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 “the Storm of the Century,” one of the worst winter storms of the 20th Century.
Storm of the 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.
Lots and Lots of Snow
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 buildings 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.
The Storm Aftermath
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!
Jaime McLeod is a longtime journalist who has written for a wide variety of newspapers, magazines, and websites, including MTV.com. She enjoys the outdoors, growing and eating organic food, and is interested in all aspects of natural wellness.