BIGGEST SNOW STORMS IN THE UNITED STATES
(Excluding the mountains of the West and lake-effect snows.)
From 1888 to Present
1) "BLIZZARD OF 1888"
March 11-12, 1888
Unseasonable and devastating snowstorm from the Chesapeake Bay to Maine. The cities
of Washington, Philadelphia, Boston and New York City were paralyzed. This incredible
"Nor'easter" dumped 50 inches of snow in Connecticut and Massachusetts while New Jersey
and the state of New York had 40 inches. Drifts of 40 to 50 feet high buried houses
and trains. From Chesapeake Bay to Nantucket, 200 ships were sunk with 400 lives lost.
2) "ARMISTICE DAY STORM"
November 11-12, 1940
Mild weather ahead of an intense low pressure system tracking from Kansas to western
Wisconsin, was quickly followed by a raging blizzard. Many people were caught
off-guard by the severity of the storm and particularly the plunging temperatures.
Sixty degree temperatures during the morning of the 11th was followed by single digit
readings by the morning of the 12th. These very cold temperatures and snow amounts
were very unusual for this early in the season. Up to 26 inches of snow fell in
Minnesota, while winds of 50 to 80 mph and heavy snows were common over parts of the
states of Wisconsin, South Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota, Iowa and Michigan. These
winds were responsible for whipping up 20 foot drifts. A total of 144 deaths were
blamed on the storm (13 in Wisconsin), most of which were duck hunters along the
Mississippi River. Milwaukee received only a trace of snow, but 80 mph gradient
winds downed hundreds of trees.
3) "THE GREAT MIDWEST BLIZZARD"
January 26-27, 1967
One of the biggest snowstorms to strike the Midwest on record occurred just two days
after an extremely rare January tornado outbreak struck nearly the same area (January
24). An intense "Panhandle hook" storm tracked from New Mexico northeast up the Ohio
Valley. Central and northern Illinois, northern Indiana, southeast Iowa, Lower
Michigan, Missouri and Kansas were hit hard by this blizzard. Kalamazoo, Michigan
reported 28 inches of snow, Gary, Indiana 24 inches and Chicago 23 inches. Winds of
50 mph created drifts to 15 feet! Seventy-six people died, most in the Chicago area.
This blizzard still ranks as Chicago's heaviest snowfall in a 24-hour period.
(Remarkably, Milwaukee measured only 6 inches of snow from this storm.)
4) "BLIZZARD OF 1978"
January 25-27, 1978
A tremendous blizzard struck Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, Illinois, western Pennsylvania
and southeast Wisconsin. One to three feet of snow was common throughout this area
with 50 to 70 mph winds whipping up 10 to 15 foot drifts. Ohio was hardest hit with
100 mph winds and 25 foot drifts! Much of the affected area was paralyzed for several
days. This very intense "Lower Mississippi Valley" type storm tracked from Mississippi
to Lake Huron and deepened to 960 mb as it neared Detroit, Michigan. Over 70 deaths
were blamed on this storm. Milwaukee measured nearly a foot of snow from this large
and very intense storm system.
5) "SUPERSTORM OF 1993"
(Also dubbed the "Storm of the Century")
March 12-13, 1993
This extremely intense and massive storm tracked from the western Gulf of Mexico to
the Florida Panhandle and up the eastern seaboard to Massachusetts (lowest pressure
at one point was under 960 mb). A huge area had tremendous snow amounts, some of
record proportions. This storm dumped the most snow in the largest area than ever
before. Amounts ranged from a foot in southern Alabama to over 40 inches in the state
of New York. In the mountains along the Tennessee / North Carolina border a whopping
60 inches fell! Winds of 70 mph were common across this large area with drifts to 20
feet high. Nearly 300 deaths were blamed on this storm due to the severity and large
6) "BLIZZARD OF 2005"
January 20-24, 2005
What started out as a clipper system diving into the northern Plains, quickly turned
into an unsual type of blizzard as it hit the Lower Great Lakes. The system tapped
into Gulf of Mexico moisture as it propagated east southeast across Iowa, Illinois,
Indiana and southern Ohio. A weaker clipper system just to it's north passed all of
it's energy to the developing storm to the south and subsequently bombed out as it hit
the Atlantic. Although not a terribly deep storm, copious amounts of moisture streamed
northward from the Gulf Stream and dumped record snowfall totals across southern New
England. A large swath of heavy snow blanketed much of the Upper Midwest, northern Ohio
Valley, and most of New England. Snowfall totals ranged from 5 to 13 inches across the
Midwest (locally 15 to 16 inches near Lake Michigan) to 8 to locally 37 inches across
southern New England. Areas around Boston reported snowfall rates of 3 to 5 inches per
hour for a time. One nearby city recorded 7 inches of snow in 75 minutes!! Boston
officially recorded 22.5 inches, which contributed largely to breaking an all time record
for the amount of monthly snowfall (43.3 inches) for any month.
In addition to record snowfall, winds gusted in excess of 60 mph across portions of the
Midwest and up to 85 mph across portions of southern New England. Widespread white-out
conditions resulted, and entire cities were shut down in the northeast. Portions of
Massachusetts reported 6 foot snow drifts.