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19 of the biggest snowstorms to hit the US in the last century

Published by Business Insider on Thu, 23 Jan 2020


America has had some of the most intense snowstorms in the world over the last 100 years.They've been given memorable names, like Snowmaggedon, the Megalopolitan Blizzard, and the Storm of the Century.They've also had long lasting repercussionshundreds of people have died, and these snowstorms have cost the country billions of dollars.Visit Insider.com for more stories.They might have cute nicknames, but these snowstorms have been harsh.The worst snowstorms in the US over the last century have killed hundreds of people, caused billions of dollars of damage, and for many who lived through them, been impossible to forget.Many of them have been blizzards. To qualify as one, meteorologist David Stark told The New York Times that winds must reach 35 mph, and visibility must be less than one quarter of a mile.According to the Los Angeles Times, "wintry blizzards are like some bully you endured in grade school: Younever forget them, and their long-ago tortures grow in size and scope with each retelling."From 1922 to 2019, here are 19 of the worst snowstorms to hit the US.The Knickerbocker Storm of 1922From January 27 to January 29, this blizzard, which traveled up from the southeast US and centered on D.C., dropped 26.5 inches of snow.Residents had no warning of the storm. On January 26, the Washington Times forecasted fair weather and for temperatures to slowly rise.The snowstorm was named Knickerbocker, after the Knickerbocker Theatre in Washington, which collapsed because of the storm's heavy snowfall. The collapse killed 98 people who were inside watching a silent film called "Get Rich Quick, Wallingford." Another 133 were injured.Afterwards, building codes were updated to require stronger roof support structures.The Armistice Day Blizzard of 1940On November 11, a fierce winter storm battered the Upper Midwest. Without much warning, temperatures suddenly dropped, snow began to fall, and gale-force winds described as the "winds of hell" began to blow.Up to 27 inches of snow fall were recorded, which were blown and pushed into 20-foot snowdrifts in some areas. According to one hunter who was stranded during the storm, only the top of of telephone poles could be seen above the snow.It came suddenly, catching people unaware, killing 49 people in Minnesota, and 150 in total. It also killed 1.6 million turkeys.The storm had lasting repercussions. To help with accuracy, local weather forecasting moved out of cities like Chicago to be more local so they could provide better predictions.The Great Appalachian Storm of 1950Starting on November 24, 22 states felt the wrath of this slow-movingblizzard that the Washington Post called a "meteorological powerhouse." It's also been called the Great Thanksgiving Storm.The snowstorm covered an area from West Virginia to Pennsylvania, and buried parts in more than 30 inches of snow.High windsgusts were recorded at 160 mphknocked trees over, and caused almost 1 million power outages.It killed at least 383 people, caused about $700 million of damage, and became a weather prediction case study. Two cyclone researchers said it was the "bench mark" storm that all other major 20th century storms could be compared to.The six-day snowstorm on Mount Shasta in 1959Beginning on February 13, and going for six days, 189 inches (about 16 feet) of snow fell on Mount Shasta, California.It holds the world record for the most snow falling in a single snowstorm, according to the Chicago Tribune.Since it fell on an un-populated mountain, it didn't result in any deaths.The Chicago Blizzard of 1967On January 26 and 27, Chicago had its highest snowfall on record23 inches, helped along with 53 mph wind gusts. The storm surprised the city, which had had warm temperatures only two days earlier.The heavy, quick fall meant 50,000 cars were abandoned, shops were looted, and 650 students had to sleep at school because buses couldn't get through the snow. Twenty-sixpeople died.The 100-hour snowstorm of 1969From February 24 to February 27, snow fell in the northeast without stopping for 100 hours.NOAA rated this the worst snowstorm of the century, based on a number of factors, including amount of snow, area of accumulation, and how many people were affected. The most important factor that gave it its title was the storm's size. It was 4.5 times larger than the 1993 "storm of the century."On the first day, four feet of snow fell on Mt. Washington, New Hampshire. Another four feet fell over the next few days. Boston was hit with 26.3 inches, and Portland, Maine, had 26.9.It's a relatively unknown storm, since much of it was outside of the northeast corridor.The Blizzard of 1977On January 28, a cruel blizzard hit the US. Along with heavy snowfall, there were 70 mph winds.According to the Los Angeles Times, "It was a so-called perfect storm, a once-in-a-generation weather system combining an unlikely compilation of high winds, avalanches of snow and frigid temperatures."This storm was brutal in Buffalo, because snow had fallen for 28 days before the storm, piling up on Lake Erie, which was ripe for being blown about. The storm remained in the region for three days.People abandoned their cars, so that one in five was illegally parked or abandoned across Buffalo. The storm killed 29 people, and six of them died in their cars.The Great Blizzard of 1978On January 26 and 27, Ohio and the Great Lakes faced one of the worst snowstorms of the century.According to the National Weather Service, "this once-in-a-lifetime storm will always be the standard by which the severities of all future winter storms to hit this region are judged."It was a "bomb cyclone," which means it developed very quickly. To get the name, atmospheric pressure has to fall by 24 millibars within 24 hours.In this storm, windchills plunged to -50 degrees Fahrenheit.Even though only 7 inches of snow fell on Cincinnati, it was hit hard since there were already 14 inches of snow on the ground, and 60 mph winds channeled it into snowdrifts that towered up to 25 feet high.Across the region, motorways closed, and roofs and telephone lines collapsed. The snowstorm killed 70 people, and caused about $2 billion of damage.The Megalopolitan Blizzard of 1983From February 10 to 12, this snowstorm hit a wide area from Virginia to New England. In Washington, three airports, bus stations, and