The 11 Worst Blizzards in US History

View of a Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) bus making a stop along its route during a winter blizzard in Chicago, IL, January 1967. Icicles hang from its carriage.
The Great Chicago Blizzard shut down Chicago Transit Authority service in 1967. Robert Abbott Sengstacke / Getty Images

It seems that every time a big snowstorm is in the forecast, the media hails it as "record-breaking" or "historic," in some way or another. But how do these storms truly match up to the worst storms to hit the United States? The blizzards listed below made the record books because they all dumped an unusually large amount of snow in various regions of the U.S.—even in areas used to suffering through large amounts of snow each winter. Storms from New England to the Midwest dumped up to 50 inches of snow in some areas, while other blizzards caused hundreds of deaths.

Here are 11 of the worst blizzards in U.S. history.

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The Great Blizzard of 1888

Pedestrians on Site of the Great Blizzard
Bettmann Archive / Getty Images

This storm, which brought 40 to 50 inches of snow to Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York, took the lives of more than 400 people throughout the northeast. This is the highest death toll ever recorded for a winter storm in the U.S. The Great Blizzard buried houses, cars, and trains and was responsible for the sinking of 200 ships due to its fierce winds.

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The Great Appalachian Storm of 1950

On November 24, 1950, a storm rolled over the Carolinas on its way to Ohio that brought with it heavy rains, winds, and snow. The storm brought as much as 57 inches of snow and was responsible for 353 deaths and became a case study later used to track and predict the weather.

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The 1993 Storm of the Century

A pedestrian walks through Times Square in New York City during a snowstorm on March 13, 1993

Allan Tannenbaum / Getty Images

On March 12, 1993, a storm that was both a blizzard and a cyclone wreaked havoc from Canada to Cuba. Labeled the "Storm of the Century," this snowstorm caused 318 deaths and $6.6 billion in damage. But thanks to a successful five-day warning from the National Weather Service, many lives were saved thanks to the preparations that some states were able to put into place prior to the storm.

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The White Hurricane

This blizzard—most notable for its hurricane-force winds—is still the deadliest natural disaster to ever hit the Great Lakes region of the U.S. The storm hit on November 7, 1913, causing 250 deaths, and packed winds sustained at over 60 miles per hour for almost twelve hours.

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The Children's Blizzard

This tragic storm occurred on January 12, 1888. While it packed only several inches of snow, this storm was most notable for the sudden and unexpected temperature drop that accompanied it. On what started as a warm day (by Dakota territory and Nebraska standards) of several degrees above freezing, temperatures instantly plummeted to a wind chill of minus 40. Children, who were sent home by the teachers because of the snow, were unprepared for the sudden cold. Two hundred thirty-five kids died that day trying to get home from school.

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The Blizzard of 1996

Cars burried under snow during the Blizzard Of 1996
Barbara Alper / Getty Images

More than 150 people died during this storm that hit the east coast of the U.S. from January 6 to 8 of 1996. The blizzard, and subsequent flooding, also caused $4.5 billion in property damages. The storm blanketed a large region of the U.S. stretching from the Southeast to the upper reaches of Maine. New York City got about 18 inches of snow, Philadelphia was covered with more than 30 inches, while some mountainous regions of Virginia were hit with nearly 50 inches of snow during the storm.

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The Armistice Day Blizzard

On November 11, 1940—what was then called Armistice Day—a strong snowstorm combined with fierce winds to create 20-foot snowdrifts across the Midwest. Much of Minnesota and areas of western Iowa were particularly hard hit by the storm, according to the National Weather Service. Balmy 50-degree weather had drawn duck hunters by the hundreds to the marshy areas in those two states. But, by afternoon, temperatures began to plummet to single-digit levels, and hunters faced "15-foot swells and 70-80 mph winds (that) swept down channels and marshy backwaters." Visibility was reduced to zero in some areas; some hunters drowned while others froze to death.

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The Knickerbocker Storm

People examine the wreckage of The Knickerbocker Theatre after storm
Buyenlarge / Getty Images

Over two days in late January 1922, nearly three feet of snow fell across Maryland, Virginia, Washington D.C., and Pennsylvania. But it wasn't just the amount of snow that fell—it was the weight of the snow. It was a particularly heavy, wet snow that collapsed houses and roofs, including the roof of the Knickerbocker Theater, a popular venue in Washington D.C., which killed 98 people and injured 133.

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The Great Storm of 1975

Not only did this intense storm drop two feet of snow over the Midwest over four days in January 1975, but it also created 45 tornadoes. The snow and the tornadoes were responsible for the deaths of more than 60 people and property damage topping $63 million. The National Weather Service says the blizzard was "Minesssota's 'Storm of the Century," dumping nearly 24 inches of snow on some areas of the state and causing temperatures to plummet to single digits.

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The Great Blizzard of 1899

Snow piled on a Street in Harlem, New York City, after the blizzard of Feb. 13, 1899

Miscellaneous Items in High Demand, PPOC, Library of Congress / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

This devastating snowstorm was notable for the amount of snow it produced—around 20 to 35 inches—as well as where it hit the hardest: Florida, Louisiana, and Washington D.C. These southern regions are not normally accustomed to such a large amount of snow and were thus even more overwhelmed by the snowy conditions.

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The Chicago Blizzard of 1967

Cars are covered in snow during the Chicago Blizzard of 1967
Robert Abbott Sengstacke / Getty Images

This storm dumped 23 inches of snow on northeast Illinois and northwest Indiana. The storm (which hit on January 26) wreaked havoc across metropolitan Chicago, leaving 800 Chicago Transit Authority buses and 50,000 automobiles abandoned all around the city.