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The 2014 Farmers Almanac
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Superstorm: The Blizzard of ’93

Superstorm: The Blizzard of ’93

In March of 1993, President Bill Clinton had just been inaugurated to his first term of office, rapper Snow’s reggae-inspired song “Informer” was at the top of the Billboard Hot 100, and the eastern half of the United States and Canada was in the grip of one of the worst winter storms of the 20th Century.

The Blizzard of ’93, also known as the “Superstorm” and the “Storm of the Century,” (although other storms also lay claim to the latter title), formed over the Gulf of Mexico on March 12 and pounded the East Coast, from Florida to Canada and as far west as the Dakotas, for the next three days, bringing hurricane force winds of up to 110 miles per hour and dropping as much as 69 inches of snow in some areas. Even Florida, which rarely sees even a dusting of snow, received four inches during the storm, while parts of Alabama reported as much as 16 inches.

Computer models had predicted the storm a few weeks before it hit, but the amount of precipitation forecast was so extreme, many meteorologists refused to believe the models could be accurate until they were proven to be true.

In the days leading up to the storm, temperatures across North America dropped as an arctic high-pressure front moved down over the Great Lakes. At the same time, an area of low pressure moved up along the Eastern seaboard from the Gulf of Mexico, colliding with the cold front over the East Coast and Midwest.

The resultant storm covered 26 states and most of Canada, bringing thundersnow and whiteout conditions. Hundreds of airports closed, and highway travel was restricted throughout the region, stranding countless travelers. Parts of the Appalachian Mountain region saw more than three and a half feet of snow, with 35-foot drifts in some areas. Farther north, New England and Eastern Canada got anywhere from 15 inches to two feet of snow. Throughout the path of the storm, trees were uprooted from the weight of snow.

Though southern states saw less snow than their northern neighbors, these areas were hit hardest by damage because they don’t have the infrastructure to deal with heavy snow. Southern cities were shut down for days, as residents waited out the clean-up efforts, and many building collapsed under the weight of the snow. In addition, southerners were unprepared to deal with extremely cold temperatures, as low as 0° F in some parts of the south. Other areas saw temperatures as low as -12° F.

In all the storm caused nearly $7 billion in damage and claimed 310 lives, earning its title as a “Storm of the Century.”

Do you remember the Blizzard of ’93? Share your memories below!

33 comments

1 Ginger { 03.17.13 at 7:15 pm }

I remember that storm vividly! Our pipes froze & burst under the house. Our dog wouldn’t go outside. Our kitty went out to do his duty & howled all the back to the door to make sure I was there to let him back in. Of course I was there waiting for him. Don’t want another winter storm like that.

2 Libby { 03.16.13 at 6:19 am }

I had just to moved to Birmingham, Alabama in August 1992, from Kentucky. I am a nurse, went to work that weekend, and was told I could not leave when work was finishe’d, and that I- 59 and I-65 were closed. I spent the weekend at University of Alabama Hospital where I worked, and didn’t get home to my husband and three young children until Monday morning! I stopped to buy bread and milk, and store shelves were almost empty! This was so different from life in Kentucky, where, in most storms, life went on as usual.

3 Fran { 03.15.13 at 7:26 am }

I remember trying to fly out of Syracuse, NY for a cruise. We and 4 others went to the airport hotel the night before because they were predicting a storm. Woke up the next morning to find the airport closed and you couldn’t even see your car in the parking lot. Lucky for us we had the hotel room because folks were sleeping on the floor at the airport. We were stuck there for 3 days! Never did make it to the cruise.

4 John { 03.14.13 at 10:24 pm }

I vividly remember this storm and the week it took before the power was restored; some of my co-workers were four weeks waiting, or longer. It turned out to be a most bizarre seven days.

That night, as if thunder and lightening snowfall weren’t strange enough, the ground was lit with an eerie orange reflective glow. Although I lived in suburban Knoxville, the house was on the top of a hill and heavily wooded, and one of the few with a wood stove. Friends and neighbors drifted in and out all week; we had a host of folks cozily camped out in the living room and hallway. I remember gingerly tiptoeing around snoozing bodies during the night to refuel the fire, when the wood burned down and the returning chill seeped through the covers and woke me. And there was one afternoon when my housemate and I lugged a full drum of kerosene on a plastic sled up the hill from his stuck truck. I made new friends and relearned the art of conversation; ate some of the tastiest slow-simmered stew I’ve ever had; and took the absolutely coldest…and shortest…shower of my life! There was over a foot of drifting snow, and conditions were primitive and potentially dangerous, but somehow the experience seemed more like an adventure than an ordeal.

