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Remembering the Blizzard of 1993

The mid-March storm dumped over 2 feet of snow over the region

March 13, 2012|Meteorologist Brent Watts

March 13-14th, 1993, the region saw one of the largest March snowfalls in recorded history. The weather predictions grew from 6 to 12 inches early in the week,  to 1 to 2 feet just before the snow began on Friday and continued through Sunday.

On top of the extreme snow, strong winds were expected to top 50 mph during the second half of the storm, creating the blizzard conditions across much of the east coast.

One national forecaster commented, "this is like a hurricane, with snow." Others coined it the "white hurricane" due to the combination of snow and wind.

All the ingredients came together for the blizzard. Arctic air from Canada mixed with subtropical moisture from the Gulf of Mexico. The low pressure system moved up the eastern seaboard on Friday, hitting the Carolinas and Virginia on Saturday, before heading to the Canadian Maritimes on Sunday.

Winds over 60mph hit the Altantic coastline, causing tidal flooding and waves over 25 feet. Boston recorded a gust of 80mph.


Snow fell from northern Mississippi to the Panhandle of Florida, with snow drifting up to 6 feet in some areas. Kentucky had 8 foot drifts. In western Virginia, 14 foot drifts were reported.

Numerous cities in the South and MidAtlantic recorded their lowest barometric pressure, as the storm bottomed out at 28.34". For reference, an average low pressure system has a pressure of 29.60."


Roanoke: 16"

Blacksburg: 32"

Galax 38"

Bluefield 24"

Snowshoe, WV 44"

It was a wet, heavy snow that weighted down the tops of buildings. Numerous collapsed roofs were reported. In Vinton, the 3,200 seat Lancerlot collapsed on March 14th, just hours after the roof began to buckle.

The blizzard of 1993 didn't just impact the east coast and mid Atlantic. The storm produced hurricane force winds south of the Florida Keys and toward Cuba.

Up to an inch of snow fell just 30miles north of New Orleans

Mississippi: Up to 6" of snow fell.

Alabama: A record 15 inches of snow in Birmingham

Georgia: 16 inches of snow fell.

Florida: Ankle deep snow fell in the northern panhandle. Wind gusts over 100mph just south of Key West, Florida.

North Carolina: 2 feet of snow reported in the mountains

Kentucky: All highways in eastern Kentucky were closed.

The blizzard developed on the same week as one of the worst storms on record, the Blizzard of 1888 (March 12-13), which dumped over 5 feet of snow over parts of the east coast.

Frigid temperatures followed the blizzard, with record low temperatures. The average temperature in Roanoke for march was 42° which is 4.7° below normal.

This made it the coldest March since 1969.

All that snow had to go somewhere, and it did. The snow and the rain that followed, brought small streams and river flooding on March 23rd and 24th.

The Roanoke River guage topped the 10ft floot stage

The storm set numerous records for snowfall, cold temperatures and wind records and has been a case study for snow storms.

**Watch WDBJ7 at Six for additional footage as we look back at what went into forecasting the event with Chief Meteorologist Robin Reed.

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