On January 12, 1975, while the Minnesota Vikings and the Pittsburgh Steelers were battling it out for the NFL championship at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans, much of the rest of the country was waging an altogether different battle.
A crippling storm that created blizzard conditions in some areas and deadly tornadoes in others brought much of America to its knees during the weekend of Super Bowl IX. The intense storm system, known alternately as the Great Storm of 1975, the Super Bowl Blizzard, the Storm of the Century (in Minnesota), and the Tornado Outbreak of January 1975, ravaged much of the Central and Southeast United States between January 9 and January 12.
Over the course of four days, the storm produced 45 tornadoes in the Southeast and dumped as much as two feet of snow in parts of the Midwest. The storm was, and remains, both one of the worst Midwestern blizzards in recorded history, as well as one of the largest tornado outbreaks during the month of January.
The storm system originated over the Pacific Ocean on January 8, slamming into the Pacific Northwest with damaging gale-force winds. A day later, it crossed the Rocky Mountains and collided with both arctic air from Canada and warm tropical air from the Gulf of Mexico. This combination of forces resulted in record low barometric pressure readings in the Midwest. Coupled with unseasonably warm daytime temperatures in the Southeastern U.S., this low-pressure system resulted in 42 tornadoes from the evening of January 9th through the following morning in Oklahoma, Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas, Indiana, Illinois, North Carolina, and Mississippi. At least seven tornadoes touched down in Louisiana, where the Super Bowl would be played just a couple of days later. January 10th broke the record for the most tornadoes on one day in January, with a total of 39 confirmed twisters.
Mississippi and Alabama were the hardest hit by this outbreak. While Alabama had the most twisters of any state, with 13, Mississippi took the brunt of the largest and deadliest tornado of the outbreak. An F4 tornado pummeled four counties just after 8 a.m. on the 10th, killing nine people and injuring more than 200.
After a day of quiet on the 11th, more tornadoes touched down in Georgia and Florida on Super Bowl Sunday, killing one person and injuring many others. In all, the tornado outbreak claimed 12 lives.
Meanwhile, in the Midwest…
At the same time, a powerful snowstorm gripped much of the Midwest, from Oklahoma to the Canadian border, dumping a foot or more of snow on Nebraska, South Dakota, and Minnesota. The storm also brought wind gusts of up to 90 mph in some areas, drastically reducing visibility, creating life-threatening wind chills, and producing snowdrifts up to 20 feet high.
The blizzard is considered to this day to be one of the worst the Upper Midwest has ever experienced. It resulted in 58 human deaths, plus the loss of more 100,000 farm animals.
Collectively, the storm system resulted in more than $63 million in property damage: $43 million from the tornadoes and another $20 million from the snow.
Despite all of the devastation throughout the nation, Super Bowl IX went on as planned. The Steelers won, 16-6.
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.