5 Pat Chastain { 03.14.13 at 4:29 pm }

rtersville. and 1 1/2 miles from the then GoodYear Mills but didn’t get power for 5 days because we were on a farm and not a sub division. Never mind that the houses here are about 100-300 ft. apart on the main road we are not in a subdivision so Ga. Power could get more homes in a shorter period of times fartther out in the country than we were. After the Blizzard, my husband installed gas logs in the fireplace, and put a heater out of site in our hallway to heat the bedrooms and baths and stubbed for another in the former screened porch now a 14 x22 office. Hope we never have this to happen again, don’t think I cold take it now with 20 yrs. more than I was then. We all did get a lot of sleep and family time together when you don’t have a TV and read by candle or kerosene lamp light. Don’t believe the younger goup would survive if we had another like this. They are just not prepared and most homes are total electric with heat pumps now. Hope someone enjoys reading this as much as I did remembering all the little details. By the way i was the one in the family that kept the fire going all night until about 5 or 6 in the morning, then woke the rest of the family up to put the 36″ long big log and we stayed warm,never got cold but couldn’t do that now. We have two heat pumps to heat the house now but would have to depend on the City of Cartersville gas to keep warm should we have another blizzard. God is still so good to us all because we live in the Greatest Country in the World. Would not trade with any other country for what we have in the Good Ole USA.

6 brig { 03.14.13 at 4:12 pm }

I also remember the Blizzard of ’93, and I remember that it happened just after Clinton became President (a moment of hope not unlike Obama’s first days). It was so unexpected, but I thought it happened in April because I remember that spring leaves had been on the trees. I didn’t remember it happening on a weekend, but that does explain my main memory, which is going out the next morning – I lived on 110th St. in Manhattan – awed by the purity of the snow. I was disoriented by how vastly it had changed the city landscape; all the parked cars had disappeared, and I couldn’t see the street around all these enormous, rounded humps of snow on both sides of the street. Kids and parents were playing and throwing snowballs in the middle of the street, having a blast. They were sliding down the enormous piles of snow from the top of the wall surrounding Central Park and even from the tops of the cars, using anything they could find to slide on, including black garbage bags- city kids don’t have sleds! I remember that on 110th St., a 2-way street, one lane got plowed out, leaving at least 10′ high drifts that further blocked in the cars, making the sledding even better by nightfall. The kids kept sledding under the streetlights on the gigantic, 20′-25′ drifts that were left by the plows on the corner of each block. They must have continued sledding on Monday, since I remember going to the subway- NYC traffic shuts down, but the subway keeps on going, and going… I was heading to work, but wishing I could be out with them. 20′ drifts- how awesome! Even sledding when I was a kid, when there was more snow more often, didn’t leave 20′ hills of snow at a 50° or 60° angle! Another great part was that the uptown, poor kids had the best access to the biggest hill in Central Park, just below 110th St. where _nobody_ went in those days except the drug dealers. The snow melted too rapidly, and within a few days, I remember the slush, dirt and ugliness, such a difference from the heaps of pure beauty that morning.

7 lyn { 03.14.13 at 3:58 pm }

I had lived in the Hurricane Andrew area in Aug 1992.My home was demolished,so i moved south to Key Largo,Florida.I was asleep when the March 1993 storm hit.I came straight up in a sitting position in panic mode.The winds & sounds were the hurricane just 7 months earlier.I paced until i calmed myself.The worst part was hearing the next day about a woman who was killed in my hometown 30 miles north.She had survived hurricane Andrew but not this 2nd storm.

8 Rosanne Hall { 03.14.13 at 2:50 pm }

I remember that our weather forecasters were only calling for about 4 inches to fall. The next morning we woke up to about 22 inches in Crossville, TN. We are up on a plateau so our weather is more intense than surrounding areas. My husband and I managed a small cable company and he was determined to go check out the system. I had to laugh because he only got to the end of the driveway and went in the ditch and the van stayed there for several days. I think our children were out of school for at least a week as we don’t have equipment to deal with that much snow. That goodness for wood stoves. I know our children had a blast sledding down the hill.

9 Denise { 03.13.13 at 11:04 pm }

I live in Lynchburg, Virginia and we had 15″ of snow on the ground. We woke up to snow past our knees. It might have snowed 2 inches during the day on March 12th but that night something must have happened. We went from a small 2″ to a whopping 15″ in one night. My sister was flying up here from Florida but her flights were cancelled for 2 days. She couldnt even get to North Carolina. Much less Virginia!! It was a nightmare

10 Carol { 03.13.13 at 6:15 pm }

My family lives about 25 miles southwest of Washington, DC and I remember that my kids got a week off of school and had a blast sledding. I also remember that the federal government was shut down for most of the week. My oldest children remember having 30 minutes added to the school day for the rest of the school year to make up for all the snow days they missed; not as much fun.

11 Sandie { 03.13.13 at 4:15 pm }

My husband and I were married exactly one year before in 1992 . If we had it one year later we would have had to postpone until the storm was over. Needless to say we spent our first wedding anniversary snowed in.

