What It Takes To Call Winter Storm Jonas A Blizzard

Published January 22, 2016
Updated February 5, 2018
Published January 22, 2016
Updated February 5, 2018
Snowfall Prediction For Winter Storm Jonas

The National Weather Service snowfall projection. Image Source: National Weather Service

The northeastern United States is hunkering down for a potentially devastating winter storm this weekend. As Winter Storm Jonas approaches, meteorologists are predicting historic amounts of snow, with anywhere from 1 to more than 2 feet from Friday to Sunday. And while Washington D.C. and Baltimore are at the center of Jonas’ path, the entire Eastern seaboard has been told to prepare for the worst.

Little Rock, Arkansas saw the earliest effects of Jonas early on Friday morning with seven inches of snow, and blizzard warnings have been issued from northern Virginia to Long Island, New York. Since Wednesday, around 20 states and more than 85 million people have been placed under some sort of winter weather advisory. For perspective, that’s around one in every four Americans.

And as for the historic predictions: D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York City may all see snowfall in the top 10 in their local record books. While Jonas might keep you indoors all weekend, it might not actually be a blizzard. Here’s why:

Wind speed is more of a factor than snow fall

Snow Jonas

While snow is the most visible part of a blizzard, wind is the true deciding factor. Image Source: Twitter

In order to qualify as a blizzard, a winter storm’s wind speeds have to be at least 35 MPH. To be labeled as a “severe blizzard,” winds have to be more than 45 MPH. Likewise, temperatures have to be 10 degrees or less. In all actuality, snowfall has little to do with a storm’s qualification as a blizzard.

Visibility must be very limited

White Out

Snow, as well as ground-level snow kicked up by heavy winds, causes white out conditions. Image Source: Wikipedia (en)

White-out conditions come along with snow and severe winds. To be a blizzard, visibility needs to go down to a quarter of a mile.

There’s a major time factor involved

Jonas Timeline

The total effect time predicted for Winter Storm Jonas: 105 hours. Image Source: Twitter

All of the above (as well as snow of course) must happen for at least three hours. Less than that? Not a true blizzard.

Nickolaus Hines
Nickolaus Hines is a freelance writer in New York City. He graduated from Auburn University, and his recent bylines can be found at Men's Journal, Inverse, and Grape Collective.