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Thread: Worst winter in U.S. history?

  1. #1
    Member Darrin Rasberry's Avatar
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    Default Worst winter in U.S. history?

    I think by this time, it's worth opening up a discussion about this. Keep in mind that I mean, of course, recorded history - I'm sure the Native Americans experienced some whoppers over the past couple of thousand years, but they didn't record it.

    Just a few things to keep in mind:

    *Worst blizzard in Iowa history (December 8 IIRC).

    *Snow pack here in Iowa (5"+) is blowing the old record away by a long shot. For a metric to compare with relatively recent winters, school closings have blown the old record away by a long shot as well, and are so high in number that summer school and weekend school is already being discussed with winter's end still ~45 days away.

    *Historic Christmas blizzard hits North Texas and Oklahoma, dumping more snow on my hometown of Wichita Falls than any other time in its recorded history.

    *Worst snow to hit the East Coast in over two centuries.

    *Continuous severe weather and massive mudslides in California.

    *Ice storms galore in the Midwest.

    *Near record-breaking cold snap before the southwest flow arrived in January.

    *Etc.

    By almost every metric, I'd say this winter is not only the worst in Iowa history, but U.S. history, as well. What other winter could even compare, and why?
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    Omaha has set its all-time record for number of consecutive days with 6" or more of snow on the ground.

    The January cold air outbreak set a number of all time record lows in the Caribbean.

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    Member Robert Dewey's Avatar
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    I guess you would have to check the number of winter-related records that are broken for each winter period. Has there been more records broken this winter than previous winters? It would be nice to categorize them too - temperature records, precipitation records, etc..

    But then you have to think - if records are consistently being broken, that means the bar is being raised higher and higher, which would lead to a bias.

    FWIW - This winter might go down in the record books for us... as a top 20 most snowless winter.
    Disclaimer: My facts are not to be confused with opinion.

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    Member MatthewCarman's Avatar
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    This can't be the worst winter America has ever had. Sure we are breaking records and this is the worst winter I can remember but there has been far worse events in the past. I could look at my weather books but it is easier to look online and copy/paste the information. Here is a site that is updated and lists the worst winters in America. The winter of 2009-20010 seems pathetic compared to some past winters.

    Taken from this site http://www.epicdisasters.com/index.p...winter_storms/


    I decided to look into the winter of 1888 and found some amazing information about it.
    http://www.nycsubway.org/articles/1888-blizzard.html

    http://annapolisroyalheritage.blogsp...8-azorian.html

    http://www.infoplease.com/spot/blizzard1.html
    The most famous snowstorm in American history, the Blizzard of 1888, has acquired an almost legendary status. Although there have been many heavier snowfalls as well as significantly lower temperatures, the blizzard's combination of inclement conditions has been unmatched in more than a century.

    Taken from Wikipedia:

    In 1883, the explosion of Krakatoa (Krakatau) also created volcanic winter-like conditions. The next four years after the explosion were unusually cold, and the winter of 1888 was the first time snow fell in the area[where?]. Record snowfalls were recorded worldwide.

    This is the final post I am doing on the winter of 1888 and will focus on the schoolhouse aka childrens blizzard where many children died. I am also adding the historic cold temperatures that followed with an artic outbreak.

    http://www.pawneecountyhistory.com/y.../blizzard.html

    http://www.islandnet.com/~see/weather/events/childrensblizzard.htm
    The accompanying article reported Denver saw but little snow though the low temperature fell to minus 18 oF (minus 27.8 oC) with 60 mph (96 km/h) winds. (If they occurred together, the windchill would have been in the minus 60 F range (minus 51 C).) It further reported: "Downtown the streets were deserted except by those absolutely compelled to be around, and windows of business houses and stores bore thick, frozen coats of icy winter's withering breath." The paper reported that in the Dakota Territory, Fargo shivered at minus 47 oF (minus 43.9 oC) and searches continued for missing schoolchildren in Huron.

    Wikipedia:
    The Schoolhouse Blizzard, also known as the Schoolchildren's Blizzard or the Children's Blizzard, hit the U.S. plains states on January 12, 1888. The blizzard came unexpectedly on a relatively warm day, and many people were caught unaware, including children in one-room schoolhouses.
    Last edited by Skip Talbot; 02-08-2010 at 01:05 PM.
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    Administrator Team Scott Weberpal's Avatar
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    I recall a winter about 10,000 years ago that lasted many thousands of years.
    “Teaching consists of causing people to go into situations from which they cannot escape, except by thinking. Do not handicap your children by making their lives easy.” -- Robert Heinlein (1973)

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    One thing to point out is that all of those storms that you posted Matthew are just a single storm in the entire winter scheme of things. The thing to look at as far as 'worst winter' is concerned with this year is the length and total amounts of snow/ice that we've seen. As mentioned we are breaking records regarding the amounts of snow and the length that it has been there, not just a single storm record that you are posting.

    I'm not sure if this would qualify as the worst in regards to lives lost and total money cost, etc. But we are likely nearing the worst in regards to cold weather and longevity of the snowpack over much of the northern Plains. It still looks like we have at least a few more winter storms to go for parts of the Plains and the east coast, so we certainly aren't done trying to set records yet.
    Jayson Prentice -- Iowa State Meteorology '09 -- KC0TQO
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  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by Scott Weberpal View Post
    I recall a winter about 10,000 years ago that lasted many thousands of years.
    While very true, we didn't have the United States then and wouldn't qualify for our initial statement of worst winter in US history!
    Jayson Prentice -- Iowa State Meteorology '09 -- KC0TQO
    NEW Storm Chasing Website: Severe Plains
    NEW Severe Plains Blog
    & Jayson Prentice Photography

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    Member Adam Lucio's Avatar
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    It certainly is a runner up I would say. Around here its been pretty boring other than more freezing rain events than we typically see in a year. However as I speak we are under a winter storm warning with as much as 12" on the way, so if this verifies it will certainly change the way the books look. The last big snow forecast here was a huge letdown with up to 15" forecasted and only 4" actually falling. So we'll see.

    Certainly this winter will be a record setter for allot of areas. All we need now is another 1993 super storm.

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    Member MatthewCarman's Avatar
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    If you want the worst winter in America's history you would have to go back to the last ice age when the country was nothing but snow and ice. I think it is hard to tell if this is a top ten winter. How many winters in the past have we actually recorded how many snow storms there was? AS for the temperatures it seems like it has been colder to me and I know Florida has had it colder than they did this year.

    The ice storms have not been as bad as past ice storms. There was an ice storm in the past that produced 8" of ice. There was a snow storm in the past that produced 70" of snow. The Iowa blizzard was bad but compared to many past blizzards for the US it was a weak one. I guess it all depends on what one defines as a historic winter.

    I would put this winter in the top 20 but not the top 10. That is just my opinion though.

    Edit: Correct me if I am wrong but hasn't the north west seen warm temperatures and little snow this winter?
    There can be miracles when you believe. - Prince of Egypt.

  10. #10
    Member MatthewCarman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Adam Lucio View Post
    Certainly this winter will be a record setter for allot of areas. All we need now is another 1993 super storm.
    I agree with Adam. If we can get another 1993 super storm or blizzard of 1888 then this will probably be one of the worst winters in America's history in my oppinion.
    There can be miracles when you believe. - Prince of Egypt.

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