At this point, you're probably already aware that Winter Storm Jonas is impending. If you haven't already, it's a good idea to make sure you're prepared for the snow and plan for snow related emergencies. If you're more of an on-the-fly person, you may be more interested in fun activities you can do in the snow to keep yourself occupied. Either way, snow is likely to be on your mind. Even if you're not directly affected by Jonas, media coverage for the storm is huge right now, so you might feel like you're already up to your ears in the fluffy stuff anyway.
Now, forecasters are predicting some pretty intense snowfall for Jonas, and weather related issues are always serious, but the coverage got me thinking: what are other major blizzards, and how did they all go down?
As of now, Jonas has already unleashed sleet, rain, and snow in parts of the country ranging from the lower Mississippi Valley to West Virginia, Virginiam and North Carolina. From Friday afternoon through Saturday (so basically, right now) Jonas is predicted to bring about strong winds, coastal flooding, and general blizzard conditions to the Northeast and mid-Atlantic. In fact, according to Weather.com, "The National Weather Service has now issued blizzard warnings from northern Virginia to Long Island, including Washington D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York." All of this is pretty intense, and precautions should definitely be taken seriously.
But hey, I suppose at least we've been here before, right? Here are some epic blizzards I think give Jonas a run for his money:
1. The Blizzard of '78
Growing up in Massachusetts myself, I'm used to snow. I'm also used to stories about snow. As a kid, adults regularly recanted their experiences trudging through foot upon foot of snow just to buy eggs and milk (because apparently everyone buys the same foods before snow storms) in spite of harsh blizzard conditions. I think because I heard about the Blizzard of '78 so often as a kid myself, I didn't realize how serious it was until I became an adult.
Basically, prior to this epic blizzard, the New England area already had about 21 inches of snow on the ground from previous storms. When forecasters predicted another 10 or so inches, no one was alarmed. Thus, when the blizzard struck and lingered for roughly 36 hours (essentially "pinned" in that area and unable to move into the Atlantic Ocean), people were stuck in a bind. Like, abandoning their cars and walking along the highway in the snow stuck. For people in coastal areas, there were also evacuations due to hurricane-like conditions, where people's doors and roofs were literally being blown off. Now that is some seriously scary stuff.
2. The White Hurricane
This one struck in 1913 and is apparently the deadliest natural disaster ever to hit the Great Lakes region. Like the Blizzard of '78, hurricane-like winds took a major toll here, causing waves on the lakes to hit 35 feet high. The conditions resulted in the deaths of about 250 people. In particular, the storm caused a ton of shipwrecks and damage to maritime buildings and infrastructures. Luckily, something like this is unlikely to happen now, because our modern technology can do a way better job of tracking and predicting weather patterns than what people were working with in 1913.
3. The Children's Blizzard
This one is really sad, but, again, is very unlikely to have a similar impact today, as our technologies have improved so dramatically. Back in 1888, the "Children's Blizzard" (also called "The Schoolhouse Blizzard") slammed the Northwest Plains and killed a little over 200 people, mostly children. Allegedly, the storm came with no warning, and the temperatures dropped nearly 100 degrees in just 24 hours. Many of the fatalities occurred when children were walking home from school in rural areas, and adults working on farms. Looking back, it appears the area had enjoyed unexpectedly warm weather just prior to the storm, and Artic winds from Canada rolled in rapidly and created the perfect recipe for a blizzard.
4. The Knickberboxer Storm
This is another really, really sad one... and admittedly, pretty bizarre. The storm is named after the Knickerboxer Theater in Washington, D.C., which makes little sense out of context. Apparently in 1922, the storm blasted the northeastern states with several feet of snow and extremely low temperatures, including Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and even D.C. Now, allegedly, this snow built up really quickly, so people were still out and about when the storm rolled into the District. Sadly, this is where major tragedy struck: Patrons were enjoying movies at the Knickerboxer Theater, the newest theater in the area, when snow built up rapidly on the roof and caused it to cave in. This resulted in the death of 98 people and caused injuries for 133.
5. The Storm of the Century
And last but certainly not least, the Storm of the Century. This one is pretty terrifying. Back in 1993, this blizzard also brought on tornadoes, heavy winds, and freezing rain. This storm was really, really widespread, at points ranging from Canada to Central America. The terrible conditions caused schools to be shut down all over the country, dumping 20 inches of snow in major cities, and generally confining people to their homes. At points, the record pressure of the storm was enough to qualify it as a Category 3 hurricane... mixed with snow and ice. Yikes. Sadly, this one resulted in the deaths of about 300 people.
Now, if you're anything like me, you might be feeling a little freaked out about Jonas. If you weren't before reading those stories, you probably are now. My personal advice: Don't panic! Just be proactive. Make sure you're well prepared and plan your next few days, including emergency contacts and alternate travel routes, if you must go outside. And remember, look outside your window and enjoy the snow! If nothing else, it can be a real treat to look at from the warmth of your own living room.