the subway system all had to close.It was particularly memorable since along with a heavy blanketing of snow, there was thunder, too. According to the Washington Post, the "thundersnow along the Eastern Shore produced extremely strong winds and whiteout conditions."It caused 25-foot waves in the Atlantic Ocean and 55 mph winds that capsized a boat carrying coal, killing 34 people.The Storm of the Century, 1993Beginning on March 12, the US had what is commonly referred to as the worst snowstorm of the 20th century.Snow covered Florida to Maine, affecting more than 100 million people. Winds reached 100 mph. The New York Times described it as "a monster with the heart of a blizzard and the soul of a hurricane."Power cuts plunged 2.5 million homes into darkness and cold. The storm killed 300 people and caused at least $2 billion worth of damage.NOAA classed it as a category 5 storm. It was the second highest rated snowstorm (despite its name) after the 100 hour snowstorm in 1969.In Syracuse, New York, just under 43 inches of snow fell, while 20 inches fell through much of the northeast. It caused swells that a coast guard told the Washington Post looked like "a big washing machine."The blizzard of 1996From January 6 to 10, this vicious storm forced former President Bill Clinton to shut down the government and declare nine states and D.C. as disaster areas.Heavy snow fall blanketed much of the Eastern seaboard. In one day, Virginia had 20 inches of snow, while Newark had 28 inches fall over several days, and Philadelphia had 30 inches.The storm caught some people off guard, since snow stopped for long enough that some forecasters said it was over, before 40 mph winds and more snow returned.Buildings, including barns and a church in Harlem, New York, collapsed. Four people died from heart attacks while clearing snow, according to The New York Times. In total, 154 people died.The Presidents' Day Storm of 2003For three days in February, including President's Day, a snowstorm caused delays and deaths across much of the northeast.It began as a rainstorm, before the wet weather met arctic cold air and turned to snowalot of snow.In Maryland, a state highway supervisor told Fox News, "It's no man's land out there. It looks more like Siberia than Maryland."New York got 19.8 inches of snow, while a lucky ski resort in Pennsylvania got 40 inches of snow. In Boston, 27.5 inches of snow fell in 24 hours, which broke the city's record for snowfall in a single day.The storm caused 28 deaths. At least 2,000 flights were canceled.The Blizzard of 2006On February 11 and 12, a massive snowstorm 1,200 miles long and 500 miles wide blanketed much of the country, from North Carolina to Maine.Winds reached 60 mph, up to 27 inches of snow fell, and more than 220,000 homes lost power. The storm brought thunder and lightning, too, which is known as "thundersnow."Hundreds of flights were canceled and thousands were delayed. But since it happened on the weekend, its effect on travelers and commuters wasn't as severe as it could have been.Snowmageddon, 2010On February 5 and 6, Washington turned white as snow fell uninterrupted for 30 hours.Just over 32 inches of wet, heavy snow were recorded. The snow's weight caused powercuts for 200,000 properties, as well as well as the collapse of several churches, and an airport hangar.Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, and Pennsylvania all declared a state of emergency.It was named "Snowmageddon" by a group called Capital Weather Gang, because Washington wasn't equipped to deal with so much snow. The name was solidified when former President Barack Obama repeated it.It was rated the fourth largest snowstorm ever, behind the 1993 "Storm of the Century."The Christmas blizzard of 2010On December 26 and 27, a blizzard rocked New York, blanketing the city in up to 29 inches of snow.Winds reached 60 mph, causing whiteout conditions, while tens of thousands of people lost power.Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg told reporters, "It's hard to stand up in a 55-mile-an-hour wind, and particularly when the ground under your feet is slippery, so this really is dangerous."While it wasn't as savage as some of the other snowstorms on this list, it hit just after Christmas, causing traveling chaos.The Snovember storm of 2014Beginning on November 17, and lasting five days, a snowstorm battered Buffalo and covered it with more than 7 feet of snow.Highways closed, 14 people died, and former President Barack Obama signed a disaster declaration to provide federal aid.This snowstorm was particularly cruel to Buffalo because of Lake Erie. At the time, the water was still reasonably mild. This warm water met incoming arctic air, the coldest it had been for that time of the year since 1986, and the mixture caused an extreme amount of snow to fall.It wasn't just Buffalo, though. Temperatures in every US state fell below freezing.Winter Storm Jonas of 2016This January winter storm, also known as Snowzilla, affected over 102 million people, and killed 52.A massive amount of snow fell24 million people were estimated to have come in contact with over 20 inches. Glengary, West Virginia, had the most snowfall, with 42 inches.In North Carolina, the storm's ice and wind knocked out the power at 150,000 homes. In Delaware, wind gusts were recorded at 75 mph.New Jersey faced intense flooding, with water surging higher than it did during Hurricane Sandy.According to the NOAA, it was one of the most powerful snowstorms in the northeast in 60 years.The bomb cyclone of 2018This was a quick-building storm in January that covered more than 2,500 miles of the US, affecting 60 million people.Along with heavy snowfall and 50 mph winds, the coast was rocked by swells, made even worse by unusually high tides. In Boston, a 3-foot storm surge smashed against the city.The storm caused more than 1 million children to miss school, and 4,000 flights to be canceled.The Polar Vortex of 2019In late January, cold air from the Arctic descended onto North America, killing 21 people. Almost 2,000 flights were canceled, hundreds of schools were closed, and hundreds of cases of frostbite and hypothermia were reported.Across the Midwest, over 30 different temperature records were broken. Illinois got hit particularly hard, with the city of Rockford recording -31 degrees Fahrenheit. Windchills in Minneapolis-St. Paul plunged as low as -65 degrees Fahrenheit.
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