February 18, 2010

When Snow, Sleet and Slush Make Big News

Pecentage of Newshole
MidAtlantic Storm Feb. 8-14, 2010 11
Record Snow Feb. 11-16, 2007 7.2
Ice Storms Jan. 14-19, 2007 6.2
Plain State Freeze Dec. 9-14, 2007 5.7
Record Cold Snap Jan. 4-10, 2010 4.3
Dual Storms Dec. 2-7, 2007 3.7
Desert Snow Dec. 15-21, 2008 3.6
CA Rain turned Snow Dec. 7-13, 2009 3.6

No. 1 – Rank of the recent D.C. and Mid Atlantic “Snowpocalypse” among most covered winter storms

The two major snowstorms that swept the Mid-Atlantic—stopping air and interstate travel and shuttering the federal government—filled 11% the newshole from February 8-14, 2010. The unprecedented snowfall in Washington D.C. and its impact on the government helped make it the biggest week for winter weather events since PEJ began tracking media coverage in January 2007. It also marks the only time a winter weather event was a No. 1 story in a week.

The next most covered snowstorm, occurring almost exactly three years earlier, swept the Midwest and Northeast regions of the country. In addition to breaking several snowfall records in locales ranging from Chicago to Vermont, the storm caused the infamous nine-hour tarmac wait of a JetBlue flight headed to Cancun from JFK airport in New York. Coverage filled 7.2% of the newshole from February 11-16, 2007.

There were three other wintry storms that generated substantial weekly coverage in 2007. The ice storms that took a significant toll on California crops and canceled flights from Texas to Michigan filled 6.2% of the newshole from January 14-19 and ranks as the third-biggest winter storm story. Eleven months later, rare but severe ice storms in the Plain states caused many traffic related deaths and the largest power outage in Oklahoma history. That weather moved its way up to the Northeast and filled 5.7% of the newshole from December 9-14, making it the No. 4 winter event. And a pair of storms, one on the Northwest and one on the Northeast, caused major damage on both coasts, accounting for 3.7% of the newshole from December 2-7 in the No. 6 spot.   

Another winter weather event that occurred earlier this year—the severe cold-snap that brought record low temperatures to 35 states—filled 4.3% of the newshole from January 4-10 and was the fifth-biggest winter storm story. A desert snowfall in Las Vegas was No. 7, at 3.6% of the newshole the week of December 15-21, 2008. And a storm that began with mudslide-causing rain in California later dumped significant snow in the Midwest and Northeast, finished in the No. 8 spot, also at 3.6%, the week of December 7-13, 2009.

Tricia Sartor of PEJ