Wild Weather Wednesday: Great Appalachian Storm of 1950

WildWeatherWednesdayThis historical storm, deemed at the time to be the “storm of the century”, caused millions of dollars in damage and cost the lives of approximately three hundred people.  It would later be called the Great Appalachian Storm of 1950.

The storm was first seen forming as a small low pressure system over North Carolina and western Virginia on November 24, 1950.  The storm moved north quickly, first hitting western Pennsylvania and by the following day, Pittsburgh was “paralyzed by heavy snow”, after receiving thirty inches with blizzard-like conditions.   The newspapers were quick to call it “one of the worst winter storms on record” which also struck eastern Ohio and West Virginia.

The_Daily_Register_Sat__Nov_25__1950_Several feet of snow fell over the next several days, making travel impossible.  Some places like New York City experienced wind gusts of over ninety miles per hour.  Bear Mountain, just north of NYC recorded a gust of one hundred and forty.

South of the main storm track temperatures plummeted and historic lows were recorded.  South Carolina and Georgia suffered significant crop damage.  Alabama and Georgia also had snow, and Texas also experienced record low temperatures.  There was also something really unique about the storm besides record snowfall amounts and low temperatures.  Of all places, Buffalo, New York, while experiencing significant winds around fifty miles per hour, had temperatures in the 50’s.

Along the eastern seaboard places  like Atlantic City, New Jersey experienced flooding from rain, high winds and high tides.  Transportation came to a halt because highways were flooded and rail and trolley services were halted.  In Ohio the National Guard was called out to help remove snow in Cleveland.

Elsewhere in Pennsylvania, high winds were ripping roofs off of homes and boats sank.  In Ohio the snow had piled up so high that “city street department workers were practically helpless in making an impression on the drifting piles of snow.”  Power lines were damaged in areas where heavy snow had fallen and more than one million homes were without power for several days.

GreatAppalachianStormThis storm would be compared to the so-called “White Hurricane” of 1913 where heavy damages and loss of lives were inflicted on the Great Lakes region (you can read about it here).  In 1950 that same region didn’t experience the same heavy snows of 1913, but overall the amount of snow in 1950 exceeded that of 1913.  Many deaths were attributed to the stress and strenuousness of snow removal, as people over a certain age were warned to exercise caution.

Snow remained on the ground for about a week and during the first few days of December began to melt when above-normal temperatures were recorded.  Flooding occurred along the Ohio River and its tributaries – in Pittsburgh the river was 4-1/2 feet above flood stage on December 4 at 28.5 feet and on December 11, Cincinnati recorded 56 feet, some 4 feet above flood stage.

The storm would later be called an “extratropical cyclyone”.  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) would later call it one of the most “meteorlogically unique” storms ever seen because of both the low and high temperatures.  The annual Ohio State and Michigan football game was called the “1950 Snow Bowl” — Michigan won 9-3.

1950SnowBowlBuffalo, New York is currently experiencing the same kind of problem with rising temperatures following record snow — in some places as much as eight feet.  Another storm is said to be on the way for the holidays, rain in some places and snow in others.  All in all, it’s predicted to be a “travel nightmare”.  Stay warm and safe East Coast and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Everyone have a great day — someday it will be history!

© Sharon Hall (History Depot), 2014.

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