Stormy Weather

Blizzards and Avalanches

What is the Storm of the Century?

Over the years, a number of storms have been called “storms of the century.” The twentieth century experienced several storm events that could certainly qualify, or at least be nominated, for this honor. A huge blizzard struck the Midwest from January 10 to 11, 1975, that included snowfalls in Nebraska reaching 19 inches (48 centimeters) deep, wind chills of –80°F (–62°C) in the Dakotas, and wind bursts of 90 miles (145 kilometers) per hour in Iowa. Eighty lives were lost as a result of this storm.

Another candidate for the title arrived on stage in 1993, when a blizzard struck the American East Coast, killing 318 people, including 48 at sea. Fifty percent of the American population was affected in some way by the storm. The storm reached from Maine to Florida, where half a foot of snow even fell in the Florida Panhandle, and even Daytona Beach saw freezing temperatures. Winds near Key West raged at up to 109 miles (175 kilometers) per hour. Meanwhile, Mount LeConte, Tennessee, saw 56 inches (142 centimeters) of snow, and in Syracuse, New York, there was 43 inches (109 centimeters) of the white stuff.

The 1993 storm ranged far beyond U.S. borders, however, extending north to Canada and south all the way to Central America. At its peak, it reached the strength of a category 3 hurricane, and by the time it was over it had dumped 44 million acre-feet (about 14.3 trillion gallons, or 54.3 trillion liters) of water onto the ground. Add to this several killer tornadoes, and perhaps the 1993 storm wins the twentieth century’s title as “storm of the century.”


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