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Before salted roads and giant snowplows, one devastating storm brought New York City to a halt. But it may have changed things for the better.
Galveston: Ellis Island of Texas and the Storm That Changed Everything
Here are some excerpts from the March issue of Digging History Magazine. It’s packed with stories, beginning with a series of articles on Galveston, Texas:
- Galveston: The Ellis Island of Texas
- The Storm That Changed Everything
- Isaac Cline’s Fish Story
So much emphasis has been placed on Ellis Island, and certainly thousands of immigrants passed through there (as well as other ports like Baltimore and Philadelphia). However, many immigrants actually came through Gulf of Mexico ports like New Orleans and Galveston. If immigrants were headed for the American Midwest states and territories of Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska, Galveston landed them hundreds of miles closer to their destination than arriving at an Atlantic port.
The first residents of the island weren’t the most welcoming. One historian called the Karankawas, whose presence on the island dates back to the 1400s, a “remarkably antisocial tribe”. Although thought to have been cannibalistic, evidence seems to indicate that is probably not true.
Between 1817 and 1821 it was home to Jean Lafitte and his band of pirates. Following their departure the Port of Galveston was established as a small trading post in 1825. By 1835 it was the home port of the Texas Navy.
Norwegian and Swedish immigrants began arriving in Texas in the 1830s and 1840s, some over land and some making entry at Galveston. Most notably during this same time period, large groups of German immigrants also arrived in the port.
By the late nineteenth century and early twentieth Galveston had become a cosmopolitan gateway city. What happened to the city in early September 1900 would change everything, however. A storm which had been birthed thousands of miles away along the western coast of Africa was about to impact the Gulf of Mexico, something Isaac Cline, Galveston’s resident meteorologist, had stated nine years earlier could never happen. How wrong he was.
Thousands of tourists were on the beach, restaurants were full and a massive storm was about to wipe out much of the beach city of Galveston.
Even today no one seems sure just how many people died, except to say that it was the most disastrous hurricane in history – estimates range from six to eight thousand fatalities. Cora’s body was later found on September 30 underneath the very wreckage that Isaac, his daughters and Joseph clung to during the height of the storm. Her body was identified by her wedding ring. Among the dead were ten nuns and ninety children of the St. Mary’s Orphans Asylum.
By the following day, headlines across the country began to report the tragedy, albeit having somewhat sketchy details to report since Galveston’s communication lines had been severed in the midst of the storm. Survivors were met with horrible conditions in the aftermath. Corpses of both humans and animals were strewn about everywhere. Early on Monday, September 10, efforts were underway to try and bury the humans. City officials, however, abandoned that plan – there were simply too many bodies. By Monday afternoon they were planning to have a mass burial at sea.
The bodies would have weights attached and transported out into the Gulf on barges. This was a gruesome task, to say the least, and to entice men to carry it out the city offered free whiskey. Enough men signed up, but after becoming exceedingly drunk, were incapable of securing the weights properly, causing hundreds of bodies to wash back up on the beach on Tuesday morning. The only option left was to burn the bodies. The smell of burning flesh and plumes of smoke hung in the air for several weeks.
Isaac Cline’s Fish Story
The Galveston hurricane notwithstanding, Isaac Cline had witnessed some unusual weather events during his career. Probably the most unusual one sounds like a far-fetched tall Texas fish tale — how it happened and why it happened were astonishingly true, however.
Isaac Cline had witnessed some unusual weather events during his lifetime. Following his graduation from medical school in March of 1885 Cline was assigned to the weather station at Fort Concho near San Angelo, Texas. Weather was what he was always interested in apparently, yet he received a medical degree to claim a scientific background. Instead, he surmised he could study weather and its affects on people, thus welding the two disciplines.
Isaac must have thought he’d arrived in hell. The landscape was largely barren and it was hotter than Hades during the summer months. The Concho River was dry during this particular season of the year. Yet, one evening in August as Isaac was strolling along, crossing the bridge over the river, he was startled to hear a distant roar. Was it thunder? No, but it wasn’t long before he saw with his own eyes where it was coming from.
Read the rest of these stories (and more) in the March issue, available on sale here. Or, purchase a subscription here (buy a subscription during March and it will begin with March issue).
Keywords: Cleng Peerson, Ellis Island of Texas, Erik Larson, Fort Concho, Galveston, Hotel Galvez, Isaac Cline, Isaac Cline fish story, Isaac’s Storm, Jean Lafitte, Jewish immigration, Karankawa, New York of the Gulf, Norwegian immigration, San Angelo Texas, St. Mary’s Orphans Asylum, Swiss immigration, Texas immigration, The Guide to Texas Emigrants, Galveston 1900 hurricane
1959: The Year That Changed Everything
Many of us may be looking back on 2009 and exclaiming what a year! . . . but there's no telling whether future historians will agree. Take, for example, the mixed judgments you can find about a year that concluded half a century ago. Senior political correspondent Jeff Greenfield reports our Cover Story:
The inauguration of the first black president . . . the collapse of the once-mighty American auto industry . . . the struggle to revive the country's economy.
