Snow has been a no-show in some traditionally wintry cities

BOSTON – Growing up in New England, Leah Ofsevit’s fondest childhood memories were covered in snow. She remembers running barefoot outside with her brother at the first sign, building snowmen and ice castles most winters, and skiing as a toddler.

Ofsevit and her husband Jeremy Garczynski want to pass these traditions on to their children, 3-year-old Lewis and 8-month-old Asher. They hoped this would be the year: Tiny skis were bought for Lewis, and they planned to ski down their favorite slopes in Massachusetts while towing Asher in a sled.

But three months into winter, when March arrives, their skis and sleds are mostly gathering dust. She doesn’t like it one bit.

“It’s not what I envisioned for my kids,” says Ofsevit, who was on her high school cross-country team and lives in Melrose, just outside of Boston. “It’s such a big part of being a kid in New England.”

For much of the eastern United States, from Massachusetts down to parts of West Virginia and Ohio, the winter was a bust. While parts of the Midwest have been hit by repeated snowstorms, much of California including Los Angeles has been covered lately and even saw parts of the Southwest Blizzard conditionsmany cities on the east coast missed it.

Boston, known for wicked Nor’easter and a snow storm last year almost two meters of snow piled up in the city, had seen just over 11 inches in the past week, according to data from the National Weather Service, compared to an average of 38.6. Philadelphia got just 0.3 inches compared to an average of 19.2 inches. New York, which is now typically over two feet tall, has only seen 2.2 inches. Similar deficits were noted in Providence, Pittsburgh, Washington, DC and parts of West Virginia.

There were exceptions like Buffalo, which was hit in November thanks to a lake-effect storm caused by cold air picking up moisture from warmer lakes. But David Robinson, a professor of geography at Rutgers University and a New Jersey state climatologist: “It was mostly a winter without winter.”


A big reason for the lack of snow were the warmer conditions, says Robinson — conditions caused in part by human-caused climate change. The Northeast is among the fastest warming regions in the country.

The region has seen a lot of precipitation, but often it was too warm to snow. Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Vermont all had their warmest January on record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, while Indiana, New York and Pennsylvania had their second-warmest January.

But other factors play a role.

La Niña, which is about a large-scale cool down surface temperatures of the oceans, has resulted in unusually cool conditions in the eastern Pacific. As a result, the jet stream that would bring colder conditions to the region has kept that air closer to the Canadian border, rather than dropping off to the northeast.

The polar vortex, which spins like a spinning top over the North Pole, also remained strong through mid-January, holding off colder air in Canada, according to Judah Cohen, who studies the polar vortex’s relationship with weather and is the director of seasonal forecasts at Verisk AER.

This could become the new normal. The Weather Service analyzed snowfall totals through 2019 in the contiguous United States and found that the states whose totals were furthest from their average in mid-February were on the east coast.

For many who pride themselves on succeeding in New England winters, the unseasonably warm conditions have been disorienting and downright depressing. Gone are the four seasons and the scenes many have long associated with winter—snow blankets backyards, blankets trees, and piles into mounds on street corners and in parking lots.

Instead, the landscape features brown grass, muddy backyards, and early spring flowers.

“When I retired, I thought winter would be my happy time because I can ski when I want, be outside…enjoy anything winter-related,” says Nancy Mazonson, who Mother of Leah Ofsevit. “It’s not pretty outside… It’s not mysterious. It’s like always, minus the magic of the snow.”

Caroline Nagy moved to Troy, New York, with her husband from New York City in hopes of catching colder, snowier winters. It didn’t turn out the way she expected. “A warm month is one thing,” says Nagy, “but a warm winter is scary.”


The warmer conditions have taken their toll on traditional winter sports.

Cross-country ski trails are not open in many places. Skaters have left backyard ponds. Some ski resorts, particularly those that rely on natural snow, are struggling to stay open. In Pennsylvania, the Whitetail Resort has already closed for the season; in Cherry Creek, New York, the Cockaigne Resort announced on its website that it would be closing due to warm temperatures and rain. And a popular 216-mile sled dog race in Michigan’s upper peninsula has been canceled for the first time in its 33-year history due to inclement weather.

“Where it was already thin, it’s now become ice,” says Darlene Walch, president of the Upper Peninsula Sled Dog Association. “When the snowpack is saturated, it turns into concrete when it freezes. It’s not good for the dogs and it’s hard for the mushers to control their sleds.”

Many lakes and ponds are not frozen, including the Great Lakes, where less than 12% of the surface was covered with ice in early March, according to NOAA’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The historical average for this time of year is closer to 40%.

As a result, ice fishing tournaments from Maine to Pennsylvania were scrapped. Several people fell through the ice including three fishermen who died within a week on Lake Champlain in Vermont.

The lack of winter’s symptoms wasn’t all bad. Spring-like conditions have been a boon for bike commuters. Golfers have been spotted on courses that normally host skiers at this time of year. The tennis courts are bustling with activity on warm days and the playgrounds are full of children.

Cities like Boston, Philadelphia and New York are expected to save millions of dollars earmarked for snow removal. Connecticut’s 169 cities and towns traditionally spend their entire snow budgets by the end of winter, but Kevin Maloney, spokesman for the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, says this year “budgets have remained virtually untouched.”

Robinson, the New Jersey climatologist, says the snow isn’t going away anytime soon. “There is no sign of a decline in the major events,” he says. “There are signs that we are having fewer smaller events.”

But it has been difficult for the small businesses that plow parking lots and salt roads.

“I’ve personally never experienced a winter like this,” says Jordan Kenyon, co-owner of two snow management companies in Mystic, Connecticut. Typically, they plan 10 storms along the southeastern Connecticut coast and 15 events inland. This year, he says, his crews have been out only a few times to spread salt and once to plough.

Despite this year’s snowy winter, Kenyon says he doesn’t list the snow removal portion of his business.

“There will always be snow at some point. So we don’t see any change in the business model,” he says. “But we may need to make operational adjustments if we see this pattern continue.”


Associated Press writers Susan Haigh in Hartford, John Flesher in Traverse City, Michigan, Maysoon Kahn in Albany, New York, and Ron Todt in Philadelphia contributed to this report. Follow Michael Casey on Twitter at

Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission. Snow has been a no-show in some traditionally wintry cities

Sarah Y. Kim

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