March 2, 2024

For preppers, understanding the power and impact of historic blizzards is key to being prepared for future winter emergencies. Each of these historic snowstorms teaches valuable lessons about resilience, planning, and survival. The more prepared we are, the better our chances of survival in an emergency scenario. We can learn a lot from these devastating blizzards while we marvel at the fury of Mother Nature and take a minute to remember all those lives that were lost. Do you have a survival plan for an intense blizzard? Sufficient supplies laid away? Water? Alternative heating and light sources? Tools to dig yourself out? Sure, a dusting of snow is pretty and fun for the kids, but blizzards are very real threats.

1. The “Great White Hurricane” – March 11-14, 1888

Image Credit: Wallace G. Levison – Public Domain/Wiki Commons.

The “Great White Hurricane” remains one of the most severe blizzards ever recorded in the US. Striking with unrelenting force, it buried New York City under three feet of snow, while winds of 50 mph created drifts as high as 50 feet. The storm paralyzed the Northeast, claiming over 400 lives and causing unprecedented economic disruption.

2. The Knickerbocker Storm – January 27-28, 1922

Image Credit: Public Domain/Wiki Commons.

Named after the tragic collapse of the Knickerbocker Theatre in Washington, D.C., this blizzard was a historic catastrophe. The storm dumped 20 inches of snow over the region, leading to 98 deaths in the theatre collapse alone, and significantly impacting the upper South and mid-Atlantic United States.

3. Blizzard of ’78 – February 5-7, 1978

Image Credit: Jim McDevitt – Public Domain/Wiki Commons.

The Blizzard of ’78 was a defining moment for the Northeastern US. Hitting with full force, over 27 inches of snow covered cities like Boston and Providence, causing widespread damage, claiming about 100 lives, and resulting in injuries to approximately 4,500 people. The financial toll was massive, with damages exceeding $520 million.

4. The “Storm of the Century” – March 12-15, 1993

Image Credit: Thelmadatter – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0/Wiki Commons.

Known as the “Storm of the Century,” this colossal weather system affected regions from the Gulf Coast to Eastern Canada. It set snowfall records across the East Coast, with parts of New York seeing over 2 feet of snow. The storm was responsible for approximately 310 deaths and resulted in around $6.6 billion in damages.

5. The Blizzard of ’96 – January 6-8, 1996

Image Credit: Samshawv – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0/Wiki Commons.

The Blizzard of ’96 stands as one of the most significant snowstorms to hit the Northeast and mid-Atlantic regions. Cities like Philadelphia and New York were buried under several feet of snow. The storm caused extensive coastal damage, including the loss of Fire Island’s casino and bar, and led to over 150 fatalities.

6. Snowmageddon – February 5-6, 2010

Image Credit: Matthew T Rader – CC BY-SA 4.0/Wiki Commons.

The 2010 blizzard, dubbed “Snowmageddon,” was a record-setting storm that blanketed areas like Washington D.C. and Philadelphia with more than 2 feet of snow. It disrupted daily life, caused over 40 fatalities, and left thousands without power. It’s certainly an incredibly dramatic name, given that there were only 40, albeit tragic, deaths.

7. The Children’s Blizzard – January 12, 1888

Image Credit: Frank Leslie’s Weekly, January 28, 1888 – Scenes and Incidents from the Recent Terrible Blizzard in Dakota, Public Domain/Wiki Commons.

The 1888 “Children’s Blizzard” is remembered for its tragic suddenness and the high death toll. Striking on a seemingly mild day, it caught many off guard, including schoolchildren, leading to an estimated 235 deaths. The storm is a harrowing reminder of nature’s unpredictability.

8. The “Cleveland Superbomb” – January 25-27, 1978

Image Credit: The National Guard – Public Domain/Wiki Commons.

The “Cleveland Superbomb” of 1978 was characterized by its hurricane-force winds and heavy snowfall, resulting in massive snowdrifts and widespread damage. It led to approximately 100,000 abandoned cars and 400,000 people losing power, with a death toll of around 70.

9. The Great Appalachian Storm – November 25-30, 1950

Image Credit: New England Historical Society.

This devastating storm struck the central Appalachians with record snowfall and strong winds, causing extensive damage and resulting in at least 160 deaths in West Virginia alone. The overall death toll reached 383, making it one of the deadliest storms of its kind.

10. The “Snow King Blizzard” – February 11-14, 1899

Image Credit: Library of Congress.

The “Snow King Blizzard” of 1899 left a lasting mark on the Eastern seaboard, blanketing the region with up to 30 inches of snow. The storm’s severity disrupted life, agriculture, and transportation, creating a crisis situation in many areas.

11. The Chicago Blizzard of 1967 – January 26-27, 1967

Image Credit: Joe+Jeanette Archie – CC BY 2.0/Wiki Commons.

Chicago’s most significant snowstorm on record, the Blizzard of 1967, dumped 23 inches of snow, causing citywide shutdowns, stranding thousands, and leading to 26 fatalities. The city’s infrastructure struggled to cope with the aftermath, which had long-lasting effects on the community.

12. The President’s Day Storm II – February 15-18, 2003

Image Credit: CC BY-SA 2.5/Wiki Commons.

The President’s Day Storm II of 2003 was a major East Coast event, covering cities from Washington D.C. to Boston in up to 30 inches of snow. Baltimore experienced a record snowfall, and the storm caused significant damage to infrastructure and historical sites.

13. North American Blizzard of 2005 – January 20-23, 2005

Image Credit: Chris Cook.

