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Alternate meaning: Blizzard Entertainment
Blizzards are characterized by high winds and blinding precipitation
Blizzards are characterized by high winds and blinding precipitation

A blizzard is a severe weather condition characterized by low temperatures and strong winds (greater than 35 mph) bearing a great amount of snow, either falling or blowing.

In order to be classified as a blizzard, as opposed to merely a winter storm, the weather must meet several conditions. The storm must decrease visibility to 1/4th of a mile for 3 consecutive hours, include snow or ice as precipitation, as well have wind speeds of at least 32mph (7 or more on the Beaufort Wind Scale).

According to Environment Canada a blizzard must have winds of 40 km/h or more, have snow or blowing snow, visibility less than 1 km and a windchill of less than -25 degrees celsius. All of these conditions must last for 4 hours or more

When these conditions persist after snow has stopped falling, it is called a ground blizzard.

An extreme form of blizzard is a whiteout, where the downdrafts, coupled with snowfall become so severe that it is impossible to distinguish the ground from the air. People caught in a whiteout can quickly become disoriented, losing their sense of up and down as well as their sense of direction. Severe blizzards can also occur in conjunction with arctic cyclones.

The word blizzard is a modern one of unknown origin; but it is likely from the surname "Blizard." It was first widely used after the great American winter storm now known as the "Blizzard of 1880." Certain types of blizzards in the northeastern United States are colloquially known as Nor'easters. Some believe the origin of the word "blizzard" is from it's original use of scattered musket fire. An 1820 journalist was the first to coin this word.

This term is also used to describe an activity or situation with similarly chaotic action, such as being 'buried under a blizzard of email' (much as we describe a 'whirlwind of activity').

Famous U.S. Blizzards

There are many famous blizzards that have happened in the U.S.

Two of these happened in the same year. The Blizzard of 1888 paralyzed the Northeastern United States. In this blizzard, 400 people were killed, 200 ships were sunk, and snowdrift s towered 15 to 50 feet high. Earlier that year, the Great Plains states were struck by the Schoolhouse Blizzard that left children trapped in schoolhouse s and killed 235 people.

The Armistice Day Blizzard in 1940 caught many people off guard, with its rapid and extreme temperature change. It was 60 degrees Fahrenheit in the morning but by noon it was snowing rapidly. Some of those caught unprepared died by freezing to death in the snow and some while trapped in their cars. Altogether, 154 people died in the Armistice Day Blizzard.

One-hundred five years after the blizzard of 1888, a massive blizzard nicknamed the Storm of the Century hit the U.S. It dropped snow over 26 states and reached as far north as Canada and as far south as Mexico. Highways and airports were closed across the U.S. As a wider effect, the storm caused 15 tornadoes to hit Florida. When the Storm of the Century was over it affected at least half the of U.S. population; 270 people died and 48 were reported missing at sea.

See also

Last updated: 02-06-2005 02:03:25
Last updated: 03-13-2005 10:41:26