You’ve probably heard or read the word blizzard a few times in the last few weeks. Just recently, the Northern states and East coast were hit with a blizzard, as well were numerous Midwestern states. Though many believe that a blizzard just involves a heavy amounts of snow, this is not the case by definition. A blizzard is a storm that brings about very low temperatures, high winds, and lots of blowing snow. Along with blizzards usually come white outs, snow drifts, lowered visibility, and of course, a lot of snow shoveling. So bundle up and get warm, here are top 10 worst blizzards in U.S History.
10. The Great Blizzard of 1899
February 11 – 14, 1899; 0 deaths
Lasting about four days, this storm brought along not only that white mess, but also record low temperatures, some that still stand today. The storm mostly affected the southern portion of the U.S. including Tampa, FL, New Orleans, and even Washington, D.C. Surprisingly, this storm was more focused in the South then it was in the North or Midwest, which is usually more commonly seen. As the storm made its path along Florida, it picked up energy and vapor from the water, allowing for ocean-effect snow.
Once the storm picked up speed and headed east, it set record snowfall as well as record low temperatures. In Fort Logan, Montana, the recorded temperature was around -61°F and in Monterey, Virginia, -29°F. In Cape May, NJ, about 34 inches of snow fell, and 20.5 inches of snow in Washington, D.C. The storm caused no reported deaths. But by the end of it all, Cuba reported heavy frost which ruined some agriculture and the port of New Orleans looked like a winter wonderland.
9. The Great Storm of 1975
January 9 – 12, 1975; 70 deaths
This blizzard is definitely one that many won’t forget. Sometimes referred to as the “Super Bowl Blizzard,” this storm is not like most you’ll find on the list. Not only did this blizzard bring about massive amounts of snow, it is also said to have caused over 45 tornadoes in the southwest, as well as record high temperatures in locations such as Indianapolis and Chicago.
Mixing in with cold arctic air from the Rockies north and moisture coming from the Gulf of Mexico, this storm produced about a foot or two of snow ranging from Minnesota to Nebraska. Not only did the snow fall heavy, but the winds were heavy as well, sometimes gusting between 30-50mph, which then created 20 foot snowdrifts. In the end, 70 people were left dead; 12 from the tornadoes and 58 due to the snow.
8. Blizzard of 1999
January 2-4, 1999; 73 deaths
For some time, the Blizzard of 1999 was named the second worst blizzard to hit the Midwestern states in the 20th century by the National Weather Service after it dropped 22 inches of snow at Chicago’s O’Hare airport. The storm hardest hit states including Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, as well as provinces in Canada, mainly Ontario and Quebec. Most of these areas got at least a foot of snow, some of them more.
In Chicago, on the first day alone, 18.6 inches of snow fell, which is a set record in the books. It is said that temperatures in some locations reached a record low of -20°F. Sadly, the storm also brought about 73 deaths, 32 of them from shoveling snow, which can cause heart-attacks due to over-exertion in the body.
7. The Knickerbocker Storm
January 27 – 28, 1922; 98 deaths
Named after the Knickerbocker Theater in Washington, D.C. that collapsed during the blizzard, this storm affected most of the northeastern states including Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia. It’s estimated that about 22,400 square miles of land were affected by the storm, many of them receiving two to three feet of snow, with temperatures lingering around 20°F.
With the snow building up quick, it’s no wonder that a roof collapsed during the storm, but unfortunately it was the roof of the Knickerbocker Theater, which was the biggest and newest movie theater built in D.C. at the time and was always crowded with movie-goers. More unfortunate is the fact that the collapsed roof caused 98 deaths and more than 133 injuries as the balcony and brick walls buried people alive.
6. Armistice Day Blizzard
November 11 – 12, 1940; 154 deaths
Another storm located in the Midwest, the Armistice Day Blizzard brought about snow, but also wind gusts that would definitely send a chill up your spine. Encompassing Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Nebraska, and South Dakota, the storm brought up to 27 inches of snow to some locations, accompanied by 80mph winds and 20ft. snow drifts. As if the winds weren’t enough, temperatures were said to drop a sharp 50 degrees.
