January 2020 North American storm complex

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January 2020 North American storm complex
(Winter Storm Jacob)
Winter Storm Jacob.png
The winter storm approaching the Pacific Northwest on 15 January
TypeExtratropical cyclone
Winter storm
Pacific Northwest windstorm
Formed14 January 2020
Dissipated19 January 2020
Lowest pressure979 mb (28.9 inHg)[1]
Highest gust97 mph (156 km/h); Newfoundland, Canada[2]
Power outages21,000+[3]
Casualties1 fatality + 1 missing[4][5]
Areas affectedUnited States, Canada

Part of the 2019–20 North American winter

In mid-January 2020, a complex system of winter storms – unofficially named Winter Storm Jacob by The Weather Channel – crossed North America, bringing heavy snowfall and high winds to Canada and the northern United States between 15 and 18 January. At least one person was killed, in California, while at least one remains missing, in Newfoundland. The winter storm caused historic blizzard conditions in many areas, particularly Atlantic Canada.

Meteorological history[edit]

The system that would eventually become the series of mid-January winter storms was first noted as an area of disorganised cloudiness to the east of Japan on 10 January. Slowly crossing the north Pacific, the system organised sufficiently to be named Winter Storm Jacob by The Weather Channel on 14 January, while located off the coast of the Pacific Northwest. After undergoing rapid intensification into a strong Pacific Northwest windstorm, Jacob made landfall over Washington state on 15 January.[6] After crossing the northern United States, the system emerged into the north Atlantic on 17 January, crossing the coast of Virginia. The system then once again underwent rapid intensification as it followed the coast north-eastwards, making landfall in Newfoundland as a deep bomb cyclone on 18 January; the following day, the system emerged into the Labrador Sea and merged with another area of low-pressure, contributing energy to the formation of Storm Gloria.

Preparations and impact[edit]

United States[edit]

Winter Storm Jacob, as the system was unofficially known in North America, made landfall over the Pacific Northwest on 15 January. In the community of Joyce, on Washington state's Olympic Peninsula, 22 inches (56 cm) of snow was recorded.[7] In eastern Oregon, high winds and blowing snow resulted in the closure of Interstate 84.[8] Jacob brought heavy snowfall from Montana to Idaho and Utah and down into the Sierra Nevada of California on 16 January,[9] including up to 26 inches (66 cm) of snow at Tahoe Donner, California.[10] On 17 January, an avalanche at the Squaw Valley Ski Resort in northern California, site of the 1960 Winter Olympics, killed one person and seriously injured another.[11]

Rare snowfall and freezing rain led to difficult commuting conditions on the morning of 17 January in Reno, Nevada; Omaha, Nebraska; and parts of the Texas Panhandle, including the Amarillo area.[12] Freezing rainfall across Kansas, Missouri and Arkansas led to ice accretions of up to 0.5 inches (1.3 cm) widely by nightfall;[13] icy conditions at Kansas City International Airport resulted in a Delta Air Lines Airbus A319 sliding off of a taxiway onto grass while attempting to take off, although there were no injuries.[14]

As Jacob moved off into the Atlantic, winds gusting up to 60 miles per hour (97 km/h) were recorded across the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic states on 18 January, leading to difficult conditions with existing blowing snow, with 500 miles (800 km) of Interstate highways closing as a result.[15] Up to 5 inches (13 cm) of snow was recorded in Chicago, Illinois; 7 inches (18 cm) in Detroit, Michigan; and 5 inches (13 cm) in Cleveland, Ohio.[16]


As Winter Storm Jacob emerged into the Atlantic on 18 January, it passed offshore close to Atlantic Canada, bringing high winds and heavy snowfall widely. Worst affected was Newfoundland, where St. John's recorded over 30 inches (76 cm) of snow, breaking the city's all-time single-day snowfall record.[17] As a result of the severe blizzard, 21,000 homes were left without power and a state of emergency was declared across Newfoundland, banning all road travel except for emergencies.[18] A 26-year-old man was reported missing after failing to return home from a walk in the blizzard in Conception Bay.[19]

High winds, gusting up to 97 miles per hour (156 km/h), damaged the roofs of houses and created snowdrifts as high as 15 feet (4.6 m) against buildings and vehicles, trapping people indoors for several days and hindering emergency vehicle access; fire engines required snowplough escorts, and snowmobiles were used to transport patients to local hospitals in the days following the blizzard.[20] Many meteorologists in the area described Jacob as the worst winter storm they had ever seen.[21]

See also[edit]

  • Storm Gloria (2020), which brought heavy snowfall across similar areas several days prior to this storm


  1. ^ https://weather.com/storms/winter/news/2020-01-12-mid-january-snow-ice-rain-storm-west-midwest-northeast
  2. ^ https://weather.com/storms/winter/news/2020-01-18-newfoundland-blizzard-record-daily-snow-st-johns
  3. ^ https://weather.com/storms/winter/news/2020-01-18-newfoundland-blizzard-record-daily-snow-st-johns
  4. ^ https://weather.com/news/news/2020-01-17-alpine-meadows-california-avalanche
  5. ^ https://weather.com/storms/winter/news/2020-01-18-newfoundland-blizzard-record-daily-snow-st-johns
  6. ^ https://weather.com/storms/winter/news/2020-01-12-mid-january-snow-ice-rain-storm-west-midwest-northeast
  7. ^ https://weather.com/storms/winter/news/2020-01-12-mid-january-snow-ice-rain-storm-west-midwest-northeast
  8. ^ https://twitter.com/NWSBoise/status/1217546835071340545
  9. ^ https://weather.com/storms/winter/news/2020-01-12-mid-january-snow-ice-rain-storm-west-midwest-northeast
  10. ^ https://twitter.com/NWSReno/status/1218192206235750401?s=20
  11. ^ https://weather.com/news/news/2020-01-17-alpine-meadows-california-avalanche
  12. ^ https://weather.com/storms/winter/news/2020-01-12-mid-january-snow-ice-rain-storm-west-midwest-northeast
  13. ^ https://weather.com/storms/winter/news/2020-01-12-mid-january-snow-ice-rain-storm-west-midwest-northeast
  14. ^ https://abc7ny.com/travel/delta-plane-slides-off-runway-in-missouri/5858193/
  15. ^ https://weather.com/storms/winter/news/2020-01-12-mid-january-snow-ice-rain-storm-west-midwest-northeast
  16. ^ https://weather.com/storms/winter/news/2020-01-12-mid-january-snow-ice-rain-storm-west-midwest-northeast
  17. ^ https://weather.com/storms/winter/news/2020-01-18-newfoundland-blizzard-record-daily-snow-st-johns
  18. ^ https://weather.com/storms/winter/news/2020-01-18-newfoundland-blizzard-record-daily-snow-st-johns
  19. ^ https://weather.com/storms/winter/news/2020-01-18-newfoundland-blizzard-record-daily-snow-st-johns
  20. ^ https://weather.com/storms/winter/news/2020-01-18-newfoundland-blizzard-record-daily-snow-st-johns
  21. ^ https://weather.com/storms/winter/news/2020-01-18-newfoundland-blizzard-record-daily-snow-st-johns