Winter Wimps: 7 Cities That Can’t Handle Snow
When it comes to winter weather, one person's flurry is another's freak-out. Do you live in one of these 7 weather wimpy cities?
When it comes to wintry weather, one person’s flurry is another’s freak-out. In other words, what might be considered a storm of little consequence for some can trigger snow days and a citywide shutdown for others. Of course, we want everyone to stay safe when the conditions are dangerous, but sometimes road and office closures have been known to be excessive when the flakes fly. Does your city have a reputation of being a so-called “weather wimp”? These seven cities do. See the list:
Weather Wimps: Top 7 Cities
1. Seattle, Washington
Seattle is one of the northernmost cities in the U.S., but don’t let that fool you. Its proximity to several bodies of water, including the Pacific Ocean, Puget Sound, and Lake Washington, makes for mild summers and cool—not cold—winters. Because of this, snowfall is infrequent in Seattle, and that’s precisely what makes it such a big to-do when it does snow.
On November 22, 2010, three days before Thanksgiving, a winter storm turned the “Emerald City” pearl white with 2.5 inches of snow. Schools closed, Sea-Tac International Airport temporarily grounded flights due to icy runways, and evening rush hour traffic on I-5 came to a standstill for hours on end.
2. Los Angeles, California
It should come as no surprise that Los Angeles is inexperienced with winter weather. After all, the last time Downtown LA witnessed snow falling from its skies was in January 1962—over 50 years ago! The freak storm brought a trace of snow (the smallest amount able to be measured) to the heart of the city and caused several roads north of Mulholland Drive to close.
However, Los Angeles’ largest recorded snowfall came in January 1932. According to the Los Angeles Times, the snow began before dawn, and while it only lasted a couple of hours, it blanketed “The City of Angels” in 2 inches of snow. A group of several hundred students at nearby Pasadena City College were so elated by the sight of the snow, they ditched classes and proceeded to start a 500-person snowball fight in the middle of a nearby street. Not only did their snow day antics tie up traffic, but their games also grew so rowdy that the LAPD were called to break up the disturbance.
3. Atlanta, Georgia
Atlanta sees the occasional cold spell and ice or snow event, but there’s one thing that worsens the city’s winter weather panic: Atlanta traffic. The city ranks in the top 10 cities with the worst traffic in the world and is also one of the top 5 worst traffic cities in the U.S. So when millions of motorists attempt to travel home at the same time on slick, snowy roads, you’ve automatically got a recipe for winter weather chaos.
That’s exactly what happened in late January 2014, when light snow accumulations of 1 to 3 inches fell across the Atlanta metro area. Thousands of motorists became stranded on roads and interstates—some for over 20 hours. School buses transporting students home from early dismissals remained stuck in traffic until midnight. The snow event was such a fiasco it was nicknamed “Snowmageddon 2014.”
4. Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas
As one of the top 5 warmest states in the U.S., Texas doesn’t frequently experience snowfalls. But in February 2011, a rare snowstorm hit the central, northern, and eastern parts of the state. Dallas-Fort Worth recorded about 5 inches of snow—enough to bring the city to a halt two days before that year’s Super Bowl game. Love-Field Airport closed for a half day, and over 300 flights were canceled at DFW International Airport.
5. New Orleans, Louisiana
Snow rarely ever falls in “The Big Easy,” thanks to Louisiana’s humid subtropical climate. In fact, New Orleans has only experienced measurable snow less than two dozen times since its weather records began in the 1800s. So when a mix of snow, sleet, and freezing rain fell in mid-January 2018, the entire city stopped to take notice… although accumulations only ranged from a trace to just under an inch. Portions of Interstates 10, 12, and 55 closed down, as did the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway. Streetcar and ferry services were suspended, and schools and state government offices in 29 parishes closed for 2 to 3 days.
6. Columbia, South Carolina
Columbia is a city known more for its triple-digit summer temperatures than for its snow. So when a New Year’s nor’easter threatened to drop 1 to 2 inches of snow on the capital city in early January 2018, local officials scrambled into action. School closings and delays were “called” across the city, and also in 25 counties across the state. Ironically, Columbians ended up with barely half an inch of snowfall from the storm. Still, better safe than sorry!
7. Washington, D.C.
Although our nation’s capital is no stranger to snow (it averages 15.4 inches a year), D.C. tends to shut down for modest snow accumulations. One example: On January 21, 2016, light snow and ice—around an inch—paralyzed D.C. traffic. The dusting reportedly caused more than 1,000 fender-benders, transformed routine commutes home into seven-hour-long treks, and jammed D.C.’s major highways, including the I-495 Beltway, with a sea of stranded vehicles. Some say the city’s location at the crossroads of North and South is to blame (it makes snowfall forecasts, and likewise, snowfall planning less straightforward). Others say the shared jurisdiction over the city slows its road anti-icing decisions. Regardless, the outcome is the same: D.C. has been dubbed a weather wimp by its neighboring northern cities.
What about where you live? Does everyday life shut down when the snow flies, no matter how little? Tell us in the comments on our Facebook page.
What’s in store for winter? Check out our forecast here!
Tiffany Means is a freelance writer and a degreed meteorologist. She specializes in weather forecasting and enjoys making the subject of weather (and the science behind it) more relatable. She currently resides in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.
You definitely need to add Chicago to this list….these people grow up with snow and can’t drive in it worth a dime. It’s as if they never saw the stuff before. When the forecast shows snow the local news broadcast and residents lament about it for week. Pathetic.
The storm in Dallas/Ft. Worth that you mention in February, 2011 was actually a series of storms a few days apart including a major ice storm as well as bringing a few inches of snow. As I’m sure you know, ice storms are crippling wherever they occur. Granted, most places are better equipped to handle ice and snow than Dallas/Ft. Worth but *major* ice storms are problematic for all of us.
Thundersleet is something you have experience firsthand to appreciate. The National Weather Service describes the events.
So who are the toughest cities for snow? I live near Cleveland, Oh and we have to be on that list. We get a lot of lake effect snow every winter.
You forgot Hampton Roads,Va.They are the biggest winter wimps.Justmention the word snow and they shut every thing down.
Thanks, Timothy for the info!