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Historic Thanksgiving Storms

Historic Thanksgiving Storms

Several years ago, the Farmers’ Almanac suggested that we move Thanksgiving up a month and celebrate it in October. The suggestion was based on a few compelling reasons one of which was the weather. Late November weather, in many of areas of the country, often means cold, stormy, snowy conditions.

Here’s a look at a few memorable and historical storms that wreaked havoc on Thanksgiving events and travel:

The Great Appalachian Storm of 1950
November 24 – 30, 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.

Chicago’s White Thanksgiving in 1975
November 26-27

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

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.

What about this year?  Find out what’s in store for Thanksgiving weather here!

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  • D. Smith says:

    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.

  • jamie says:

    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 says:

    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 says:

    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 !

  • Randy says:

    I was born on 11/24/50

  • Katie Hernandez says:

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

  • Dolores Guerra says:

    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.

  • Sandra says:

    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 says:

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

  • Diane says:

    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 says:

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

  • Misty Meade says:

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

  • Eddie M says:

    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.

  • cheryl says:

    cant forget 1971 blizzard in november in northeastern pennslyvania

  • Roberta says:

    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 says:

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

  • arelene staples says:

    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

  • IMSLIM123 says:

    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….

  • Scarlette says:

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

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