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

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?

10 Sweet Facts About Candy Canes

The sweet and striped shepherd’s hooks can be found just about everywhere during the holiday season. It's time you learned a thing or two (or 10) about them.


While the origins of the candy cane are a bit murky, legend has it that they first appeared in hooked form around 1670. Candy sticks themselves were pretty common, but they really took shape when the choirmaster at the Cologne Cathedral in Germany got the bright idea of twisting them to look like shepherd’s hooks. He then handed them out to kids during church services to keep them quiet.


It’s no surprise, then, that it was a German immigrant who introduced the custom to America. The first reference we can find to the tradition stateside is 1847, when August Imgard of Wooster, Ohio, decked his home out with the sugary fare.


Candy canes without the red don’t seem nearly as cheery, do they? But that’s how they were once made: all white. We’re not really sure who or exactly when the scarlet stripe was added, but we do know that images on cards before the 1900s show snow white canes.


Most candy canes are around five inches long, containing only about 50 calories and no fat or cholesterol.


The world’s largest candy cane was built by Geneva, Illinois chef Alain Roby in 2012.  It was 51 feet long, required about 900 pounds of sugar, and was eventually smashed up with a hammer so people could take home a piece.


Fifty-four percent of kids suck on candy canes, compared to the 24 percent who just go right for the big crunch. As you may have been able to guess, of those surveyed, boys were nearly twice as likely to be crunchers.


According to the National Confectioners Association, about 1.2 billion candy canes are made annually, and 90 percent of those are sold between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Which honestly begs the question: Who’s buying the 10 percent in the off season?


Bobs (that’s right; no apostrophe) Candies was the first company to really hang its hat on the sweet, striped hook. Lt. Bob McCormack began making candy canes for his kids in the 1920s, and they were such a hit he decided to start mass-producing them. With the help of his brother-in-law, a Catholic priest named Gregory Harding Keller (and his invention, the Keller Machine), McCormack was eventually able to churn out millions of candy canes a day.


December 26 is National Candy Cane Day. Go figure.


Here’s how they make candy canes at Disneyland—it’s a painstaking (and beautiful) technique.

10 Actors Who Hated Their Own Films

1. Sylvester Stallone, Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot. Sly doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to his film career. Despite co-starring with the delightful Estelle Getty as the titular violence-prone mother, Stallone knows just how bad the film was:

"I made some truly awful movies. Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot was the worst. If you ever want someone to confess to murder, just make him or her sit through that film. They will confess to anything after 15 minutes."

2. Alec Guinness, Star Wars.

By the time he played Obi-Wan Kenobi in 1977’s Star Wars: A New Hope, Guinness had already appeared in cinematic classics like The Bridge on the River Kwai, Great Expectations and Lawrence of Arabia. During production, Guinness is reported to have said the following:

"Apart from the money, I regret having embarked on the film. I like them well enough, but it's not an acting job, the dialogue - which is lamentable - keeps being changed and only slightly improved, and I find myself old and out of touch with the young."

The insane amount of fame he won for the role as the wise old Jedi master took him somewhat by surprise and, ultimately, annoyed him. In his autobiography A Positively Final Appearance: A Journal, Guinness recalls a time he encountered an autograph-seeking fan who boasted to him about having watched Star Wars more than 100 times. In response, Guinness agreed to provide the boy an autograph under the condition that he promise never to watch the film again.

3. Bob Hoskins, Super Mario Brothers. He was in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?. As far as I’m concerned, Bob Hoskins is forgiven for Super Mario Bros. Hoskins, though, doesn’t seem to be able to forgive himself. Last year the Guardian spoke with the veteran actor about his career and he summed up his feelings rather succinctly:

What is the worst job you've done?
Super Mario Brothers.

What has been your biggest disappointment?
Super Mario Brothers.

If you could edit your past, what would you change?
I wouldn't do Super Mario Brothers.

4. George Clooney, Batman & Robin. Sure, Batman & Robin made money. But by every other imaginable measure, the film was a complete failure, and a nightmare to the vast majority of the Caped Crusader’s most fervent fanatics. Star George Clooney recognized what a stinker he helped create and once plainly stated, “I think we might have killed the franchise.”

5. David Cross, Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked. When actors have a movie out, it's customary that they publicize the film by saying nice things about it. Earlier this year David Cross took a different approach. When it came to describing his new film Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked, the veteran comedian — better known for Mr. Show and Arrested Development — went on Conan and called the film a “big commercial for Carnival Cruise Lines” and told people not to go see it.

6. Katherine Heigl, Knocked Up. Judd Apatow’s unplanned pregnancy comedy was a huge hit and helped cement her status as a bankable film actress. After the film’s release, however, Heigl didn’t have all good things to say. In fact, what she specifically said about it was that the film was:

"…A little sexist. It paints the women as shrews, as humorless and uptight, and it paints the men as lovable, goofy, fun-loving guys.”

7. Charlize Theron, Reindeer Games. The 2000 action film Reindeer Games starred Ben Affleck, Gary Sinese and Charlize Theron and was directed by John Frankenheimer. But it all somehow failed to come together. In the end the film lost a lot of money and compiled a wealth of negative reviews – including one from its star actress who simply said, “Reindeer Games was not a good movie.”

8. Mark Wahlberg, The Happening. Mark Wahlberg doesn’t exactly seem like a guy who lives his life afraid of trees. But that is the odd position M. Night Shyamalan’s 2008 film The Happening put him in. Wahlberg, as it turns out, doesn’t look back too fondly on the film. He went on record during a press conference for The Fighter when he described a conversation with a fellow actor:

"We had actually had the luxury of having lunch before to talk about another movie and it was a bad movie that I did. She dodged the bullet. And then I was still able to … I don’t want to tell you what movie … alright “The Happening.” F*** it. It is what it is. F***ing trees, man. The plants. F*** it. You can’t blame me for not wanting to try to play a science teacher. At least I wasn’t playing a cop or a crook."

9. John Cusack, Better Off Dead. John Cusack reportedly hated his cult 80s comedy so much that he walked out of the screening and later told the film’s director Steve Holland that Better Off Dead was "the worst thing I have ever seen" and he would "never trust you as a director again."

10 Christopher Plummer, The Sound of Music. The Sound of Music is considered a classic and has delighted many generations of fans. But the film's own lead actor, Christopher Plummer, didn't always sing its praises. Mr. Von Trapp himself declined to participate in a 2005 film reunion and, according to one acquaintance, has referred to the film as The Sound of Mucus.



More from mental floss studios