But in the longer view of history, how significant will this past year be? How will 2009 compare with other clearly consequential years?
Will it compare, for example, to 1945, which marked the end of a world war, the death of the most powerful of men, and the birth of a weapon that would define the coming age?
Or how about 1968, when at home a war-turned-quagmire brought a challenge to a sitting president, and the murder of the civil rights leader triggered violence in city after city - followed just a few months later by the killing of a potential president and riots at a political convention to end all conventions.
Now, consider the year 1959. Could that really be a year that changed everything?
The last year of the fifties, a decade whose image is all but etched in stone: men in grey flannel suits, Stepford wives in suburban complacency, a veritable white bread sandwich of a time?
Would anyone seriously claim that this was a time when the Earth moved, when foundations began to crumble?
Journalist Fred Kaplan thinks 1959 is exactly that kind of landmark year.
"There was this growing sense that things were changing," he said. "The new is good. The new is something worth embracing."
Kaplan's argument ranges far and wide. From science and technology come the birth of the microchip, without which "We couldn't have digital telephones," Kaplan said. "We couldn't have satellites. I mean, there's almost nothing that we have in everyday life that doesn't have microchips in it."
1959 also brought the first steps toward the birth control pill.
"This allowed not just a sexual revolution, but it allowed women to get jobs, to advance professionally," Kaplan said. "They could control their own reproductive cycles that control everything about their lives. I mean, that was immense."
In music, Miles Davis and Ornette Coleman, were breaking the chord structure of older jazz.
And censorship was dealt a fatal blow when a court permitted the distribution of the openly sexual "Lady Chatterly's Lover."
"Up until there were all these pulls, which constrained where things could go," Kaplan said. "And in that year, you had the first breaking out from that pull."
But can a single year like 1959 really bear all that weight? Kaplan says the year was significant in civil rights - a federal commission held hearings, and the lynching of Mack Charles Parker triggered national outrage.
But wait a minute. Think about the civil rights movement. Does 1959 really measure up?
Does it equal 1954's Supreme Court decision striking down school segregation? Or the Montgomery bus boycott of 1956? Or the lunch counter sit-ins across the South that began in 1960?
And what about dating the birth control pill to 1959? Yes, research began that year, but should we measure the impact of the pill when research began, or when it first went on the market, in the 1960s?
And, most fundamentally, does history really work this way? Are some years far more equal than others? Ask two people which year they think was especially significant, and you're likely to get two different opinions.
Newsweek editor and Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Jon Meachem says, "There are years in which reality was one way before they started, and another way afterward. You think about 1968, You think about 2000.
"I think you could find any year in American history, and say X or Y began, or ended, whether it's somebody being born, whether it's the invention of something."
Meachem offered a "fun game": Suggesting the largest single event in human history.
"My theory is that the two most significant events are the trial and crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth, and the Second World War. Because of the crucifixion, given the birth of Christianity, the shifting of the calendar, everything that came from that. And the Second World War, because of the splitting of the atom, and suddenly, for the first time, we had the capacity to destroy everything."
Writer Christohper Hitchens points to one of the most frequently-cited of all years as worthy of special attention: 1914 - the year the First World War began.
"A step was taken into apocalypse and revolution and mass-produced industrialized violence and cruelty, then, that couldn't be taken back again," he said. "It's the hinge event."
But Hitchens and Meachem agree that to some extent, viewing history as discrete events in particular years is a kind of organizing tool.
"Remember what Napoleon said about history? It's a fable agreed upon," said Meachem. "I think it's essentially what we're talking about, is that we find ways to organize our experience, in order to understand what happened and why, and whether we can learn anything from it."
"We are pattern-seeking mammals," said Hitchens. "We look for explanations. We'd rather have junk explanations than no explanations at all. Anything's better than having no explanation!"
So what about the case for 1959? Fred Kaplan answers the challenge to defend his year:
"Right, of course. I'm referring to this as a pivotal year when something changed. Now, you don't see all the results of the change in the year when it begins to change. All I'm saying is that everything that followed stemmed from changes that took place then."
So, will 2009 wind up as "just another year"? Or as a pivotal moment in the history of the 21st century? Check back with us around . . . 2059.
23 Bikinis That Changed Everything
At a pool in Paris on July 5, 1946, the world got its first glimpse of the two-piece bathing suit. The tiny garment was invented by French designer Louis Réard and modeled by dancer Micheline Bernardini. Today, that groundbreaking fashion moment has its very own holiday: Bikini Day, held on July 5th. To celebrate, we've rounded up all of the paradigm-shifting bikinis of the past 70 years.