This intense blizzard impacted the upper Midwest and East Coast, leading to over 3 feet of snow in parts of Boston. The storm’s extensive reach caused blackouts and fatalities not only in the US but also across the Atlantic in Europe.

14. The New York Blizzard – February 11, 2006

Image Credit: CC BY-SA 2.0/Wiki Commons.

The 2006 New York Blizzard put the city under 27 inches of snow. Although not a technical blizzard, it challenged New Yorkers with its severity and had significant impacts on transportation and daily life.

15. The NYC Post-Christmas Blizzard – December 26-27, 2010

Image Credit: Beyond My Ken – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0/Wiki Commons.

This post-Christmas storm hit New York City hard, surpassing previous records with over 30 inches of snow and 60 mph winds. The resulting disruptions were extensive, with transportation grinding to a halt and emergency services struggling to cope.

16. The Groundhog Day Storm – February 1, 2011

Image Credit: Ryecatcher773 – Own work, Public Domain/Wiki Commons.

In 2011, the Groundhog Day Storm brought record snowfall to Wisconsin and surrounding areas, with Milwaukee and Madison experiencing unprecedented snow accumulations. The storm caused numerous health-related incidents and significant disruptions.

17. Snowvember 2014 – November 17-19, 2014

Image Credit: Anthony Quintano – CC BY 2.0/Wiki Commons.

Buffalo, New York, faced a surprise early winter challenge in 2014 with “Snowvember.” The storm buried the city under up to 7 feet of snow, leading to stranded residents, structural damage, and 14 fatalities.

18. “Snowzilla” – January 22-24, 2016

Image Credit: Katja Schulz – CC BY 2.0/Wiki Commons.

“Snowzilla” hit New Jersey with a vengeance, causing widespread power outages and claiming 8 lives. The storm brought heavy snow and severe coastal flooding, marking it as one of the state’s most destructive winter events.

19. 2018’s “Bomb Cyclone” – January 2-6, 2018

Image Credit: NSEasternShoreChemist – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0/Wiki Commons.

The 2018 “Bomb Cyclone” was a major winter event that affected the entire Eastern Seaboard, bringing snow, ice, and severe coastal flooding. It led to 22 fatalities and left hundreds of thousands without power, causing widespread disruption.

20. Winter Storm Frida – January 3, 2022

Image Credit: Sblover99 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0/Wiki Commons.

“Winter Storm Frida” in January 2022 brought a mix of snow and ice across the Eastern US, exacerbating the challenges of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. It caused significant damage and disruption, with a financial toll of $495 million.

21. The Armistice Day Blizzard of 1940 – November 11, 1940

Image Credit: National Weather Service.

The Armistice Day Blizzard took the Midwest by surprise with its swift and deadly transformation from warm to blizzard conditions. The storm claimed over 150 lives, many of them hunters caught unprepared by the sudden change in weather. The blizzard also had a significant impact on agriculture, with thousands of livestock lost to the harsh conditions.

22. The 100-Hour Snowstorm of 1969 – February 24-28, 1969

Image Credit: Public Domain/Wiki Commons.

This prolonged blizzard paralyzed the Northeastern United States, lasting over 100 hours. The heavy snowfall caused widespread disruption, including stranding thousands of travelers at Kennedy Airport and leading to severe shortages of essential supplies. The storm resulted in 94 deaths and demonstrated the crippling effect prolonged snowfall can have on urban areas.

23. The Blizzard of 1977 – January 28 – February 1, 1977

Image Credit: WAJWAJ – CC BY-SA 3.0/Wiki Commons.

The Blizzard of 1977 struck Western New York and Southern Ontario with extraordinary force, featuring winds of up to 69 mph and snow accumulations of around 100 inches in some areas. The blizzard resulted in 23 storm-related fatalities in Western New York, with additional lives lost in Northern New York. The economic impact was severe, with losses estimated at over $220 million in Erie and Niagara counties alone.

24. The Megalopolitan Blizzard of 1983 – February 10-12, 1983

Image Credit: Staten Island Advance/Steve Zaffarano.

This major blizzard affected the densely populated Megalopolitan corridor from Washington D.C. to New York City. The storm brought significant snowfall, crippling transportation and leading to massive disruptions in daily life and commerce. Supermarkets experienced rushes on essential goods, and the blizzard had far-reaching effects on the region’s infrastructure and economy.

Katy Willis is a writer, lifelong homesteader, and master herbalist, master gardener, and canine nutritionist. Katy is a preparedness expert and modern homesteader practicing everyday preparedness, sustainability, and a holistic lifestyle.

She knows how important it is to be prepared for whatever life throws at you, because you just never know what’s coming. And preparedness helps you give your family the best chance to thrive in any situation.

Katy is passionate about living naturally, growing food, keeping livestock, foraging, and making and using herbal remedies. Katy is an experienced herbalist and a member of the CMA (Complementary Medical Association).

Her preparedness skills go beyond just being “ready”, she’s ready to survive the initial disaster, and thrive afterward, too. She grows 100% organic food on roughly 15 acres and raises goats, chickens, and ducks. She also lovingly tends her orchard, where she grows many different fruit trees. And, because she likes to know exactly what she’s feeding her family, she’s a seasoned from-scratch cook and gluten-free baker.

Katy teaches foraging and environmental education classes, too, including self-sufficient living, modern homesteading, seed saving, and organic vegetable gardening.

Katy helps others learn forgotten skills, including basic survival skills and self-reliance.

She’s been published on sites such as MSN, Angi, Home Advisor, Family Handyman, Wealth of Geeks, Readers Digest, and more.