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Hundreds of deaths and billions of dollars in damage: what were the worst blizzards in US history

The blizzard that has swept across the United States in the past few days has become one of the record-setting cities and states in history. Snow can turn a city into a winter wonderland, but it can also leave behind destruction and sacrifice. Love exploring invites you to recall some of the worst blizzards, hurricanes, and winter weather events from the 1880s to the present day that have left their mark on US history.

Frozen Chicago after the 2019 polar vortex. Photo: Shutterstock

1888: The Great White Hurricane

In March 1888, one of the worst snowstorms in US history occurred. New York and New Jersey were hit hardest, with regions buried under 3 feet and 4 inches (1 m) of snow in the so-called Great White Hurricane.

In 10 states, about a quarter of the American population in the 19th century felt the consequences: snowdrifts brought down telephone lines and covered entire trains, leaving passengers stranded, and due to strong winds 200 ships sank. In total, more than 400 people are believed to have died - the largest death toll from a winter storm in US history.

1899: Great Arctic Outbreak

Although there were unusually cold temperatures throughout the country in early February 1899, it was not until the middle of the month that the real cold snap came. With the arrival of anticyclones from Canada, the eastern states and the Midwest were hit hardest by outbreaks. By February 10, temperatures had dropped below -28 ° C (-20 ° F) in some areas, and 1 foot 8 inches (0,7 m) of snow was observed in parts of New Jersey.

In the Washington, DC area, it snowed for 51 consecutive hours, while southern ice moved from the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico and blocked the river. The crops were destroyed and the animals were also severely affected. At least 100 people have died in extreme conditions.

1913: Storm on the Great Lakes

The Great Lakes storm, also known as the "Big Blow" or "White Hurricane" because of its similarity to a blizzard, is one of the deadliest natural disasters in US history. It struck the Great Lakes Basin from November 7 to 10, 1913, in gusts of up to 90 mph (145 km / h) and a 35-foot (10,6 m) wave.

About 12 ships sank and dozens of others were wrecked. The storm is estimated to have killed up to 300 people, more than all other major Great Lakes disasters combined.

1922: Knickerbocker Storm

Beginning on the evening of January 27, Washington, DC, the so-called Knickerbocker Storm produced a total of 2 feet 4 inches (0,7 m) of snow in just 24 hours, a record for a single storm. The huge snowstorm came as a surprise as local forecasts predicted mild weather the day before.

There is a tragic story behind the name of the storm. It got its name from the Knickerbocker Theater in Washington, DC, whose roof collapsed under the weight of snow on Saturday, January 28, with hundreds of moviegoers inside. Wet snow and concrete fell on spectators during the intermission, killing 98 people and injuring another 133.

1967: Snowstorm in Chicago

A 1967 snowstorm took the city by surprise: On January 26-27, Chicago fell almost two feet (0,6 m) of snow, despite only a few inches predicted to fall.

The hurricane paralyzed the city, leaving about 800 Chicago Transit Authority buses and 50 vehicles abandoned on the city's streets and forced the closure of O'Hare Airport. Many passengers did not return home on Thursday 000 January, staying in hotels or work. By morning, the streets of the city were impassable: helicopters had to be used to deliver essential items to hospitals.

On the subject: Test yourself: 5 myths on how to warm yourself in the cold

1993: Storm of the Century

Severe weather, also known as the 1993 Super Storm, caused severe damage as it pushed up the eastern states from the Gulf of Mexico to Canada on March 12-15. It is believed that this weather event remains one of the most costly in the 20th century in the United States, with damage estimated at $ 5,5 billion ($ 9,9 billion today).

With central pressures typically seen only in Category 3 hurricanes, the storm left behind tornadoes, coastal flooding, stunted snow and freezing temperatures. More than 270 people from 13 states were killed.

1996: North American Blizzard

From January 6 to 8, one of the most devastating snowstorms hit the United States, killing at least 60 people. As the storm moved from city to city, it broke records in Rhode Island, Philadelphia, Virginia and Providence, with snow reaching heights of up to four feet (1,2 m) in some places.

President Bill Clinton was forced to close the federal government for nearly a week due to harsh conditions, and he declared the District of Columbia and nine states disaster zones. The blizzard caused severe property damage across the country, with roofs collapsing due to the heavy weight of snow and damage from coastal flooding on Long Island.

The aftermath of a 1996 blizzard in Washington. Photo: Shutterstock

2003: Storm on Presidents Day

Beginning on February 15 and continuing until February 18, the 2003 Presidents Day hurricane was the strongest to hit Washington, DC since the infamous 1996 blizzard, and the city was closed for three days. There were more pedestrians on the streets than vehicles, as the strong winds accumulated mountains of snow, which formed huge snowdrifts.