12 Sandra { 03.13.13 at 2:41 pm }

Mostly what I remember, is climbing over snow banks to feed the birds.

13 Stephanie { 03.13.13 at 2:10 pm }

I remember 9 months later my daughter was born and she wasnt the only one. There was a baby boom at that time as a result of the storm.

14 Tom { 03.13.13 at 12:53 pm }

I sold the last of our 4 snowmobiles just 3 days prior. Harumph.

15 K. Mattson { 03.13.13 at 12:52 pm }

I am from California but my husband, who was my husband-to-be at the time, was from the Philadelphia, PA area. His father and mother lived in Harrisburg, PA. His father, age 75 went out to shovel snow, came back in and dropped dead of a massive coronary.

I remember the difficulty getting my husband any type of transportation to get him back home for the funeral. I finally secured an airline reservation at an exorbitant cost even for grievance fare and we held our breath that the weather would let up enough for the flight to get through, which it did. My husband told me he remembers carrying his father’s casket along with his other brothers and family down the icy steps of the church with the snow and wind blowing in his face making it hard to keep on your feet much less to see properly. It was by the grace of life they made it down the stairs safely.

16 Madge { 03.13.13 at 12:30 pm }

The Navy had just relocated me from Florida to Connecticut. The base shut down early but I needed to stop at the commissary; so I drove home in white-out conditions down a 10 mile stretch of I-95, following the taillights in front of me.

17 Patricia { 03.13.13 at 12:19 pm }

What I remember is that a girl in my office was getting married – I seem to remember that the day of the storm or close to it was the day of her wedding! Also because I was getting married on March 23rd we were afraid the snow would still be on the ground, but looking back at pictures it was mostly gone

18 Treymont { 03.13.13 at 11:09 am }

What I remember from it is the fact that it hit on a weekend and not a weekday to which the kids could have a snow day, but that didn’t happen. I was 17 then. I was excited to see snow, it had been 5 years since I had last seen snow when I lived in England, I moved to SC in 1990. We in Sumter, SC got about 2″ of snow, just enough to where you could make a snow man and have snowball fights, but it all melted away by the time school was back in session on Monday :(

19 Michelle W. Flannery { 03.13.13 at 11:06 am }

Wow! Was it really 20 years ago? I was in college at ASU in Boone, NC that year, but the storm hit during spring break. I was at the beach, and all we got were some light flurries on the coast. There was so much snow back in Watauga County, they closed the roads to any vehicle without sow tires and chains! It was two weeks before they let us back in! As much as I love snow, I still talk about this storm, and how I regret not being there to experience it in it’s total awesomeness!

20 zygote1331 { 03.13.13 at 10:56 am }

I was on the Board of a NJ nonprofit in ’93. We were hosting our first ever Gala event with famous chefs from NYC and the area. The snow started early and we had to make a decision: do the sold out event or cancel it and jepordize that thousnads of dollars we had raised. The decision was if we hold the event we could keep the money, and anyway how bad could the storm be?
The night was a huge success. More than half the attendees showed up. Nearly ever chef came. And all of us had no idea how bad the storm was until we started to leave late that night. It took me twice as long to get home and when I tried to get up my long driveway the car just skidded off and ended up in a snow drift! It took my snowplower buddy hours to dig it out.

21 cldrumheller { 03.13.13 at 10:31 am }

I meant 20 years old. I was thinking 2003 not 1993. Oh well.

22 cldrumheller { 03.13.13 at 10:28 am }

I got a nephew out of this storm. I was in the 6th grade in Virginia. We have the infrastructure for this type of storm and salt trucks and plows were ready. The roads were treated but the plows couldn’t keep up with how quickly the snow was falling. I loved it. My backyard, at the time, was a hill that went across an alley into a large field. My neighbors and I spent most of the days out of school sledding, drinking hot cocoa and cider and making snow ice cream.
My boyfriend moved from Connecticut to Georgia the summer of ’93 so they caught the northern part of the storm but weren’t stranded in Atlanta with nothing to do.
I know I’ll catch comments for this but after living in Georgia for 13 years I’m do for another blizzard. With proper warning and planning, of course. Just a beautiful snow for everyone to enjoy with little damage and no loss of life. I’m optimistic, I know, sorry.

Time flies to think that storm is 10 years old this week. Happy Birthday Blizzard of ’93.

23 tnoflahc { 03.13.13 at 10:25 am }

I was nine years old, living in a trailer park in Brunswick, ME. The snow started at about 1PM and was light for a winter storm. My folks had invited our next door neighbors (no more than 30 feet away) over for lunch and such. By the time they left just an hour or so later, visibility was so poor that we were reluctant to send them back home. I believe we had them call us when they got in, again, next door, no more than thirty feet away.

