Remembering the Blizzard of ‘93
The most powerful winter storm to impact the east coast
ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - As a sophomore in high school, the only thing I was thinking was “how long are were going to get out of school for this snowstorm?” As a meteorologist, 30 years later, I’m enamoured by the power of this winter storm that impacted so many. Let’s take a look back at what was dubbed the “Storm of the Century.”
In looking back through the data, the storm began showing up March 8th on the few numerical models available. It marked the first time that meteorologists were able to confidently detect the magnitude of a winter storm storm that far out. Two days before the storm, it was clear blizzard conditions were going to be likely, allowing states to issue a State of Emergency before the snow started falling.
The storm was so widespread that it blanketed 26 states with cold air, blinding snow and in coastal areas, hurricane-force wind.
Locally, more than a foot of heavy, wet snow fell snapping trees and bringing much of the region to a halt for more than a week.
The snow began on March the 12th, where 1.9″ was measured in Roanoke. The storm reached its peak March 13th, when 14.1″ fell during the 24 hour stretch at the airport.
Plow crews threw everything they had to get the roads passable as the storm started dumping snow. Not only was it a rare, bonafide blizzard in Mid-March, but the most intense Mid-Latitude cyclone ever observed in the eastern U.S.
While the snow totals alone were impressive, the wind that came along with the storm sent drifts as high as 5 to 10 feet in parts of the New River Valley and Highlands, making it nearly impossible for the crews to keep up.
The weight of the snow was so heavy that the LancerLot sports arena in Vinton collapsed, forcing the Virginia Lancers hockey team to relocate to Roanoke and eventually become the Roanoke Express. A Lowe’s store in Christiansburg and the Dedmon Center at Radford University also sustained damaged due to the weight of the snow.
More than 270 people in 13 different states died because of the storm, a dozen of them in Virginia.
The storm closed nearly all interstate highways from Atlanta to the northeast. and every major airport on the East coast was shutdown at one point.
When it comes to the human impact, the blizzard of 1993 was more significant than most hurricanes or tornado outbreaks, and still ranks among the costliest and deadliest and deadliest events of the 20th century.
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