Great Blizzard of 1899

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Great Blizzard of 1899
"Snowballing" (snowball fight on the steps of the Florida Capitol, February 10 1899).jpg
Snowball fight on the steps of the Florida State Capitol in Tallahassee on February 1899.
Type Winter storm
Formed February 10, 1899 (1899-02-10) [1]
Dissipated February 14, 1899 (1899-02-14)
Areas affected East Coast of the United States

The Great Blizzard of 1899 also known as the Great Arctic Outbreak of 1899, and the St. Valentine's Day Blizzard, was an unprecedented winter weather event that affected the Southern United States. It was notable for both the severity of winter weather and the extent of the U.S. it affected, especially in the Southern states. The first reports indicated record-high barometric pressure over Assiniboia (now Saskatchewan) due to the weight of the frigid and dense air. Later reports of the impending freeze were relayed down through Florida by the Florida East Coast Railway.

Arctic cold

Temperature map of the United States during the storm

The event started out on February 11 as a severe cold wave in which every state on the East Coast from Florida to Maine received sub-zero temperatures. The coldest-known temperature ever recorded in the history of Florida occurred during this event, when Tallahassee, in north Florida recorded a low of −2 °F (−19 °C). The following record low temperatures for February were achieved:

Winter weather

During the days proceeding the storm and its several blizzards characterized by high winds and driving snow,[3] cold temperatures were hitting starting with the West Coast with Los Angeles reached temperatures of 33 °F (1 °C), 9 °F (−13 °C) in Portland and 9 °F (−13 °C) in Boise in February 4, and by February 6 30 °F (−1 °C) reaches up to North Carolina.[4]

On February 12, snow flurries were reported in some areas from Fort Myers and Tampa in Florida west towards New Orleans. The storm crossed the Florida peninsula and intensified as it rapidly moved up the Eastern United States. High Point, North Carolina, recorded 10–12 inches (25–30 cm) of snow, and temperatures as low as 10 °F (−12 °C) on February 11, 5 °F (−15 °C) on February 13, and 3 °F (−16 °C) on February 14. It was said to be the coldest weather known to the oldest inhabitants. Washington, D.C., recorded a single snowfall of 20.5 inches (52 cm), which was a record for the time. (The "Washington and Jefferson snowstorm" had left 36 inches (91 cm) of snow in the Washington area on 28 January 1772, but that had been before official weather recording began.[5]) Cape May, New Jersey, recorded 34 inches (86 cm), which is the highest single storm snowfall total ever in New Jersey, in what is normally the least-snowy part of the state.

The port of New Orleans was completely iced over by February 13, with ice floes reportedly floating out of the Mississippi River into the Gulf of Mexico. On February 14 the city experienced its coldest-ever Mardi Gras reading of 7 °F (−14 °C). The Krewe of Rex Parade was delayed while snow was removed from the route.[6][7]

Also on February 14, the low temperature in Miami was 29 °F (−2 °C), the second-coldest (and the first sub-30 °F (−1 °C)) temperature that the city has ever recorded.

North of the Mid-Atlantic region, the storm weakened somewhat, but it was still a very powerful blizzard. New York's Central Park recorded 16 inches (41 cm), which at the time was its third-biggest snowfall, but many surrounding areas recorded 2–3 feet (61–91 cm), as did most of New England.

There are even Cuban reports (made by the U.S. Weather Bureau, as Cuba was a U.S. territory at the time) that the country experienced hard frost which killed or damaged many crops. This was despite the cold air first having to cross the Florida Strait and its warm Gulf Stream waters. The blizzard of 1899 is referred to as "The Snow King".

The only other cold wave of such severity in the Southeast was the 1985 Florida freeze, which caused great losses to the massive citrus groves in central Florida.

Casualties, Damages, & Inconveniences

The Great Arctic Outbreak of 1899 had disastrous impact across the continental United States and even into Cuba as people, livestock, and wildlife succumbed to the frigid cold.

