A blizzard is a severe snow storm with winds in excess of 35 mph and visibility of less than a quarter mile for more than 3 hours.
Blizzards can also occur after snowfall when high winds cause whiteouts (fallen snow blowing around) and snowdrifts (huge mountains of snow), which decrease visibility.
To avoid hypothermia if caught outdoors during a blizzard, stay hydrated and nourished, keep your blood flowing by moving around, if your clothes are wet, try to start a fire to dry them, create a snow cave to block winds which reduce your body temperature, and do not eat snow (it will make you colder!).
If you must travel by car during a blizzard, it is vital to have an emergency aid kit (water, jumper cables, road flares, tow rope, non-perishable snacks) in case your car breaks down, you get into an accident, or become stuck in the snow.
The first blizzard to be declared a Federal Emergency was in 1977, affecting upstate New York and Southern Ohio. The storm’s accumulation was only about 12 inches over 5 days, but the winds were deadly.
The Storm of the [20th] Century took place in March, 1993, and was iconic for it’s hurricane wind force and massive size. It stretched from Canada to mid-America, leaving some southern states under a foot or more of snow. The blizzard cause roughly 300 deaths and 10 million power outages. .
Traveling by car or foot is highly discouraged during blizzard conditions. It increases the chance of hypothermia, accident, and death.
Many blizzards stem from Nor’Easters, which are storms traveling up the east coast of America. Moisture gathers from the Atlantic and dumps large accumulations of snow all the way from Delaware to Maine.
Rochester, NY is said to be the snowiest large city in the U.S., accumulating an average of 94 inches of snow every year.
When a blizzard is in the forecast, you may receive a “Winter Storm Watch”, which means there is a possibility of a storm taking effect, or a “Winter Storm Warning”, which implies a storm is on the way or already taking place. It’s very important to take these warnings seriously.
Once you receive a storm warning, get prepared. You could lose electricity (which includes hot water and heat), so stock up on non-perishable foods, blankets, flashlights, extra batteries, and candles.