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.
Date: February 1972
Location: Northwestern, southern, and central Iran
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.
Date: January 12, 1719
Location: Tydal mountain range in Norway
Casualties: At least 3,000
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 was in the Norwegian village of Tydal at that time and decided to retreat to Sweden 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 devastation 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.
Date: February 2008
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.
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.