Status Report

Photo: Heavy Snow in Northeastern United States As Seen From Space

By SpaceRef Editor
October 31, 2011
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An unseasonably early nor’easter dropped as much as 32 inches (81 centimeters) of snow on some parts of the northeastern United States in late October 2011. Nicknamed “Snowtober,” the storm left wet, heavy snow on trees still loaded with leaves. News reports described snapped branches, snapped power lines, and utility companies scrambling to restore lights and heat.

The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite captured this natural-color image on October 30, 2011. A swath of snow sweeps from West Virginia northeastward to Maine. Clouds hover east and west of the snow, blocking the satellite sensor’s view of western Pennsylvania and parts of the Atlantic Ocean.

The storm broke snowfall-total records in cities throughout the U.S. Northeast, Capital Weather Gang reported. The nor’easter was also surprisingly intense, causing wind gusts along the Massachusetts coastline of 69 miles (111 kilometers) per hour.

More than 3 million homes and businesses lacked electricity in the wake of the storm, according to news reports. Capital Weather Gang reported that this storm caused a record loss of electricity in Connecticut–worse than the power loss caused by Hurricane Irene. As residents headed back to work on October 31, closed or icy roads complicated commutes in multiple states. Fortunately, rising temperatures were expected to help melt the snow.


– Freedman, A. (2011, October 31). Historic October Northeast storm: Epic. Incredible. Downright ridiculous. Capital Weather Gang. The Washington Post. Accessed October 31, 2011.

– Hydrometeorological Prediction Center. (2011, October 31). Storm summary message. U.S. National Weather Service. Accessed October 31, 2011.

– Melia, M., Associated Press. (2011, October 30). Early snow affects millions. Times Union. Accessed October 31, 2011.

– MSNBC. (2011, October 31). “What a storm”: Power still out for millions after early snow. Accessed October 31, 2011.

NASA images courtesy Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response Team, Goddard Space Flight Center. Caption by Michon Scott.

Instrument: Terra – MODIS Larger image

SpaceRef staff editor.