(WGHP) – This week marks the 30th anniversary of the Blizzard of ‘93 also known as the “Storm of the Century.” The storm dropped snow as far south as parts of Louisiana and Mississippi to as far north as Maine and Canada and also brought heavy rain and hail to Texas as well as tornadoes and flooding to areas in Florida.
The storm formed in the Gulf of Mexico and began impacting Texas on March 12.
As the storm raced eastward, a line of severe thunderstorms developed and extended south into Florida during the early morning hours of March 13.
Damaging straight-line winds and 11 confirmed tornadoes were reported across Florida, with substantial thunderstorm wind damage occurring even further south into Cuba. Strong onshore winds along Florida’s west coast created a storm surge up to 12 feet high leading to significant damage to property and up to seven fatalities reported.
The storm system then continued its trek towards the east coast, where it encountered cold air resulting in widespread heavy snow and blizzard conditions from Alabama and Georgia into the western Carolinas and Virginia.
All-time records for snowfall were set in locations from Birmingham and Chattanooga to Asheville, then spreading north into the central Appalachians.
By the afternoon on March 13, the central pressure of the low was lower than had ever been observed with any historic winter storm or hurricane across the interior Southeastern United States. All-time low-pressure records were established in Columbia, Charlotte and Greensboro, even beating out the pressures observed just a few years earlier during Hurricane Hugo in September 1989.
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Snow Reports from the Blizzard of ‘93
In the mid to late afternoon hours on March 13, cold air infiltrated the storm as the low-pressure system moved north through Raleigh and into northeastern North Carolina. East of Interstate 95 snow only amounted to a trace, but significantly heavier amounts of snow fell across the western Carolinas.
Boone and Banner Elk reported around 30 inches of snow from the storm while Blowing Rock estimated that three feet of snow had fallen.
Nearly all of Ashe County had at least two feet of snow on the ground, particularly in areas around Jefferson. Even Glendale Springs and Lauren Springs reported 24 inches of snow.
Record-setting snowfall amounts were recorded in the higher elevations. According to the National Weather Service, 36 inches of snow fell in a 24-hour period at Mount Mitchell, which still stands as the statewide record for most snow in a 24-hour period.
Overall, Mount Mitchell reported 50 inches of snow from that storm, which is another statewide record that still stands today. Beech Mountain also reported a record 41 inches of snow during the storm.
At the Asheville Regional Airport, 18 inches of snow fell in a 48-hour period, something that had never happened before and has not happened since.
The Piedmont Triad International Airport recorded 5.7 inches of snow in Greensboro. Around 10 inches of snow fell in Hickory. In Chatham County, Siler City received 1.5 inches of snow and even Raleigh picked up nearly 1 inch.
The highest snowfall amounts recorded in the southeast occurred at Mount Leconte, just across the North Carolina border into Tennessee. Snow totals reached 60 inches, with Mount Leconte reaching a peak of 6,593 feet.
A trace of snow was recorded in Augusta, Georgia, Florence, South Carolina and Wilmington, North Carolina. A trace of snow was recorded as far south as Tallahassee, Jacksonville and Fernandina Beach, Florida.
Wind Reports from the Blizzard of ‘93
Not only did North Carolina receive several inches of snow, but the Tar Heel state also saw strong winds.
Gusts up to 100 mph were reported in Boone with stronger gusts recorded in the higher elevations like Grandfather Mountain, Beech Mountain and Sugar Mountain. The strong winds created snow drifts as high as 14 feet on Mount Mitchell.
Across the Eastern Carolinas strong winds were the largest impact from the storm. Frying Pan Tower recorded a peak wind gust of 93 mph. Wilmington saw wind gusts reach 70 mph. Raleigh also reported a wind gust of 41 mph.
The winds created very large waves offshore and a damaging storm surge for the south-facing beaches. In Oak Island at least 18 homes were destroyed by storm surge and beach erosion. Hundreds of homes were similarly destroyed or damaged on the Outer Banks.
Impacts from the “Storm of the Century”
The 1993 Superstorm directly affected around 40 percent of the population of the United States. Upwards of 10 million customers lost power due to the storm.
The storm resulted in a total of 208 deaths in 13 states and caused 5.5 billion dollars in damages.
Every major airport on the east coast was closed at one point by the storm. The volume of water dropped by the storm was 44 million acre-feet, which is enough water to flood 44 million acres of land, one foot deep.
The storm was classified as a Category 5 (extreme) on the Northeast Snowfall Impact Scale (NESIS) rating system.
The NESIS was developed by Paul Kocin and Louis Uccelllini of the NWS and characterizes and ranks high-impact northeast snowstorms.
The “Storm of the Century” is ranked as number one on the NESIS list, well ahead of the second place January 6 to January 8 blizzard in 1996.