Dreaming of A White Thanksgiving? Historic Turkey Day Storms

Many people dream of a white Christmas but sometimes snow comes early. Check out these historic Thanksgiving storms that created havoc on this late November holiday.

While most of us dream of a White Christmas, very few are dreaming of a snowy Thanksgiving. But here are a few storms that definitely made Thanksgiving one for the record books! Check out these memorable Thanksgiving weather events of the past.

The Portland Gale of 1898

One of the most devastating maritime disasters in New England’s history took place on the night of November 26, 1898. That evening, around 200 passengers boarded the opulent steamship, the SS Portland, for an overnight journey from Boston, Massachusetts to Portland, Maine to celebrate Thanksgiving.

As the Portland prepared to embark, a powerful storm from the south merged with another storm from the Great Lakes. This convergence created a “hundred-year storm” with hurricane-force winds and a foot of snow. By sunrise, the Portland and an estimated 150 other ships had sunk to the depths of the sea, tragically resulting in over 500 fatalities.

The Great Appalachian Storm of 1950 . . .

1950 Great Thanksgiving Storm, Massillon, OH. Photo courtesy of Massillon Museum.

The autumn storm in 1950, which began just before Thanksgiving, initially appeared as a seemingly “normal” weather event but took a deadly turn. It brought significant winds and heavy rains east of the Appalachian Mountains and blizzard conditions to the western slopes of the mountain chain. Cleveland, Ohio, and areas of West Virginia experienced more than 2 feet of snow in merely three days. This storm also set record low temperatures in Florida at 24 degrees, Georgia at 3 degrees, and impacted other areas as well.

. . . And The Blizzard Bowl of 1950

During this intense storm, Ohio endured a record-breaking amount of snow. Almost the entire state experienced 10 inches, while some areas received up to 30 inches. Accompanied by 40 mph winds, everyone was forced to stay indoors and wait it out. However, on Saturday, the renowned “Blizzard Bowl” took place in Columbus. Ohio State competed against Michigan before 50,000 resilient fans who braved the 35 mph winds and a chilling temperature of merely 5 degrees Fahrenheit. Michigan triumphed with a 9-3 victory, achieving 27 total yards without scoring a single first down.

Chicago’s White Thanksgiving of 1975

Chicago is known for its extreme weather, particularly its cold, wintry conditions, but the Thanksgiving storm of 1975 stands out in the record books. The snow began falling on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and, by Thursday morning, accumulated to over 8 inches at Midway Airport. The storm significantly disrupted holiday travel. In 2004, Chicago experienced snowfall just in time for Thanksgiving once again, receiving about 4.3 inches, which caused considerable travel difficulties.

Denver’s Turkey Day Blizzard 1983

This holiday storm was one of the biggest Thanksgiving storms to ever hit a major city. Twenty inches of snow fell that Thanksgiving holiday which, even though Denver is no stranger to winter weather, caught many people off guard.

New York City’s White Thanksgiving 1989

The parade marched on but a few floats couldn’t withstand the almost four inches of snow that fell on New York City on Thanksgiving Thursday, 1989 (11/23/89).  This storm broke records, as it was the first Thanksgiving Day snowstorm since 1938. Snow also fell from Virginia up into New England that Thanksgiving holiday causing some football games to be canceled and tough holiday travel.

Lake Effect “Snowvember” Storm 2014

Snow - Blizzard

Residents in parts of western New York got clobbered with a ferocious snowstorm the week before Thanksgiving.  The magnitude of it was quite a surprise to many who, while most likely used to large amounts of snowfall in that region, probably weren’t prepared for the 5 feet that fell on Tuesday, November 18, followed by another 2 feet  around the eastern Lake Erie and Lake Ontario regions on Thursday, November 20th. While not quite a Thanksgiving storm, it did disrupt travel for those trying to visit relatives for the holiday.

2019 Bomb Cyclone

On the Tuesday before Thanksgiving in 2019, a west coast storm system brought heavy rains and winds to southern Oregon and northern California. By Wednesday (Thanksgiving eve), this system turned in a full-fledged bomb cyclone. This storm brought hurricane-strength winds to Seattle and never-ending rains to southern California, which flooded roads and caused very dangerous travel.

The mountains got snow and a lot of it from this system which again resulted in some very hazardous travel during the holiday week.

Find out what we’re predicting for your Thanksgiving weather here!