The storm caused a traffic collapse on the East Coast. Flights to and from Pennsylvania Airport were canceled due to weather. Passengers were forced to sleep on folding beds while waiting for delayed flights at LaGuardia Airport in New York.

2005: Snowstorm in Massachusetts

It's not often that you can ski with confidence in downtown Boston. However, a 2005 blizzard hit much of Massachusetts hard, with 22m of snow falling over two days between January 23 and 0,5. But with most of the snowfall over the weekend, many locals braved the cold to make the most of the snow cover.

The hurricane wind, which reached 80 mph (129 km / h), knocked the snow into huge snowdrifts. Many homes were hit by the storm, and thousands of homes around Cape Cod were left without electricity.

2006: New York Blizzard

When a blizzard hit the Big Apple on February 11-12, 2006, it turned out to be the largest on record. In two days of dire weather conditions, New York City experienced "thunderstorm snow" - a thunderstorm in which precipitation falls in the form of snow rather than rain, a very rare weather phenomenon for the city.

Central Park received a total of 16 feet 2 inches (3 m) of snow in 0,7 hours. Three airports were closed and there were reports of thousands of passengers stuck en route.

New York after the 2009 storm. Photo: Shutterstock

2010: Snow Armageddon

A blizzard of February 5-6, 2010, known as the "Snow Armageddon", spread from California to the East Coast, covering about 69% of the country with a thick blanket of snow.

President Obama characterized the storm that caused up to 2 feet 9 inches (0,8 m) of snow in places like Pennsylvania and Washington DC as "Snowmadgeddon." Just five days later, the area was hit by a second blizzard known as the Snoverkill. This winter was the snowiest in Washington on record.

2010: Post-Christmas snowstorm

Those who missed White Christmas got more than just snow when a blizzard blasted a devastating path along the East Coast just after the 2010 holidays.

New York's transportation system was hit hard, with passengers reported to be stuck on the subway for up to nine hours while others slept through the night at Penn Station. All three airports in the Big Apple were also closed.

2011: A Storm on Groundhog Day

In early February 2011, more than 0,5 meters of snow fell in Chicago, the third largest blizzard in the city's history. Nearly 1000 vehicles were stranded and power outages disrupted life in the Windy City and throughout Northern Illinois.

Other cities in the path of the storm included Tulsa, Detroit, and New York. A state of emergency has been declared in Missouri. Kansas City received a blizzard warning for only the third time in its history.

2014: Snow storm

The entire country watched Buffalo, New York, the second-largest city in the state, in 2014 when seven feet (17 m) of snow fell on November 19-2,1 due to two separate storms.

Heavy snowfall resulted in the closure of a 100-mile (160-kilometer) section of New York State's motorway and postponed the NFL game between the Bills and the Jets. Subsequently, the game took place in Detroit.

You may be interested in: top New York news, stories of our immigrants and helpful tips about life in the Big Apple - read it all on ForumDaily New York

2016: Storm Jonas

From 22 to 24 January 2016, storm Jonas brought deep snow to the East Coast. In New York, he broke the 2006 snow record when the John F. Kennedy Airport experienced snowfall of about 2 feet 6 inches (0,8 m).

Three days after the hurricane, cars in Washington were still stuck. The storm killed more than 50 people and declared a state of emergency with travel bans until the snow cleared.

2018: "Bomb cyclone"

On January 2-6, 2018, a cyclone bomb hit the northeastern states. Boston was one of the hardest hit areas, with about 0,3m of snow falling.

A terrifying and sudden storm made Niagara Falls appear frozen (although the water continued to flow beneath it). Strong winds were also a problem: the Norwegian Breakaway cruise ship sailing from the Bahamas to New York was hit by severe flooding. The cyclone bomb caused 22 deaths.

2019: Polar vortex

Arctic winds brought stunning low temperatures to the Midwest in January 2019, turning Chicago into an icy wasteland. Temperatures dropped to a record minus -31 ° C (-23 ° F), and parts of the Chicago River froze over.

The weather was so bad that the governor of Illinois declared a state of emergency due to a sharp drop in temperatures, which were at times colder than Antarctica. Gas fires were used to keep the city trains running on the railroad tracks, and those who were at home were asked to turn off the heating to conserve much-needed energy. However, those who were homeless or worked in the open air suffered the most: 21 people died, many suffered from frostbite.

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Miscellaneous In the U.S. US history blizzard weather in the USA
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