WORCESTER — In the end, perennial powerhouse Syracuse faded. Last year’s champion, Anchorage, never put up a fight. For once, New England’s second-largest city stood second to none.
On the first day of spring Wednesday, Worcester, yes, Worcester, was the snowiest city in the United States for the winter of 2012-2013, according to the National Weather Service. From the mighty Rockies to the lee of Lake Erie, no city larger than 100,000 inhabitants saw more white stuff than the 108.9 inches in Worcester, after Tuesday’s storm dropped 4.2 inches of frosting on the cake.
The distinction carries little more than bragging rights, with an accent on the brrrrr, but some in this former mill town, which has been trying to rebrand its identity as a center of biotech and higher learning, were happy to brag.
“We’re proud to hold the title,” said Michael V. O’Brien, the city manager, who noted that Worcester has been “battle-hardened” in recent years by ice storms and tornados in a period of unpredictable swings in the climate and unusual storm patterns. “As a city, we are proud to have weathered it all.”
Syracuse came in second this winter, with 96.5 inches of snow, ahead of Erie, Pa., with 92.2 inches; Rochester, N.Y., with 72.7 inches; and Salt Lake City, 67.1 inches, according to Patrick DeCoursey of Fremont, N.Y., who maintains the website goldensnowglobe.com. It tracks snowfall in cities with more than 100,000 people.
For the past three years, DeCoursey has conferred an unofficial prize, the Golden Snow Globe, on the snowiest city: Syracuse in 2010 and 2011 and Anchorage last year.
He pointed out that Worcester has yet to win this year’s Globe. He keeps his competition open until the snowfall, rather than the season, ends. Even so, Worcester, which on May 9, 1977, received 11 inches of snow, remains the front-
“Bottom line, it can certainly snow into May,” said meteorologist Bill Simpson of the National Weather Service in Taunton, “so winter isn’t over yet.”
Snowfall amounts can be much higher in places that are not as populous. Mount Baker in Washington state has recorded 174 inches so far this year, the National Weather Service office in Seattle said.
Some unofficial totals were much higher.
“As of today, the small city of Houghton, Mich., where Michigan Tech is located, has had 242 inches of snow,” observed Hugh H. McCall, Augusta Thomas director of finance at the Boston Athenaeum, whose niece studies at the school. “Worcester’s ‘accomplishment’ seems trivial by comparison.”
Such niceties did not faze O’Brien, the Worcester city manager.
“I know that Syracuse and Anchorage will be bringing in snowmakers next year to take back the title,” he scoffed.
Others in Worcester expressed surprise at the city’s polar preeminence. The snow has come in a series of storms that slowly piled up the total. Worcester did not take sole possession of first place until March 8, DeCoursey said
Bill Aldrich, who co-owns the Theatre Cafe on Main Street in Worcester with his girlfriend, Jeannette Harmsen, said he was surprised that this year’s snowfall was greater than that of 2010-2011.
“It sort of crept up on us,” Aldrich said. He added, not without pride, that the snow had little effect on his business. The owners live upstairs, and if they can open their door, they can open their cafe.
Relrison Nascimento, who paints exteriors, is more reliant on good weather. Last year, by the end of March, he was able to paint. On Wednesday, he stared at the snowbanks glistening in the setting sun on Front Street and said, without conviction, “Winter is over now, isn’t it?”
At the Hanover Theatre, one of the jewels of Worcester’s downtown revitalization, Linda Condit, the marketing director, noted with pride that only two shows were rescheduled because of the weather, even though, she said, “snow piles were so high you could build a fort or an igloo in them.”
Needless to say, a number of people in downtown Worcester Wednesday spat with contempt at the city’s frosty first-place.
“Many people are tired of snow,” Nascimento pointed out.
Condit acknowledged that, but said the city’s scorching summers also wear people out.
“The seasons are there in Massachusetts just to make us happier about the next one,” Condit said. “Come August, we’re all going to be waiting for that first coat of white.”