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Caroline woodman

Thanksgiving storms

John m.Stecz

I remember the blizzard of 93 real well,that’s the first time I ever remember the Pennsylvania turnpike being closed.Almost did not make it home in my tractor trailer

D. Smith

There was a terrible ice and snow storm here in SD just before Thanksgiving but I can’t remember the exact year – it was either 1992, 1993 or 1994. Could you help me remember by looking up the record? We had traveled from the western part of the state to the middle part of the State for a funeral, that’s how I remember that it was so bad. I-90 was pretty icy the closer we got to our destination and we were caravaning with some other folks and their little Luv pickup went into the ditch at least 4 times and we had to pull them out. It was a funeral we couldn’t miss, however, so we just kept going. Coming back home 4 days later it was just as bad. Wind, snow, blowing snow across the roads thus creating terrible icy spots. It was a white-knuckle drive up and back (about 250 miles one way) and we still talk about it with dread.


looks like harp created another storm again look back every thanksgiving open your eyes why do they do it … because it makes money they do it every year when they know people are travling

Gary peterson

i we’ll remember the storm of 1950. School was closed, stores closed and people were stranded. I lived in McKeesport, pa. At the time. We got 36″ of snow.

Steve Ranz

My parents were married on November 25,1950, in Cincinnati, Ohio
Their a Honeymoon was cancelled…etc

My Dad had always told my Mom it would be “A Cold Day in Hell” when he got married !!

He nailed that !!
The 1978 Blizzard that his SW Ohio was worse than the 1950 storm….when I was 25 years old…
I had not even been though of in 1950 !


I was born on 11/24/50

Katie Hernandez

This is a Thanksgiving story. That’s probably why they didn’t mention Canada’s weather.

Dolores Guerra

I remember the Denver Blizzard of 1983. We had moved 5 months before from Texas (no snow) and we were excited for the first snow. When it came it wouldn’t stop. It was the biggest we’ve had since. I just don’t want to have any like Boston.


I survived the Buffalo NY Blizzard of 1977,1985,2001,the October storm, and Now Snowvember 2014! Probably missing some dates along the way. This was just one more to laugh about. I had 88″ of snow on Friday and by Tuesday it will be puddles of water. Got to love The Buffalo areas.

Vito Mezzapelli

What about the snow storm that hit Toronto,Canada April 4, 1979?


I believe it was Thanksgiving 1971, I had just gotten my drivers license and my mom and dad had gone to Canada and left me in charge of my 8 siblings, I packed them all in the car and headed to MacDonald’s 8 miles from home to get them something to eat, during a snow storm. Little did I know that at that time MacDonalds was not open on Thanksgiving, we got stuck in a ditch off of Rt 2 in Shirley MA due to a snow storm, What the heck was I thinking, and what were they thinking leaving me with 8 children on Thanksgiving day at the age of 18.

Vito Mezzapelli

What about the snow storm that hit Toronto April 4,1979?

Misty Meade

What about the blizzard of 78? Does anyone remember the blizzard of 78. I was 5 when Ohio received a blizzard.

Eddie M

We had Thanksgiving Day snowstorms in upstate NY 100 miles north of NYC in 1971, 1972, 1978, 1989, 2002 and 2005 ranging from just a few inches to over a foot.


cant forget 1971 blizzard in november in northeastern pennslyvania


I was 7, visiting my relatives in Cleveland, Ohio just for Thanksgiving weekend 1950. Instead of driving, my Dad thought taking the train would be fun. We had to stay for over a week but the train tracks were still impassable back to Elkins. So we took the Greyhound Bus. Because the bus was so crowded the 4 of us could not sit together, my 2 year old sister never had a seat to herself. In many instances, my father stood so that women or elderly men could sit. The trip took 4 hours longer than expected and fortunately my grandmother gave us a large bag of sandwiches and bananas because at the bus stops, the dining areas were not open.

Bob DeLoach

Wanted to know about weather in trenton tn on thanksgiving day in 1950

arelene staples

hi i’m concerned about winter what does it look like for rustburg va. 24588 area near lynchburg regional airport don’t like snow so tell me we are having a mild winter please
thanks arelene staples


The Older Generation always went by the Farmer’s Almanac, and, I have always noticed the Wolly-Worm over the years of there different Colors…the Brown’s, & Black’s..(If it’s all Brown, it will be a Mild Winter, if it has both colors, it will be a mixed Winter), and recently I have seen 3 Wolly-Worms, and they were all 3 Black..meaning we are in for a very long, cold, & Snowy Winter….


Who wants to bet that this year those records will be broken?

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