What started as a nor'easter in March 1993 ended as a disaster dubbed the "Storm of the Century." In its wake were record snowfalls, coastal flooding, record-low temperatures, tornadoes, 318 lost lives and a hard look at the communication failures that took place in the days leading up to the storm.
The Storm of the Century was the product of an unlikely union: Three massive -- and separate -- weather systems unexpectedly mingled over the Gulf of Mexico and affected states along the East Coast, from Florida to Maine, as well as interior states that didn't often feel the effects of a powerful nor'easter. After the 100-year storm had run its multi-day course, 2.5 million people were without power and up to $6 billion in damage had been reported. For the first time in history, all the major airports on the Eastern Seaboard were shut down at the same time.
In addition to the damage to people and property, the storm highlighted the importance of communication between national forecasters and local officials. In Florida, which bore the brunt, a storm surge damaged 18,000 homes in areas recovering from the previous year's Hurricane Andrew, yet the state's emergency officials said they weren't properly notified of the storm's magnitude. As a result, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration instituted a new process to more effectively disseminate weather threats and developed more accurate snowfall prediction models. In 2012, snowfall prediction was 75 percent accurate, up from 37 percent in 1993 [source: Galvin].