Thanksgiving Weekend Storm Of 1950

I’ve lived through some rather frightening, severe blizzards and winter storms during my life on the Great Plains of North America.  None of them were as widespread and unique as the Great Appalachian Storm that began on November 24, 1950.  For it’s time, it was one of the costliest and record setting weather events.

The hurricane force winds of 110 to 160 miles an hour along with heavy rain and snowfall killed 353 people and cost about $66,700,000 in property damage (1950 dollars).  I am reminded of the recent disasters caused by this year’s hurricane Sandy.

People called the storm a “cyclone”.  It was a side effect of la Niña conditions affecting North America. The cyclone gathered strength over North Carolina. It was close to a cold front during the morning of November 24th as a larger cyclone over the Great Lakes region lost strength.

Weather conditions degraded as the system moved over the Washington D.C. vicinity.  Late the next day and evening, the cyclone had moved into Ohio and stalled due to a blocking ridge in eastern Canada. At this time the system built height and slowed it’s spinning motion, then eastern Canada suffered the last of the storm effects.

Throughout the U.S. Eastern seaboard, very dangerous snowfall and temperature conditions harrassed many residents but left other people largely uneffected. For instance, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania suffered through 30.5 inches of heavy snow in temperatures colder than 9 degrees Fahrenheit. Meanwhile Buffalo, New York had no snow with temperatures in the low 40s.

There were gusts of 160 miles an hour at Mount Washington, New Hampshire. 90 mile an hour winds around New York City whipped up surf that breached dikes at LaGuardia International Airport to flood the runways. Catastrophic flooding was rampant in eastern Pennsylvania as well.

The worst effects of the cyclone were found in Pennsylvania and in Ohio. The eastern Appalachians in Pennsylvania took record and near-record flooding. The highest water record at Fairmont Dam since 1902 was noted. As mentioned earlier, Pittsburgh accumulated 30 and a half inches of snow. National Guard tanks were used in some areas to clear roads.  Flooding plagued that region during the thaws of early December.

In Dayton, Ohio, the wind and cold combined with almost 12 inches of snow to become the worst blizzard on record for that city.  Practically all of Ohio had at least 10 inches of snow cover. The very highest recorded depth was an astonishing 44 inches at Steubenville, Ohio. 60 miles an hour winds whipped snow into drifts of up to 25 feet deep.  The early December thaw resulted in record flooding in the Cincinnati area.

As the cyclone parked over Canada, much of Ontario had snow depths of around twelve inches.  Toronto reported an all time record single day snowfall for November on the 24th.

With the changing climate, it will be interesting to see if and how this season’s winter storms may compare to the one that smacked the U.S. East on this date in 1950.


The Blue Jay of Happiness thanks NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, for background data to help with this bluejayblog post.

About swabby429

An eclectic guy who likes to observe the world around him and comment about those observations.
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