The Blizzard of 1996 Begins – 1/6/1996

US History |


Natural disasters have and will always be something mankind will always have to deal with. Some can be predicted in enough time to prepare as much as possible while others happen in a blink of the eye. Despite having enough time to get ready for, let’s say a powerful snowstorm, can anyone truly be ready and prepared to cope when nature unleashes its fury? Two decades prior, a snowstorm was just arriving on January 6th, 1996 that falls in Washington, D.C. as well as heading up the Eastern seaboard; this blizzard will eventually end but would result in causing more than $1 billion in damages while tragically killing 154 individuals.

The 1996 blizzard started in normal fashion as cold air originating from Canada went down and collided against basically winds that were warm coming from the Gulf of Mexico. The horrible combination of wind and snow was the result of the clashing systems of weather. The District of Columbia first experienced the snow fall at 9 p.m. in which the next 24 hours had accumulated 12 inches. Lynchburg, Virginia experienced conditions that were worse as in a single day; a record snow fall was documented as having 20 inches. Travel was virtually impossible with snow drifts piling up in most areas; this was caused by wind gusts clocked as high as 50 miles per hour.

The storm continued to set records as the storm progressed northeast. Within several days, 28 inches of snow fell in Newark, New Jersey while 32 inches fell in Providence, Rhode Island. Philadelphia had to contend with 30 inches and due to their ineffectiveness of being unable to quickly remove heavy snow from the streets; officials were forced to shut down all schools and would not reopen until January 16th.

Looking at the blizzard overall, a heavy toll was inflicted on both property and individuals. New York City reported several people were injured when the roof of a church collapsed in Harlem while barns throughout Pennsylvania caved in due to the immense pressure of all that snow. Most supermarkets that usually feature large roofs that are flat decided to close throughout the region as a precautionary measure. Pittsburgh experienced their own issues as 52 people were injured seriously due to two buses colliding into each other. Deaths that occurred during the storm were mostly related to homeless individuals perishing from hypothermia, traffic accidents and trees that had collapsed; there were a few cases that people passed away from carbon monoxide poisoning as they were trapped in their vehicles. The most deaths were experienced in Pennsylvania that reached roughly 80.

President Bill Clinton had no choice but to close down the federal government for roughly seven days because of the snow event; he announced that D.C. and nine other states were classified as disaster areas. Property damage that occurred was estimated to be in the range of $600 million to $3 billion.

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Nancy Reyes

Senior Writer

One of our top senior writers, Nancy came to us wanting to break away from the politics that comes with major news corporations. She leads our team of historical writers in creating the best engaging content out there that keeps our readers coming back for more. She is an enthusiast of all things medieval and has been a member of her renaissance fair group for 15 years. She received her degree in International Relations from the University of Southern California and hopes to one day travel the world.