From the then-scandalous two-pieces worn by the original Bond girls to the gold and glimmering ensemble Princess Leia rocked on Tatooine, these are the 23 most important suits.
Getty Images via Hulton Archive
Nude dancer Micheline Bernardini was the first woman to wear a bikini in 1946 at the Piscine Molitor swimming pool complex in Paris. The bikini, designed by Louis Réard, was so small that Bernardini could fit it into a matchbox, like the one she is pictured holding here.
One year after Brigitte Bardot became one of the first women to don a bikini in a feature film in 1952's Manina, the Girl in the Bikini, the actress brought attention to her curves once again at the 6th International Cannes Film Festival, when she a wore a barely-there floral bikini to the beach. From that point on, women all over the world began paying more attention to the two-piece.
Marilyn Monroe's last project, 1962's Something's Got to Give, didn't go very well for the actress, who was eventually fired for her on-set antics. While the movie never made it to the big screen, it did leave us with one of the most iconic photographs ever taken: Monroe in heels, a two-piece, and a fur coat.
Eon Productions via YouTube
The original Bond girl, Ursula Andress, proved to the world that a woman could simultaneously look amazing in a bikini while kicking some serious behind. In what became one of the most iconic moments in cinema, Andress rose out of the Caribbean wearing a white bikini, with a knife on her left hip. Since its release in 1962, multiple films have tried to recreate this famous moment—even later Bond movies.
Seven Arts via YouTube
Though Sue Lyon was only 14 during the filming of Stanley Kubrick's Lolita, the scene pictured above, showing Lyon sensually leaning on a towel, clad in a barely-there swimsuit, received a large amount criticism upon its 1962 debut. Many argued that the film was far too indecent—though this bikini scene still reigns supreme as one of the most memorable in movie history.
You can thank actress Annette Funicello for your right to party in a bikini. With the release of Beach Party in 1963, audiences saw Funicello strutting around in her high-waisted bikini without a care in the world—and beach gatherings haven't been the same since.
In the mid-'60s, Sally Field starred as Gidget in the eponymous ABC television show, based on the 1959 movie of the same name. Set in California, the series prominently featured Field in colorful and expressive bikinis, like the one pictured here.
In this 1966 prehistoric drama, Raquel Welch staved off every threat of extinction in this iconic well-placed two-piece made from scraps of cloth, paving the way for many a similarly styled bikini in sci-fi films to come.
In the 1973 thriller Coffy, Pam Grier dressed to kill (and, er, actually killed) in her crochet bikini. Even scantily clad, she managed to be a dominating force among a nearly all-male cast.
Carrie Fisher's futuristic bikini didn't leave much to the imagination in Return of the Jedi. Though Fisher's outfit became a cultural obsession after the movie was released in 1983, she spent most of her time in it feeling completely self-conscious of her figure. "When [director George Lucas] showed me the outfit, I thought he was kidding and it made me very nervous," she told NPR.
Refugee Films via YouTube
With "the most memorable bikini-drop in cinema history," according to Rolling Stone, upperclassman Linda Barrett (Phoebe Cates) and her red bikini became full-blown high school legend. In the scene, Linda slowly exited a pool with water dripping down her body. Suddenly, red bikinis were the summer accessory.
Dimension Films via YouTube
Salma Hayek became the sexiest vampire ever with this slithering dance number in From Dusk till Dawn in 1996. Though her two-piece may have been far removed from any beach, it shined just the same.
More than two decades after the release of How Stella Got Her Groove Back, Angela Bassett is still winning over audiences with her work. But it was this pink bikini that helped make Bassett a household name in 1998.
Actress Gwyneth Paltrow brought this vintage trend to the big screen for her role in 1999's The Talented Mr. Ripley, which was set in 1950s. In the film, Paltrow sported this flirty, fun, but not-so-skimpy bikini, proving that sexy doesn't always have to include baring it all.
The 2000 film Bedazzled, in which Elizabeth Hurley starred as the devil, did not leave any lasting impressions on moviegoers. But more than a decade later, audiences still distinctly remember Hurley's barely-there, bedazzled bikini.
Halle Berry's orange swimsuit scene in 2002's Die Another Day—through Pierce Brosnan's (relatively creepy) binoculars—was an homage to that iconic Bond girl moment in Dr. No.
"I remember that bikini coming out of the water and thinking how beautiful Ursula Andress was," Berry told Time. "I thought, 'Wow! Wouldn't it be great to be like her?'" Dreams sometimes do come true!
