Nor'easter: What is it and how does it work? - WDAM-TV 7-News, Weather, Sports-Hattiesburg, MS

Nor'easter: What is it and how does it work?

Damaged homes are shown from the 1991 Halloween Storm, also called the Perfect Storm, that killed 13 people. (Source: NOAA) Damaged homes are shown from the 1991 Halloween Storm, also called the Perfect Storm, that killed 13 people. (Source: NOAA)

(RNN) – No one should allow Hurricane Sandy's temporary downgrade to lull them to sleep, especially those that live on the East Coast.

This "Frankenstorm" – as has become its popular nickname – has all the makings of a nor'easter, a weather phenomenon that can include part hurricane, part snowstorm and is completely destructive.

Nor'easters usually begin in the Atlantic Ocean off the East Coast of the U.S. and move toward Canada. They form when winds from the north move downward and meet warm air that travels up from the Gulf of Mexico.

The Atlantic Coast from fall until spring provides the perfect timeframe and location for these powerful super storms because the changes in temperature and constant air movement cause several such meetings.

Those meetings of the hot and cold air fronts produce the rotation that creates more severe weather, however nor'easters don't always classify as hurricanes.

The most destructive nor'easter in recent memory was the 1993 Superstorm that affected the entire eastern half of the United States, Canada and Cuba. The storm produced snow, wind speeds near 100 mph and more than 50 tornadoes. Estimates of damage in terms of property and lives reached as high as $6 million and more than 300 people.

The "Perfect Storm" of 1991 killed 13 people – including an entire ship crew of six and a National Guard member – and inspired a book and subsequent movie. This storm lasted an unusually long five days and eroded 1,000 miles of coastline by sending 15-foot waves ashore.

The Great Blizzard of 1978 devastated New England and killed more than 10 people, many of whom were trapped in their houses or stranded in their cars on roadways barricaded by snow.

Copyright 2012 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.

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