My younger sister and I were seasoned veterans of snow storms up there, but our parents forbade us to step foot outside. We lost power around 2:30PM and were in the dark most of the evening.

It seems like the storm hit on a Saturday, and school was cancelled the following Monday and Tuesday.

The only time I’ve seen worse conditions was in a freak lake effect blizzard that came out of nowhere in early Feb 2003, in west Michigan.

24 lanajustis1 { 03.13.13 at 10:25 am }

i remember it i lives in WV my youngest son was 6 months old it was a beautiful site but cold

25 Tom { 03.13.13 at 10:19 am }

I plowed snow double shifts non stop for days for a plow contractor in which he has never paid me for to this day.
I was his best man at his wedding, his name is Lee Catizone (Catizone Contracting) here on Long Island

26 Laura e { 03.13.13 at 9:58 am }

Mom dropped f-bomb.
Got married.
Big day.

27 Lynn { 03.13.13 at 9:52 am }

We had feet of snow and we could not get our vehicles out at all. My husband was due to fly out to a job and the airport limo could not get down our road, nor we get up to the mail road. We shoveled the waist high snow and got the car as far as we could until it was simply stuck in the snow. From that point, my husband put his suitcase on a sled and pulled it up to the main road to meet the limo. He said he felt horrible walking away and leaving me with a stuck car and snowed in. It was an adventure. Just one of many to come over the next 12 years of living in the mountains.

28 Lee { 03.13.13 at 9:41 am }

In New Jersey my dad passed away during the storm
I will never forget it

29 Anne Backes { 03.13.13 at 9:39 am }

The day before the storm, my daughter and I drove 25 milesfrom Yardley into Philadelphia, to attend the annual Philadelphia Flower Show. The sun was shining as we drove into the city, and after many hours or walking the acres of flowers, we decided to head home. On the way home we decided to stop for something to eat, by the time we left the restaurant it was raining. By nightfall, the rain turned to snow, and by morning we had in excess of 6 or 8 inches – with no end in sight. The snow continued to fall all weekend, and by the time it was over we had around 16 inches or more. I remember being glued to my television watching the coverage of the Superstorm, but I believe they were calling it the Blizzard of ’93. I was so grateful it came on a weekend as opposed to a weekday. As I had a long commute to my job in Cranbury, NJ, and by Monday, at least most of the roads were cleared. I’m sure the Philadelphia Flower Show didn’t have many visitors on their last day of the show, because getting into and out of the city was a nightmare. I was so happy that my daughter, and I, got there when we did…neither of us even aware there was an impending storm. I had purchased a dozen red roses on our way out, and had the whole weekend to enjoy them. This is one storm I will never forget.

30 Karen { 03.13.13 at 9:34 am }

Here in the Huntsville, Alabama, we were snowed in, I think we had around 6 inches, which is crippling for the deep south.
My teenagers loved it, none of us owned snow boots, but made them out of plastic bags to cover our regular shoes to walk in the snow. Side streets never got plowed since the city owned just a few plows. Everyone just waited until it melted, which started the very next day.
I still remember how beautiful it was, and how the wet snow clung to trees.
Garden plants had already started growing here, roses had leafed out, early daffodils and tulips had some bloom. Pansies, which are a fall, winter, and spring flower here just kept on blooming with the snow covering their pretty heads.

31 Stephen Friedmann { 03.13.13 at 9:13 am }

My wife and I were in St Martin on vacation when the storm hit. We were unable to return to NYC on schedule and were forced to spend another night at our resort. There had been a snafu on check-in and the resort had promised us a free night, little did we know that we would be taking advantage so quickly. I seem to remember reading about a boy scout troop who were camping in the Appalachians, were caught in the storm with loss of life resulting.

32 LP { 03.13.13 at 9:11 am }

In the DC – Balt. area, the day started with clouds. I was in a conference in Baltimore when about 6pm the snow started. I left Baltimore immediately since the forecast was for heavy snow, and by the time I returned to DC (a 50 minute ride) there was already more than 2 inches on the ground. By the time the storm ended the next day in my neighborhood we had about 15 inches…..

33 Rosemarie { 03.13.13 at 9:09 am }

I remember it well. I had to travel from University City in Philadelphia to Maple Shade, NJ — on bus. I waited and waited and waited while stores closed down around me on Chestnut Street, and traffic was almost non-existent.

Lo and behold, an Action News van pulls up to me. A newswoman and her crew disembark.
They asked how long I’d been waiting for my bus; it had been 3 hours.

They then proceeded to interview me on camera about my long wait to get home to South Jersey. My fifteen minutes of fame and I looked like a drowned rat, I’m sure.

Even worse, after they filmed their interview with me, they all piled back in their warm and cozy van and drive off! I started shouting “Wait! Can’t you even give me a ride to Maple Shade?”

But the Action News team whizzed away, leaving me to wait another hour for my bus.

THE END

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