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Remembering the Blizzard of 1993

UPDATED March 12, 2013

By WeatherBug Meteorologists

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March can be a notorious month for winter storms. This week marks the 20 year anniversary of one of the worst storms in generations to slam the East Coast.

The storm`s impact was massive: between March 12 and 14, 1993, it affected 26 U.S. states, and an estimated 130 million Americans, as well as much of the Caribbean and eastern Canada. The enormous impact of this storm made it the largest since 1899, leading some meteorologists to refer to it as "The Storm of the Century."

The storm produced incredible amounts of snow from New England to the Deep South, deadly tornadoes in Florida, and hurricane force winds to Cuba and Mexico`s Yucatan Peninsula.

The winter storm had humble origins as a weak low-pressure system in the Gulf of Mexico. As it moved northward into the Deep South on March 11, it encountered unseasonably cold air digging into the Midwest and Northeast. This clash between the cold air and the moisture associated with the low caused it to rapidly intensify across the Tennessee Valley.

By the evening of March 12, the storm set its crosshairs on the Florida Gulf coast and the Caribbean. A line of severe thunderstorms slammed ashore from the northern end of the Tampa Bay area to Cuba, producing 115 mph winds in Hernando County, Fla., 130 mph gusts in Havana, Cuba, and 109 mph in the Florida Keys. Eleven tornadoes were reported across the Sunshine State, largely during the night of March 12-13, resulting in ten deaths.

As the low moved up the eastern Seaboard on March 13, heavy snow was the rule as the storm tapped into a seeming unending supply of cold air across the North. Before the storm exited into the Canadian Maritimes on March 14, blizzard conditions pounded the Eastern Seaboard from Alabama to Maine. Snowfall rates of 2 to 3 inches and an along with hurricane force winds forced every airport along the Eastern Seaboard to close for the first time ever.

Here are snowfall totals from the storm:

  • Mount Le Conte, Tenn.: 60 inches
  • Grantsville, Md.: 47 inches
  • Syracuse, N.Y.: 43 inches
  • Albany, N.Y.: 27 inches
  • Chattanooga, Tenn: 20 inches
  • Birmingham, Ala.: 17 inches
  • Mobile, Ala.: 3 inches

Snowdrifts as high as 15 feet were observed at Mount Mitchell, N.C., and 10-foot snowdrifts closed interstates from the Tennessee Valley to New England. Behind the storm, extremely cold air poured into the East. Nearly 150 record low temperatures were recorded between March 14 and 15, with many locations in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic dropping below zero. Burlington, Vt. dropped to minus-12, while Birmingham, Ala. stayed just above zero, with a record low of 2.

At its peak, the storm`s barometric pressure dropped to 28.35 inches of mercury, a pressure comparable to a major Category 3 hurricane. Damage was estimated at $6.6 billion, and nearly 300 people were killed between the tornadoes and heavy snow.

Although the snow melted within a few weeks thanks to the warm spring sun, this was a storm that will not soon be forgotten throughout the East.

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Story Image: Snowfall amounts from the blizzard.

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