Credit: Flickr/marcovdz

Heavy snowfall in Marseille, France in 2009 made two wheels more functional than four

Storms and extreme weather have pounded the planet since the days of dinosaurs, and although they haven't been as deadly for humans, mountainous snowdrifts, ice storms and whipping winds have caused their share of destruction 

Witness seven of the most memorable winter storms in recent history.

1. The Great White Death

Year: 1949

Country: USA

Beginning in January of 1949, Wyoming, Nebraska and South Dakota were hit with 18 snowstorms over the course of 27 days. Traffic and trains were at a standstill while residents tackled snowdrifts that were three to nine metres high. According to the University of Nebraska [pdf], more than one million head of cattle and sheep died as a result of the blizzards, as temperatures dropped to minus 40 degrees Celcius.

2. Iran Blizzard

Year: 1972

Country: Iran

Very little information is readily available regarding the fierce blizzard that shook Iran in February of 1972, although it easily ranks as one of the deadliest blizzard in history. Approximately 4,000 people died, wiping out entire communities, some of them reportedly buried by up to eight metres of snow. Iranians haven’t experienced such a brutal winter since, but a snow storm almost 40 years later that even covered the southern desert was a stark reminder of the earlier tragedy.


3. Storm of the Century

Year: 1993

Country: USA

The Storm of the Century pounded the East Coast of North America on March 12–13, 1993 and affected nearly half the U.S. population. The storm earned its name with staggering stats from record snowfalls to heavy winds to crashing waves. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [pdf], the "death toll for the U.S. [was] approximately 270, and 48 people were reported as missing at sea," and "at least 18 homes fell into the sea on Long Island due to the pounding surf."



4. Quebec Ice Storm

Year: 1998

Country: Canada

The Canadian Encyclopedia reported that, "the 20th century's worst ice storm hit Ontario and Quebec January 4 to 10, 1998, causing an estimated $1 billion in damage."

Called the greatest natural disaster in Canadian history, roughly 2.5 million residents were without electricity for nearly a week, when the weight of ice and snow caused power poles to collapse. In the hardest hit areas, freezing rain exceeded 100mm – the largest amount on record.

5. Storm Xynthia

Year: 2010

Countries: France, Portugal, Spain, Belgium and Germany

In February 2010, a destructive stormed dubbed "Xynthia" swept across Western Europe causing massive flooding, wiping out electricity in nearly a million homes, and killing at least 50 people. The storm, which cost insurers over $2 billion and saw winds of up to 200 kilometres per hour, hit France the hardest, where 45 people were drowned or hit by falling debris.  

Photos (clockwise from top left): 1, 2, 3, 4

6. Vancouver Wind Storm

Year: 2006

Country: Canada

Vancouver was hit with a nasty wind storm in December of 2006, where winds reached speeds of up to 157 kilometres per hour. Over 250,000 people were without power, main roads were closed and public transportation cancelled or delayed, and the city’s beloved Stanley Park, a 405-hectare heavily-forested parcel of land, was devastated by the loss more than 1,000 trees – some of them hundreds of years old.


7. Chinese Winter Storms

Year: 2008

Country: China

The worst winter storms in 50 years occurred in China in January 2008 and coincided with the Chinese New Year festival – a holiday during which railway officials expected more than 178 million people to be travelling to celebrate with family. Many of the stranded travellers were migrant workers who took their only holidays of the year during this massive celebration. Dozens of deaths were due to desperate revelers going against the warnings to stay put and taking their chances in cars and buses on the dangerous, icy roads.




profile-image.jpgCatherine Roscoe Barr, BSc Neuroscience, is a Vancouver-based writer, editor, and fitness professional. Before settling on the west coast she lived in Sydney, Toronto, Oregon, Montana, and practically everywhere in Alberta. She can be found jogging with her adorable dog, dining with her fabulous husband or voraciously reading anywhere comfy.