United States bird populations were decimated across the nation. Henderson County, Tennessee saw nearly the complete extinction of its bluebird population [8] and Culpeper County, as well as most northern and central Virginia counties lost nearly all of its quail, having to import new birds in the late teens and 1920s in order to repopulate the areas.[9] Pine Warblers were also especially decimated.

Some of the bird species affected:[10]

    · Fox Sparrow

    · Snowbird

    · Woodcock

    · Grass Finch

    · Savanna Sparrow

    · Chipping Sparrow

    · Song Sparrow

    · Swamp Sparrow

    · Blue-headed Vireo

    · Hermit Thrush

    · Meadowlark

    · Mourning Dove

    · Killdeer

    · Bluebird

    · Catbirds

    · Pine Warblers

    · Quail

It is estimated over 100 people perished. In Brooklyn, 31 year-old Mary Goodwin was frozen to death and a thinly clad, unidentified woman in The Dalles, Oregon was found frozen to death in a hallway in an attempt to find warmth. Mail carriers Palmer and Hawkins of New York, were thought to have drowned attempting to deliver the mail. It is believed that their boat, overturned by the high winds, was crushed by the floating ice.[11] Many citizens of Silver Plume, Colorado were killed in snow slides, the bodies of a mother, boy and two year-old girl were recovered in a crushed cabin packed in snow.

Crops were ruined, and orchards were utterly destroyed in Georgia.[12] Walla Walla, Washington's majority of wheat was frozen out, Eureka flat seeing the most damage.[13] Infrastructure and buildings sustained substantial damage across the nation. Measurements of the Brooklyn bridge trusses and other parts were compared to figures taken in 90° weather in July and was found to have contracted fourteen and a half feet.

Traffic was brought to a complete standstill in all parts of the country. Barges in the Mississippi, which was in some parts entirely frozen through, and Great Lakes were brought to a complete standstill by ice. Traffic across all railroads were delayed or paralyzed indefinitely and steamers and liners were likewise delayed.[14]


  1. ^ Griffin, Melissa (February 11, 2015). "The Great Blizzard of 1899". WeatherSTEM. 
  2. ^ "NWS Little Rock, AR - Climate Data". 
  3. ^ "Blizzard." Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6Th Edition, Mar. 2017, p. 1. EBSCOhost,
  4. ^ "Climate History: The Great Arctic Outbreak of February 1899". National Climatic Data Cente. 
  5. ^ National Weather Service, Mid Atlantic Winters – SNOW, WIND, ICE, AND COLD
  6. ^ "2013 Mardi Gras Climatology". National Weather Service. January 6, 2013. 
  7. ^ "Weather Service Marks Centennial of Benchmark Cold Wave". NOAA News. February 9, 1999. 
  8. ^ Coggins, Allen, R. (2012). Tennessee Tragedies : Natural, Technological, and Societal Disasters in the Volunteer State. Knoxville: Univ. Tennessee Press. p. 80. ISBN 9781572338418. 
  9. ^ Johnston, Donnie (01/03/2011). "Culpeper Part of State Plan to Restore Quail". The Free Lance-Star. Retrieved November 6, 2017.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  10. ^ Wayne, Arthur T. (Apr 1899). "Destruction of Birds by the Great Cold Wave of February 13 and 14, 1899". The Auk. 16: 197–198 – via JSTOR. 
  11. ^ "Severe Storm". Daily Capital Journal. February 13, 1899. Retrieved November 6, 2017. 
  12. ^ "More Slides Feared". The Dalles Daily Chronicle. February 14, 1899. Retrieved November 6, 2017. 
  13. ^ "Wheat Badly Damaged". The Dalles Daily Chronicle. February 14, 1899. Retrieved November 6, 2017. 
  14. ^ "Terrible Havoc By Blizzards". The Dalles Daily Chronicle. February 14, 1899. Retrieved November 6, 2017. 


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