An October Surprise: the socio-ecological causes and consequences of a large scale winter weather whiplash event

Authors: Christopher Macdonald Hewitt*, University of Saskatchewan, Irena F. Creed, University of Saskatchewan, Nora J. Casson, University of Winnipeg, Alexandra R. Contosta, University of Hew Hampshire, John L. Campbell, U. S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, David A. Lutz, Darthmouth College, Anita T. Morzillo, University of Connecticut
Topics: Hazards, Risks, and Disasters, Environmental Science, Environment
Keywords: Winter Weather Whiplash, Power Outage, 2011 October Snowstorm
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/8/2021
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:20 PM
Room: Virtual 41
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Winter weather whiplash is an abrupt back-and-forth swing in winter weather with unforeseen impacts on the human and natural systems (Casson et al., 2019). A subset of these events are fall snowstorms which can have a significant impact on people and property due to the presence of unfallen leaves. One such event was the 2011 October snowstorm in New England, which left approximately 4.3 million people without power, and over $1 billion in damage. We used content analysis of newspaper articles to estimate the intensity and distribution of impact of this winter weather whiplash event. Additionally, we used regression tree analysis to explore the relative contributions of socio-economic and ecological factors to the impact. Our findings are that the hardest impacted areas are explained by snowfall as the primary factor followed by road density and the leaf area index in parts of Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York and Pennsylvania. These findings demonstrate the interactive effects of socio-economic and ecological variables on the impact of the storm. The implications of this study focus on the management of these combined variables when working to reduce the risks associated with winter whiplash events.

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