Have this winter’s mild temperatures gotten you down? You might take comfort in knowing that two of the snowiest storms on record both occurred in March. From March 12-14, 1993, the “Storm of the Century” swept across the east coast, hammering the region with snow and resulting in over 270 deaths from Florida to Maine. Ironically, one of the biggest blizzards on record also started on March 12, but over a century prior, in 1888. That storm resulted in over 400 fatalities, with areas in New England receiving 40-50 inches of snow and drifts up to 40 feet.
Area ski resorts such as Snowshoe, Seven Springs, and Wisp were not around during the Blizzard of 1888, but all three were able to benefit from the blizzard in 1993. The location for ski resorts is chosen carefully, and the numbers from the 1993 storm demonstrate that these three resorts are strategically placed. Snowshoe received 44 inches of snow in the storm, while Washington, D.C. received a relatively paltry 13 inches of snow. Temperatures dropped to negative5 degrees in Elkins, West Virginia, a record-breaking low for March.
The storm may have been good for skiers, but it complicated the lives of everyone else. Over 200 hikers were trapped in the storm while hiking in North Carolina and Tennessee mountains. All interstate highways from Atlanta northward were closed, and for the first time, every major airport on the east coast was closed at one time or another. Wind gusts up to 71 MPH were reported at New York’s La Guardia Airport, while New Hampshire’s Mount Washington received wind gusts up to 144 MPH. (Mount Washington is known to be one of the windiest peaks in America, so this wasn’t too unusual.)
The heavy, wet snow collapsed hundreds of roofs, and 18 homes fell into the sea on Long Island due to the pounding surf. 15 tornadoes swept across regions of Florida, and the panhandle of Florida actually received 6 inches of snow.
The National Weather Service’s Office of Hydrology estimated that 44 million acre-feet of snow fell from the storm - comparable to 40 days’ flow of the Mississippi River at New Orleans. Estimates of total storm damage reached as high as $6 billion.
In this El Nino year, we’re not likely to see a blizzard this March, but forecasters aren’t willing to count one out yet.
M. Scott Smith is the founder and Editor of DCSki. Scott loves outdoor activities such as camping, hiking, kayaking, skiing, and mountain biking. He is an avid photographer and writer.
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