The Quick 10: 10 of the Worst U.S. Blizzards Ever

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We're all hunkering down here in the Midwest since a blizzard is supposed to be hitting us pretty much all day Tuesday and Wednesday. As blizzards go, it's probably not a big one"¦ just enough to close the Interstates, schools, and some businesses. There have definitely been far worse - here are 10 of them.

grand central1. The Blizzard of 1888, AKA The Great White Hurricane. We're worried about the potential of 16 inches right now; can you imagine 50 inches?? That's more than four feet of fallen snow. The drifts were even worse "“ with winds of more than 45 miles an hour, drifts reached more than 50 feet in some areas of New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut. Railroads were shut down completely, which stranded people and goods for up to a week in some cases. Fire departments were unable to function, so when a building caught fire, it just burned. The losses from fires alone were about $25 million. More than 400 people died in the storm, including 200 in New York City alone.

2. The Children's Blizzard. 1888 was a brutal year for snow, apparently "“ two months before the Great White Hurricane hit out east in March, the Children's Blizzard pummeled Nebraska and the Midwest. But no one saw it coming. It was a relatively nice day out (for January in Nebraska, anyway) and people were at work, at school, or doing chores outside. The blizzard hit quick, dropping temps to -40 in some places in a matter of hours. The snow was of a powdery nature (those of you who don't experience snow are probably rolling your eyes, but there are definitely different types of snow, and it isn't all powdery) and so the wind easily blew it around and made visibility impossible. It's called the Children's Blizzard because so many schoolchildren were victims of the storm as they headed home from school. In one case, a schoolteacher tried to lead her charges to her boarding house just 82 yards from the schoolhouse, but visibility was so bad that they got lost on the way. All of the children died; the teacher survived but had to have both feet amputated because of the severe frostbite she had suffered.

knickerbocker3. The Knickerbocker Storm. The Knickerbocker Theater was one of the hottest spots in Washington, D.C. in 1922 "“ it was the newest and largest movie house in town. It just so happened that people were enjoying an evening out at the movies on January 28, 1922, when the flat roof abruptly caved in from the weight of the snow it had received over the previous two days. It brought down the balcony and part of the brick wall. Congressman Andrew Jackson Barchfeld was one of the 98 people killed during the disaster. Both the theater's owner and architect later committed suicide.

4. The Armistice Day Blizzard. On November 11, 1940, a blizzard overtook Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan. Up to 27 inches of snow fell, resulting in the deaths of 154 people. A lot of them simply froze to death, but perhaps the most tragic of the deaths were the 66 people who died in Lake Michigan when three freighters and two smaller boats sank under the weight of the snow.

5. The April Fools' Day Blizzard. In a lot of areas of the country, if the weatherperson told you on March 31 that a huge blizzard was coming your way, you'd be certain it was an April Fools' Day joke. When just that happened in 1997, people from Maryland to Maine weren't going to be fooled - they were sure it was a hoax. It ended up being one of the worst spring snowstorms in history. More than 25 inches of snow were recorded at Boston's Logan Airport, annihilating the previous April record of 13.3 inches. Road crews couldn't keep up with the rapid precipitation, so roads became completely impassable and some narrow streets appeared to be totally obliterated.

century6. The Storm of the Century. Even with seven years left in the century at that point, forecasters and media felt certain that this 1993 storm was the blizzard that would take the cake. From March 12-13, bands of snow, sleet, storms and tornadoes stretched from Canada to Central America, the main impact points being the entire eastern seaboard and Cuba. Birmingham, Alabama, reported up to 17 inches of snow and even the Florida Panhandle saw about four inches. This probably doesn't sound like much to states who see a lot of snow, but in warmer climates where the cities have literally no reason to invest in snowplows and other means of snow removal, this had a huge impact on transportation and created a big problem. Overall, more than $6.6 billion worth of damage was done as a result of the Storm of the Century.

7. The Great Blizzard of 1899, AKA The Snow King. This was the last time a blizzard did so much damage to the southeast was during the Storm of the Century. It started way down in Fort Myers, Florida, and went as far up as New York. Even Cuba reported a frost that killed a lot of crops. The port of New Orleans totally iced over, and Tallahassee recorded a temperature of -2 degrees Fahrenheit - the only recorded instance of a sub-zero Fahrenheit temperature in Florida to this day.

8. Halloween Blizzard. I have some memories of trudging through the snow to trick-or-treat, but never to this extent. In 1991, Wisconsin, Minnesota and northern Iowa were hit by an ice storm. But it wasn't just contained to All Hallows Eve - the storm, which turned to snow, continued in some areas until November 3, dumping a then-state-record high of 36.9 inches of snow on Duluth, Minnesota. The Twin Cities saw 28.4 inches, which is also nothing to sneeze at. More than 100,000 people were without power, some for nearly up to a week. $63 million was declared in damages; 11 counties in Minnesota and 52 counties in Iowa were declared disaster areas. I'm guessing most of those were in northern Iowa, because at nine years old, I would have been my trick-or-treating prime and I don't remember having a problem in southern Iowa.

9. The Blizzard of 1966. I'll let this YouTube clip speak for this storm that hit Rochester and other areas of New York like a ton of bricks and got kids out of school for a week.

10. The Great Lakes Storm of 1913. Cyclones are bad. Blizzards are bad. Cyclonic Blizzards sound downright terrifying. The Great Lakes have always been prone to awful and sudden storms, but this one was particularly horrible. Conditions were just right for disaster - whiteout snowsqualls resulted in the deaths of more than 250 people; 19 ships were destroyed and 12 sank entirely, including some that still haven't been found. Hurricane-speed winds of more than 70 miles per hour hit four of the five Great Lakes.

What's the worst snow storm you can remember?

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December 8, 2009 - 12:59pm
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