BIGGEST SNOW STORMS IN THE UNITED STATES
From 1888 to Present

(Excluding the mountains of the West and lake-effect snows.)

1) "BLIZZARD OF 1888"

March 11-12, 1888

Unseasonable and devastating snowstorm from the Chesapeake Bay to Maine. The cities of Washington, Philadelphia, Boston and New York City were paralyzed. This incredible "Nor'easter" dumped 50 inches of snow in Connecticut and Massachusetts while New Jersey and the state of New York had 40 inches. Drifts of 40 to 50 feet high buried houses and trains. From Chesapeake Bay to Nantucket, 200 ships were sunk with 400 lives lost.

2) "ARMISTICE DAY STORM"

November 11-12, 1940

Mild weather ahead of an intense low pressure system tracking from Kansas to western Wisconsin, was quickly followed by a raging blizzard. Many people were caught off-guard by the severity of the storm and particularly the plunging temperatures. Sixty degree temperatures during the morning of the 11th was followed by single digit readings by the morning of the 12th. These very cold temperatures and snow amounts were very unusual for this early in the season. Up to 26 inches of snow fell in Minnesota, while winds of 50 to 80 mph and heavy snows were common over parts of the states of Wisconsin, South Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota, Iowa and Michigan. These winds were responsible for whipping up 20 foot drifts. A total of 144 deaths were blamed on the storm (13 in Wisconsin), most of which were duck hunters along the Mississippi River. Milwaukee received only a trace of snow, but 80 mph gradient winds downed hundreds of trees.

3) "THE GREAT MIDWEST BLIZZARD"

January 26-27, 1967

One of the biggest snowstorms to strike the Midwest on record occurred just two days after an extremely rare January tornado outbreak struck nearly the same area (January 24). An intense "Panhandle hook" storm tracked from New Mexico northeast up the Ohio Valley. Central and northern Illinois, northern Indiana, southeast Iowa, Lower Michigan, Missouri and Kansas were hit hard by this blizzard. Kalamazoo, Michigan reported 28 inches of snow, Gary, Indiana 24 inches and Chicago 23 inches. Winds of 50 mph created drifts to 15 feet! Seventy-six people died, most in the Chicago area. This blizzard still ranks as Chicago's heaviest snowfall in a 24-hour period. (Remarkably, Milwaukee measured only 6 inches of snow from this storm.)

4) "BLIZZARD OF 1978"

January 25-27, 1978

A tremendous blizzard struck Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, Illinois, western Pennsylvania and southeast Wisconsin. One to three feet of snow was common throughout this area with 50 to 70 mph winds whipping up 10 to 15 foot drifts. Ohio was hardest hit with 100 mph winds and 25 foot drifts! Much of the affected area was paralyzed for several days. This very intense "Lower Mississippi Valley" type storm tracked from Mississippi to Lake Huron and deepened to 960 mb as it neared Detroit, Michigan. Over 70 deaths were blamed on this storm. Milwaukee measured nearly a foot of snow from this large and very intense storm system.

5) "SUPERSTORM OF 1993" (Also dubbed the "Storm of the Century")

March 12-13, 1993

This extremely intense and massive storm tracked from the western Gulf of Mexico to the Florida Panhandle and up the eastern seaboard to Massachusetts (lowest pressure at one point was under 960 mb). A huge area had tremendous snow amounts, some of record proportions. This storm dumped the most snow in the largest area than ever before. Amounts ranged from a foot in southern Alabama to over 40 inches in the state of New York. In the mountains along the Tennessee / North Carolina border a whopping 60 inches fell! Winds of 70 mph were common across this large area with drifts to 20 feet high. Nearly 300 deaths were blamed on this storm due to the severity and large area affected.

6) "BLIZZARD OF 2005"

January 20-24, 2005

What started out as a clipper system diving into the northern Plains, quickly turned into an unsual type of blizzard as it hit the Lower Great Lakes. The system tapped into Gulf of Mexico moisture as it propagated east southeast across Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and southern Ohio. A weaker clipper system just to it's north passed all of it's energy to the developing storm to the south and subsequently bombed out as it hit the Atlantic. Although not a terribly deep storm, copious amounts of moisture streamed northward from the Gulf Stream and dumped record snowfall totals across southern New England. A large swath of heavy snow blanketed much of the Upper Midwest, northern Ohio Valley, and most of New England. Snowfall totals ranged from 5 to 13 inches across the Midwest (locally 15 to 16 inches near Lake Michigan) to 8 to locally 37 inches across southern New England. Areas around Boston reported snowfall rates of 3 to 5 inches per hour for a time. One nearby city recorded 7 inches of snow in 75 minutes!! Boston officially recorded 22.5 inches, which contributed largely to breaking an all time record for the amount of monthly snowfall (43.3 inches) for any month.

In addition to record snowfall, winds gusted in excess of 60 mph across portions of the Midwest and up to 85 mph across portions of southern New England. Widespread white-out conditions resulted, and entire cities were shut down in the northeast. Portions of Massachusetts reported 6 foot snow drifts.


  • NOAA's National Weather Service
  • Milwaukee/Sullivan, WI Weather Forecast Office
  • N3533 Hardscrabble Road
  • Dousman, WI 53118
  • 414-744-8000
  • Page Author: MKX Webmaster
  • Web Master's E-mail: w-mkx.webmaster@noaa.gov
  • Page last modified: 2-Nov-2005 10:22 PM UTC
USA.gov is the U.S. government's official web portal to all federal, state and local government web resources and services.