Natural Disasters The Worst Blizzards In World History  

Jodi Smith
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Many of the worst blizzards in world history hit unexpectedly. When mild temperatures suddenly gave way to high winds and massive snowfall, citizens were left ill-prepared to cope with conditions. The most destructive of these storms often caused millions in damages, leaving an economic impact for years to come. Plus, natural disasters caused by blizzards, such as floods and avalanches, often claimed even more lives than the initial storms themselves. 

Massive blizzards often touch down in unexpected places. Warmer areas, like Florida and West Virginia, have been slammed with unprecedented snowfall over the course of history. The earth's ever changing climate, and the potential impact of global warming in coming years, could increase the likelihood of unusual weather patterns in the future. Learning about blizzards, and the conditions that cause them, is important to prepare for such storms. This list of blizzards around world recounts the worst of the worst from all corners of the globe, reminding us that frigid weather can be deadly and unexpected. 

1972 Iran Blizzard is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Worst Blizzards In World History
Photo: Ali Safdarian/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 3.0

1972 Iran Blizzard

Date: February 1972

Location: Northwestern, southern, and central Iran

Casualties: 4,000

Cost: Unknown 

The 1972 Iran Blizzard began in the first few days of February 1972. It lasted a week, dumping 10 to 26 feet of snow over 200 villages. It remains one of the deadliest snowstorm in recorded history, claiming roughly 4,000 lives. 

Nearly 6,000 people were reported missing during the disaster, including an American college student and two men who went mountain climbing near Tehran. A search team was sent to track them, but they were also lost in the 39 inches of snow atop the mountain.

As the blizzard dwindled down, the Iranian government prepared for the aftermath. They took precautions to prevent further loss of life in the inevitable flooding. 

1719 Carolean Death March is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Worst Blizzards In World History
Photo: Manxruler/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 2.5

1719 Carolean Death March

Date: January 12, 1719

Location: Tydal mountain range in Norway

Casualties: At least 3,000

Cost: Unknown

The Second Northern War involved Sweden, Russia, Denmark-Norway, and Saxony-Poland. The latter three sought to stop Sweden's reach in the Baltic area, leading to several battles over the course of 21 years. 

In 1719, Sweden's forces suffered the loss of their king and were ordered to return home. One platoon of 6,000 Swedish soldiers were in the Norwegian village of Tydal at that time and decided to retreat to Swedan by traveling through a nearby mountain range. Although no snow was spotted on their trip, once the army reached the mountains a blizzard hit them. The snow, high winds, and freezing temperatures claimed the lives of 3,000 men and several horses.

While the blizzard itself took 3,000 lives, the devistation continued for the remainder of the journey. As the survivors continued their march, an additional 700 died enroute to Sweden. As the soldiers called themselves Caroleans, today the event is known as the Carolean Death March. 

2008 Afghanistan Blizzard is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Worst Blizzards In World History
Photo: US Army/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

2008 Afghanistan Blizzard

Date: February 2008

Location: Afghanistan

Casualties: 926

Cost: $2.55 million in food assistance

The worst winter on record for Afghanistan was created by a timeline of three events. First a low pressure system dropped 71 inches of snow, followed by another 30 plus inches. Then, colder air from the North Pole entered the region and made temperatures dip to dangerous levels. Many of the over 900 people who died in the blizzard were caught unprepared outside of their homes tending to their animals. Along with the human casualties, 230,000 livestock died from the severe cold snap. 

Roadways were blocked and the poor were left without access to hospitals to treat the frostbite taking over their bodies. There was no way for aid to reach the people either, leaving thousands of residents stranded in the storms for days before they were found - if they were found at all.

The Great Blizzard Of 1888 is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Worst Blizzards In World History
Photo: Brooklyn Museum/Wikimedia Commons/No Restrictions

The Great Blizzard Of 1888

Date: March 1888

Location: Atlantic Coast of the US

Casualties: Over 400

Cost: $20 million in property damage

On Sunday, March 11, 1888, a storm met up with a warm front and began dumping snow on New York City. By Monday morning, 10 inches of snow had fallen. Over the course of the storm, 22 inches fell in the city while other nearby areas saw as much as 50 inches.

Adding to the chaos and danger, high winds brought below freezing temperatures into the mix. Power lines were destroyed, snowdrifts reached 50 feet, and people who had ventured from their homes remained stranded in streets and shops. Some wind gusts reached 85 mile per hour. Due to the intense conditions, over 400 people died during the course of the blizzard