COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — A major winter storm expected on Friday may bring back memories of another disruptive storm nearly two decades ago that brought a combination of rain, freezing rain, snow, and strong winds to central Ohio.
Just before Christmas, the area was struck by a massive winter storm on Dec. 22-23, 2004, that left hundreds of thousands without power in central Ohio for up to a week in the midst of a frigid holiday weekend.
A potent storm developed in eastern Texas early on Dec. 22, 2004, and raced northeast across southeastern Ohio during the early morning of Dec. 23, resulting in an ice storm in portions of central Ohio, and a massive snowfall in northern and western Ohio.
Snow fell heavily at the outset of the storm, mixing with sleet before a transition to freezing rain in the evening that coated central Ohio communities with 0.25 inches of ice.
A long duration freezing rain event ensued, as mild air aloft overspread subfreezing surface temperatures in the 20s, leading to a historic ice buildup of 1 to 3 inches east of the Interstate 71 corridor on Dec. 23. Widespread power outages and treacherous travel conditions caused enormous hardships in the central Ohio two days before Christmas.
The total amount of precipitation in Columbus was a little less than 2 inches, the greater proportion falling as liquid in a subfreezing environment beneath a layer of mild air a few thousand feet above the surface.
Snow accumulations were extraordinary over short distances. Accumulations ranged from 3 inches at Groveport, followed by relentless sleet and freezing rain, to 6 inches through the heart of Columbus, topped by an inch of ice.
Nine inches of snow blanketed Hilliard and nearly a foot fell in Dublin, before freezing rain set in, but with much less ice compared to the east side of Columbus. The snowfall northwest of the city ranged from 12 to 18 inches, with mainly snow falling, and up to 23 inches fell at Bellefontaine.
The loss of power in the eastern suburbs of Columbus that extended to Licking and Fairfield counties proved disastrous during the holiday season, as temperatures plummeted below zero a few days later on Christmas morning.