Top 11 Worst Blizzards in History of America


It is all fun and games until a typical snowfall becomes a severe storm and starts wreaking havoc on your locality. Over the years, the United States has witnessed some of the most destructive snow storms that ever existed. These blizzards have unfortunate repercussions, including hundreds of casualties and destruction of millions worth of properties. In this article, we are going identify 11 of the worst blizzards over the course of U.S. history.

Before we dig in deeper, we have to identify and understand what blizzards are. A blizzard is described as a severe snowstorm which lasts for a prolonged period of time. It is distinguished by strong sustained winds or frequent gusts of at least 56 kilometers per hour. These strong winds cause blowing snow, eventually resulting in low visibility. Blowing snow refers to snow that is lifted from the surface by the wind.

In the United States, storm systems could be powerful enough to cause blizzards. As a result of the jet stream that dips far to the south, the cold polar air from the north clashes with the warm air moving up from the south.

The Worst Blizzards in U.S. History

1. The Great Blizzard of 1888

Date of Incidence: March 11-13, 1888.

The Great Blizzard of 1888 is regarded as one of the most destructive blizzards recorded in the history of the United States. It brought up to 50 inches of snow to several states including Connecticut, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and New York for three days. The blizzard took the lives of more than 400 people, including sailors who were plagued by the turbulent seas while aboard vessels. Due to the severe conditions, transportation ceased operations, houses and cars were buried, and over 200 ships were ruined.

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2. The Appalachian Storm of 1950

Date of Incidence: November 24-30, 1950

On November 24, 1950, an intense blizzard brought extreme heavy winds and snow to New Hampshire. The storm has carried with it as much as 57 inches of snow, and its winds have reached up to 110 miles per hour. Due to its severity, 353 people were reported to have been killed by the blizzard. More than $66 million worth of properties were lost, and more than a million residents were left without current. The blizzard has also impacted almost half of the United States.

3. The Storm of the Century

Date of Incidence: March 11-15, 1993

Labeled as the Storm of the Century, the blizzard brought heavy rains and winds to several portions of the United States. It also produced huge amounts of snow and tornadoes. Meteorologists noted that it was huge, reaching as far as Canada on the north, and as far as Central America on the South. Heavy storms focused on the south, wreaking havoc on Cuba and the Eastern part of the United States. It cost 318 lives and over $6 billion properties.

4. The Great Lakes Storm of 1913

Date of Incidence: November 7-10, 1913

Regarded as the most destructive natural catastrophe to have ever hit the Great Lakes region, the snowstorm has brought up heavy snowfall and winds that reached between 60 and 90 miles per hour. Because of its enormous strength, the blizzard has caused several damages to structures and vessels, including 19 ships. The storm has also cost over 250 lives, many of which are sailors who have set out to the lakes.

5. The Children’s Blizzard

Date of Incidence: January 12-13, 1888.

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Also known as the Schoolhouse Blizzard, The Children’s Blizzard is one of the most terrible blizzards to have ever hit the United States because it came suddenly during a warm day. It brought several inches of snow with it, accompanied by a sudden drop in temperature from above freezing to -40 degrees Fahrenheit. Several people, including the children who were sent home because of the snow, were trapped in the blizzard. Around 230 people, most of which are children, died due to hypothermia.

6. The Blizzard of 1996

Date of Incidence: January 6-10, 1996

The blizzard that hit the east coast of United States is regarded as one of the worst blizzards of the decade. It brought heavy snow of up to 48 inches and rainfall to several states including Philadelphia, Virginia, New York City, and New Jersey. The blizzard has caused damage to around $3 billion worth of properties and killing more than 150 people. The blizzard is one of the three snowstorms to receive the top rating (extreme) on the Northeast Snowfall Impact Scale.

7. The Armistice Day Blizzard

Date of Incidence: November 11-12, 1940

The Armistice Day Blizzard brought wind gusts and snow that have wreaked several states including Minnesota, Michigan, and South Dakota. The blizzard has brought up to 27 inches of snow, with a wind speed of up to 80 miles per hour and snow drifts of up to 20 feet. The temperature has also dropped to 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Its severity has taken around 154 lives and thousands of livestock. Many of those who died were hunters, who were out to hunt for ducks.

8. The Knickerbocker Storm

Date of Incidence: January 27-28, 1922

The blizzard affected northeastern states including Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. It brought around two to three feet of snow, with temperatures dropping to 20 degrees Fahrenheit. The storm derived its name from the Knickerbocker Theater in Washington DC which collapsed on January 28 due to the intensity of the storm. The tragedy killed 98 people and injured 133. The weight of the snow was noted for being too heavy. Wet snow collapsed on the roofs of many houses.

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9. The Blizzard of 1999

Date of Incidence: January 2-4, 1999

The blizzard which hit the Midwestern states of the United States is characterized as a strong snowstorm which carried a maximum snowfall of 21.6 inches. It hit states including Wisconsin, Iowa, Ohio, and Michigan the hardest, with temperatures surging around -50 degrees Fahrenheit. The storm also hit several portions of central Canada including Quebec and Ontario. Airports and rail services were closed due to the severity of the storm. The blizzard has taken around 73 lives, 32 of which were shoveling snow.

10. The Great Storm of 1975

Date of Incidence: January 9-12, 1975

Also known as the “Super Bowl Blizzard,” the Great Blizzard of 1975 was an intense snowstorm that hit most of the central and the southeastern portion of the United States. Not only was it severe of having a maximum snowfall of 27 inches, but the blizzard has also produced 45 tornadoes in the Southeast United States. Both the storm and the tornadoes have caused $63 million in property damages. The blizzard is responsible for the death of 70 people.

11. The Great Blizzard of 1978

Date of Incidence: January 24-29, 1978

Known to be the worst snowstorm in the history of Ohio, the Great Blizzard of 1978 has greatly impacted the Great Lakes region and the Ohio Valley. Its maximum snowfall has reached 36 inches. The blizzard has the third lowest non-tropical atmospheric pressure ever recorded in the United States where the barometer fell to 956 MB. Snow drifts have reached up to 20 feet, making travel quite impossible. The blizzard took the lives of 51 people.

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