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A blizzard is a large winter storm. It brings low temperatures, strong winds, and a lot of blowing snow. Blizzards start when a high pressure system touches as low pressure system. The word blizzard is sometimes used incorrectly by news media to talk about big winter storms, even if the storm is not a blizzard.


Some areas are more likely to be hit by blizzards than others, but a blizzard can occur in any place where snow falls. In North America, blizzards happen often in the northern-east states, and in the provinces of Canada. In this region, blizzards can happen more than twice each winter. They also occur often in the mountain ranges of western North America. Because these regions have low populations, blizzards sometimes are not reported.


A very dangerous type of blizzard is a whiteout. In a whiteout, downdrafts and snowfall are so thick that people cannot tell the ground and sky apart. People caught in a whiteout lose their sense of direction very fast. This is a large danger to pilots when they are flying airplanes, because they cannot tell how close they are to the ground, and may crash.

Famous U.S. blizzards

Blizzards that appear quickly cause a lot of damage. They can bury cars, trucks, and even a locomotive under snow.
The Great Blizzard of 1888 was very damaging for the Northeastern United States. In that blizzard, 400 people died, 200 ships sunk, and snowdrifts were 10 or 15 feet high. In the Great Plains, states were hit by the Schoolhouse Blizzard that trapped children in schools and killed 235 people.

In 1880–1881 there was a winter that people in the Dakotas called the "Hard Winter". The author Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote her book The Long Winter about that winter's story. It talks about one blizzard after another, and how it changed Laura's family and everybody around her. The book is almost all true. Her story of two men from the town of DeSmet, South Dakota, going after some wheat stored some miles south of DeSmet in February 1881 is true, and Ingalls later married one of the men, Almanzo Wilder). If the two men had not found and brought back the wheat, the people would have starved. The snow and ice thawed in April, and the railroads could start again. The train picture above was photographed on March 29, 1881, not far from DeSmet.

34 people died during a 3-day spring blizzard on March 1920 in North Dakota. One of the people who died was Hazel Miner, a teenage girl who died of freezing to death when she got lost on her way home from her one-room-school.

The Armistice Day Blizzard in 1940 surprised many people with how fast the temperature dropped. It was 60 °F (15.6 °C) in the morning, but by noon, it was snowing. Some of the people froze to death in the snow. 154 people died in the Armistice Day Blizzard.

105 years after the Great Blizzard of 1888, a giant blizzard, named the Storm of the Century, hit the U.S in 1993. It dropped snow on 26 states and reached as far north as Canada and as far south as Mexico. In many southern U.S. areas, such as parts of Alabama, more snow fell in this storm than ever fell in an entire winter. Highways and airports closed across the U.S. The blizzard also made 15 tornadoes in Florida. When the storm was over, 270 people died and 48 were reported missing.

Other famous blizzards

Snowdrifts made driving hard in the 1977 blizzard in Buffalo, New York


Other pages

Other websites

  • Dr Richard Wild Website dedicated to the history, news and facts about heavy snow and blizzards.
  • Digital Snow Museum Photos of historic blizzards and snowstorms.
  • Blizzards Photo Gallery Photos of huge U.S. snowstorms, plus blizzard survival info — all from AOL Research & Learn
  • [1] Environment Canada's definition of Blizzard
  • [2] SEVERE Winter Weather Events Excerpts from The Canadian Weather Trivia Calendarit:Tormenta