Because mid-November is known as duck hunting season for many, 25 hunters died because of the storm due to lack of preparation. It is also said that 66 sailors died on Lake Michigan, as well as other deaths with equaled a total of 154.
5. The Schoolhouse Blizzard (The Children’s Blizzard)
January 12, 1888; 230 deaths
One of the most tragic blizzards on this list, the Schoolhouse Blizzard was so deadly because it came unexpectedly during a warm day. Because of this, many people who ventured outside weren’t properly dressed for the arctic weather that was on the way. When the arctic air mixed with air that was packed with moisture from the south, blizzard conditions were created extremely quickly, causing temperatures to drop from above freezing to -40°F in the course of the same day.
Because so many people were out and about, namely school children, a lot of them were caught in the blizzard and died of hypothermia. Many teachers in one-room schoolhouses decided to send children home, while others were kept in the school. By the end of the storm, about 230 people, most of them children, were dead.
A book was written named The Children’s Blizzard documenting this tragic event.
4. The Great Lakes Storm of 1913
Nov 7 – 10, 1913; 260+ deaths
Today, the Great Lakes Storm of 1913 stands as the deadliest natural disaster to ever hit the Great Lakes region. Causing over 250 deaths, the blizzard came in with tremendous strength that was highly unpredicted by weather forecasters. With whiteouts causing travel to slow on the roads, winds reaching between 60-90mph on the lakes also caused unforeseen problems. It is said that the storm destroyed 19 ships, stranded 19 more, and left many sailors dead, due to lulls and huge waves that reached over 35ft.
On Lake Superior 43 sailors were killed, 7 on Lake Michigan, 199 on Lake Huron, and 6 on Lake Eerie. Looking at the storm today, many forecasters are astounded at how long the blizzard pounded these regions. It’s said that storms of this strength usually only last 4-5 hours, but this one stuck around for about 16.
3. The Storm of the Century
March 11 – 15, 1993; 300 deaths
This storm is definitely one that will be remembered. Not only was it a blizzard, it created heavy rains, winds, and tornadoes. Some call it the White Hurricane, simply because of its characteristics. When meteorologists looked at satellite images of the storm, it was clear that it would be huge. At its strongest point, the weather system went as far north as Canada and as far south as Central America. Despite its wide range, the storm’s havoc remained focused on Cuba and the Eastern portion of the U.S. Some states received more than a couple feet of snow while others had to deal with about 6 inches, but Mount Le Conte, TN totaled in with the most, getting 60 inches of snow.
The heavy winds were focused more in the south, especially in southern states and Cuba where the winds were compared to those of a hurricane, which eventually created tornadoes. By the end of it all, 300+ people were killed due to the strength and widespread energy of the storm.
2. The Great Appalachian Storm of 1950
November 24 – 30, 1950; 353 deaths
It is said that the Storm of 1950 was so bad due to the already standing conditions caused by La Niña. The blizzard brought along snow, and extremely heavy winds, one of the heaviest being reported in Concord, NH at 110mph. Along with these winds was a lot of snow, a few feet in some states. This storm wrecked havoc on many lives and companies, the most notable being insurance companies, who had to pay out more money to those using their services than ever before.
The blizzard was definitely a costly one in more ways than one; killing 353 people, $66.7 million in damages, causing 1,000,000 to be without electricity, and impacting almost half of the U.S., 22 states in total. Photo credit: http://www.weirtonmuseum.com
1. The Great Blizzard of 1888
March 11 – 14, 1888; 400+ deaths
Topping the list is the Great Blizzard of 1888 which brought 40-50 inches of snow to many states, including Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey. It’s said that the storm wrapped areas from the Chesapeake all the way north to Maine. Along with the heavy snow came snow drifts as high as 50ft because of 45mph winds. Because railroads were the main way of travel during this time, many people were left trapped in their home for weeks because of the horrendous weather conditions.
Conditions were so bad that 200 ships were ruined, causing 100 deaths, as well as massive flooding and fires that could not be extinguished due to the fact that many firehouses were closed. In total, over 400 people died from the storm, and many more were injured.
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