.  18-24" of snow fell across Long Island. Temperatures fell into the teens, with wind gusts over 50 mph. There was also significant coastal flooding and beach erosion. All airports were closed, LIRR shut down, and 4 people died from shoveling.
January 19, 1961: Blizzard
Brookhaven National Lab picked up 13", with 40 mph winds leading to 6' snow drifts!
January 19-20, 1978: "Oops"
A bust if there ever was one. 14" at Brookhaven National Lab, 20.5" in Huntington.
The official forecast the day before was for "One to three inches of snow changing to rain."
January 22-23, 2005: Blizzard
13-20" of snow, wind gusts as high as 79 mph (Orient Point), visibility near zero, temperatures in teens, and tides 7 feet above normal. Nassau/Suffolk declared a State of Emergency.
Saturday PM Coverage with Bill Korbel and Carol Silva
Sunday AM Coverage with Rich Hoffman and Elizabeth Hashagen
January 23, 2016
The aforementioned biggest one-day snow on record. 16-29”, with the lowest amounts falling on the East End. Some notable totals: Hicksville 29.6”, Carle Place 24.1",  Commack 26.5”, Orient 10.0”. 50 mph wind gusts, roads closed and travel banned. Airports and LIRR shut down. 6 deaths.
January 26-27, 2015: Blizzard
10-18” in Nassau, 15-30” in Suffolk. Orient 30”, Bridgehampton 29”, Bethpage 16”, Islip 24.5”. A 60 mph wind gust Westhampton. Traffic banned all roads. LIRR suspended and flights cancelled at all airports. Schools closed. The East End declared a State of Emergency.
Snow may be the first weather that comes to mind when you think of January, but Long Island has seen some crippling ice storms, which can often be more dangerous than snow.
January 3, 1999
Roads began icing at 1:30 AM as rain began to freeze. A 60 car pileup occurred on Grand Central in Queens. As temperatures rose during the morning, the rain continued. Nearly 5" flooded streets and basements and submerging cars. Parts of the Northern State and Meadowbrook Parkways were closed.
January 4, 1994
A nor'easter dropped 2-4" of snow but that changed to freezing rain., 56,000 LILCO customers lost power, and numerous accidents were reported.
January 7-8, 1994: Again??
Just 3 days later, another, more severe ice event knocked out power for 87,000 LILCO customers.
January 9, 1991
An ice storm caused numerous accidents, and closed multiple roads, including the Seaford Oyster Bay Expressway, Route 110, and Vanderbilt Parkway.
Check out the footage from our News 12 vault! (no sound, unfortunately)
 January 13, 1978
300,000 homes had to wait 4 days for power after a severe ice storm left Long Island in a glaze.
January 18, 2015
A rain event that unexpectedly started as freezing rain early on a Sunday morning led to dozens of traffic accidents and slips and falls.
January 22, 1997
Black ice caused 75 accidents between 6-8:30 A.M.
January 6-7, 2014
Temperatures dropped a whopping 50 degrees in only 24 hours, from 57 to 7 between the mornings of the 6th and 7th.
January 19, 1996
A powerful cold front preceded by dense fog and heavy rain melted nearly all of blizzard of ‘96. After the front passes, temperatures dropped 35 degrees overnight.
January 22, 1961
Brookhaven National Lab dropped to it's coldest temperature ever recorded - a ridiculous 23 degrees below zero!
January 23 - February 1, 2004
A prolonged arctic stretch for Long Island. Temperatures at Islip MacArthur officially remained below freezing for 10 straight days!

It was a balmy 63 back in 1966, but we woke up to a frigid 6 just a few years ago in 2018.
MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. DAY (this year on Jan. 21)
38 degrees is the normal high for the day, with a record high of 58 degrees set in 1974, and a record low of -3 degrees set in 1984.
The emoji that best describes January weather is....
You didn't think we'd pick any other face did you?
When we think of January, we think cold and snow!
Will 2020 bring lots of both? Only time will tell....

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