The biggest snowstorms can cause a lot of devastation. Visibility is impaired, snowdrifts abound and the roads become impassable. It gets even worse if it occurs over a populated area. In terms of snow depth, here are the top 10 biggest snowfall records in the world.
10 Chicago, 1967 – 23 inches
It was known as the “Blizzard of 1967” and it hit the Midwest portion of the United States. Areas from Kalamazoo, Michigan to Gary, Indiana were hit. Chicago saw a record amount of snow for a 24-hour period. Up to 76 people died because of the storm, of which 26 came from Chicago.
9 Ontario and Quebec, Canada, 1971 – 24 inches
It was called the “Eastern Canadian Blizzard of 1971.” Montreal itself saw 18 inches of snow. The snowfall was accompanies by strong winds that affected visibility. Along with the frigid temperature, it caused the death of 20 people. Amazingly, Ontario residents were still encouraged to report for work that day. Still, the snowfall got so bad that it actually led to the cancellation of a game by the Montreal Canadiens in the NHL. That, in itself, was a calamity for its rabid followers.
8 New York City, 2006 – 26.9 inches
The ironic thing about this snowfall was that it did not come because of a blizzard. It only covered a small area, the winds were not that high and visibility was not really impaired. But in the one place that it did dump snow, which was New York City, up to 26.9 inches were recorded. It was the greatest snowfall in the recorded history of the city.
7 Boston, 1978 – 27.1 inches
This storm was a bad one because it couldn’t have come at a worse time. The storm struck in the afternoon, meaning people were already at work or school. Thus, a lot were stranded inside their cars. Additionally, it happened during high tide, thus contributing to the area’s most severe flooding. The amount of snow it dumped was also a record in Boston. At its height, up to four inches per hour were being dumped. More than 100 people died in Massachusetts and Rhode Island as a result.
6 Appalachians and Catskills, 1993 – 50 inches
It was billed as the “Storm of the Century” because this March storm dumped snow and unleashed wind in a far wider area than any other storm in recorded history. There were snowfalls from the eastern part of Canada all the way to Alabama. Up to 26 states were hit. There were 270 people reported dead. Temperature fell to negative 24.4 degrees Celsius in Vermont. Even those as far south as Florida felt the chill as temperature dropped to negative 0.56 degrees Celsius. Syracuse got 40 inches of snow, though it was much worse in the mountains.
5 Saratoga Springs, New York, 1888 – 58 inches
It was known as the “Blizzard of 1888” and it affected the entire northeast part of the United States from New England to the Chesapeake Bay. There were 400 people who perished during this storm, including 100 that were lost at sea. It bore all the hallmarks of a wild storm, from the amount of snow, the frigid temperature, the strong wind and the monster snow drifts. New York City was shut down because of 22 inches of snow, which got worse afterwards when the snow melted, thus causing severe flooding. New Haven had 45 inches, but it was Saratoga Springs that bore the brunt with 58 inches of snow.
4 Lhunze County, Tibet, 2008 – 72 inches
While Tibet is a place of bitter cold because of its high altitude, the climate in the place is usually arid and snowfall is usually mild. In 2008, locals got the shock of their lives when snow fell continuously for 36 hours, dumping as much as 72 inches in some parts. Average depth of the snow was reported by Chinese authorities to be 59 inches. Buildings collapsed and roads were closed as seven people died. People lost their animals because of the storm or were forced to slaughter the others for food.
3 New England, 1717 – 108 inches
Only estimates could be done, as meteorological records were not yet reliable back in the 18th century. Still, Boston bore the brunt of “The Great Snow of 1717,” though areas as far as Philadelphia were affected. It happened because of four successive storms that hit the area, which topped off an already heavy winter season. Entire houses were buried and people had to exit through the second floor. As modern snow melting and removal equipment had yet to be invented at that time, people had no choice but to wait for the snow to melt. Roads were impassable for more than a week.
2 Mount Shasta, California, 1959 – 189 inches
In terms of actual snowfall depth, this is probably the biggest to hit North America. Fortunately, it fell in hugely unpopulated mountain areas far away from the communities of Mount Shasta City and Weed. The locals were not even aware of the record snowfall because they were already used to snowstorms. While the depth was more than three times than the 1993 storm that hit the northeast, the effects paled in comparison because of the small area that it covered.
1 Buffalo, 1977 – 199.4 inches
Buffalo is located in the northern region of the United States but it actually gets less snow and warmer temperatures than its neighboring areas. In 1977, it got hit with a modest snowfall accompanied by extremely strong winds of up to 45 miles per hour. But the winter had already left packed snow on the ground. Even Lake Erie was frozen. The result was intense cold, zero visibility and strong drifts. It cemented the city’s reputation as the blizzard capital of the country. By the time it ended, 199.4 inches of snow had been dumped, the record for one season.