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 worst maritime disasters in New England’s history occurred on the night of November 26, 1898. That evening, approximately 200 passengers boarded the luxurious steamship, the SS Portland, for an overnight trip from Boston, Massachusetts to Portland, Maine to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday.

As the Portland prepared to set out to sea, a powerful storm heading up from the south combined with another storm heading from the Great Lakes. The combination produced a “hundred year storm” with hurricane-force winds and a foot of snow. By the time the sun rose the next day the Portland, along with an estimated 150 other ships, lay at the bottom of the sea, resulting in more than 500 fatalities.

The Great Appalachian Storm of 1950 . . .

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

This autumn storm started out just before Thanksgiving in 1950 as a seemingly “normal” weather event and turned deadly. The storm 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 received more than 2 feet of snow in three days.  The storm also set record cold temperatures in Florida, (24 degrees), Georgia (3 degrees), and other areas.

. . . And The Blizzard Bowl of 1950

In this same storm, Ohio was buried under a record amount of snow. Nearly the entire state saw 10 inches and some parts got up to 30 inches. Add a 40 mph wind and you can bet everyone was celebrating inside. That is until Saturday when the famous “Blizzard Bowl” was held in Columbus. Ohio State faced Michigan in front of 50,000 fans that braved 35 mph winds and a temperature of only 5 degrees Fahrenheit. Michigan won 9-3 on 27 total yards and never even scored a first down.

Chicago’s White Thanksgiving of 1975

Chicago is known for its extreme weather especially cold, wintry conditions, but the Thanksgiving storm of 1975 was one for the record books. The snow started to fall the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and when it ended Thursday morning there was more than 8 inches at Midway Airport.  The storm severely impacted holiday travel.  In 2004, Chicago also got snow in time for Thanksgiving but this time received about 4.3 inches, which was enough to cause some travel nightmares.  According to records, the “Windy City” has only seen 11 white Thanksgivings since 1884.

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.

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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