While a white Christmas may be the ideal we all dream of, few people wish for a white Thanksgiving. That’s exactly what much of the Eastern half of the United States and Canada got during Thanksgiving weekend in 1950, though.
The Great Appalachian Storm of 1950 dumped record amounts of snow over parts of the Appalachian Mountain range from November 23 through the 30th of that year. It has also been called the Great Thanksgiving Storm and even “the Storm of the Century,” and with good reason. The storm affected 22 states in all, and claimed 160 lives. It was also the most expensive storm of its time, causing $66.7 million in damage (at least $500 million in today’s dollars) and forcing insurance companies to pay out more claims than any other previous storm or hurricane.
The storm formed over North Carolina just before Thanksgiving and quickly moved north, pounding western Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio, and West Virginia. Several feet of snow blanketed the region, making travel impossible for nearly a week in some areas. The tri-state area received more than 30 inches of snowfall over the course of a few days, with snowdrifts 25 feet deep. Buildings collapsed under the weight, and bulldozers were brought in to clear roads for ambulances.
At the same time, an extratropical cyclone battered the entire east coast, creating hurricane-force winds of up to 160 mph. The windstorm alone was responsible for disrupting power to more than 1,000,000 homes.
The southern edge of the storm brought record low temperatures to the Southeastern U.S. Mount Mitchell, North Carolina, reached 26 degrees below zero, and the wind chill factor made conditions even more brutal for the usually temperate region.
All-time record lows for November were set in a number of southern cities, including in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Tennesee, and the Carolinas, while record wind gusts were measured in New York and New Hampshire. In Canada, the storm broke Toronto’s single day snowfall record for the month of December.
So, if your area sees a little snow this Thanksgiving, just remember to be thankful. Things could always be much worse!