Kate Bosworth was the surf hero we didn't know we needed, giving an effortlessly cool performance in 2002's Blue Crush. Bosworth's character was completely fresh-faced and sported only practical swimsuits, which didn't even always match.
At the age of 41, Demi Moore did more than just a rock a bikini in Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle in 2003—she launched a nationwide conversation about age and sexuality. Moore proved that there's no age limit when it comes to having the confidence to strut down the beach in an itty bitty string bikini.
Paramount Pictures via YouTube
Angelina Jolie kicked butt and took names in this black bikini in Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life in 2003. But it wasn't necessarily what she was wearing that made her Lara Croft performance so captivating. "I wanted an actress who was going to bring something to the part, and she brought this great Angelina Jolie mythology with her as this dark, crazy, wicked woman with a very particular and interesting personality," director Simon West told Entertainment Weekly.
Gran Via via YouTube
If Rachel McAdams was a bird, then we all wanted to be birds. The adorable bikini she wore in 2004's The Notebook, pictured above, was not the sexiest, but it spawned a new wave of vintage-inspired swimwear that's still popular today.
Village Roadshow Pictures
If Jessica Simpson in 2005's Dukes of Hazzard taught us anything, it's that there's never a bad time to sport a hot pink bikini.
Though Queen B wasn't the first African American woman to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated (that honor belongs to Tyra Banks), her 2007 cover inspired a brand new trend in swimwear. After Beyoncé appeared on the cover wearing a mismatched swimsuit, nearly every retailer adopted this trend—and the days of searching the racks endlessly for a matching two-piece were long gone.
When Ashley Graham made her debut on the cover of Sports Illustrated in 2016, she became the first plus-size model ever to do so. Graham has since pushed boundaries in the modeling world and even wrote a book about her experience in the industry, titled A New Model: What Confidence, Beauty, and Power Really Look Like. And for more ways to celebrate the bikini holiday, check out these 17 Hilarious First Reactions to the Invention of the Bikini.
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Historic Texas Snowstorm
December 20-21, 1929
The first half of December 1929 was remarkably warm across North Texas, most days featuring highs in the 60s and 70s. However, the mild weather came to an abrupt end on December 17 when an arctic front blew through the region. Within 24 hours, temperatures had fallen some 40 degrees. The mercury struggled to top the freezing mark on December 18 despite abundant sunshine. In the Panhandle, where temperatures were plunging to near 0°F, a strong storm system was invading. By the morning of December 19, 1 to 2 inches of snow had fallen across portions of the Panhandle.
The system dug slowly southeastward. Snow began falling in western portions of North Texas during the afternoon hours of December 20. Lightning and thunder accompanied the snow throughout the following night. By daybreak on December 21, several inches of snow had fallen across Central Texas from Junction to Lampasas, northeastward to Palestine and Athens. Clifton and Hillsboro had already accumulated 16 inches of snow by daylight that morning. The heavy snow continued through much of the day, before tapering off during the late afternoon and evening hours. By late evening on December 21, the snow was confined to far East Texas.
Monthly Weather Review, March 1930
The storm lasted barely 24 hours, but the storm totals were nothing short of extraordinary. A swath of snowfall in excess of 12 inches was 2 to 3 counties wide. Along the axis of maximum depth, totals exceeded 24 inches, on par with the heaviest snowfalls in Texas history. Clifton recorded 24 inches of snow in just 24 hours. Nearby Hillsboro tallied 26 inches, which has been certified as the all-time 24-hour snowfall record for the state of Texas.
Where the snowfall was greatest, temperatures plummeted into the single digits. In Waco, where the 13-inch total remains a 24-hour record for the site, the mercury fell to 2°F, one of the coldest temperatures ever recorded there. With 2 feet of snow on the ground, Clifton bottomed out at 0°F. In Dallas/Fort Worth, where only a dusting of snow was recorded during the event, temperatures quickly rebounded, reaching 70°F on Christmas Day.
The Hillsboro Mirror, December 21, 1929
The above photo was taken in Vaughan, about 5 miles
west of Abbott in Hill County. Southwest of Hillsboro,
Vaughan was near the axis of maximum snowfall.
10 Disasters That Changed the World
While the initial turmoil was tremendous, the earthquake also revealed fault lines in international aid efforts. Decades after cholera had been eradicated from Haiti, UN peacekeepers responding to the earthquake brought a new strain of the disease with them.
Peacekeepers also fathered hundreds of children, in some cases sexually abusing young girls, a recent study found. Foreign doctors treating earthquake victims were accused of performing unnecessary amputations and other problematic treatments.
Partly in response to the disaster, the WHO developed new procedures for pre-vetting and approving medical teams who want to provide humanitarian aid.
Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster (2011)
A magnitude 9.0 earthquake off the coast of Japan triggered a tsunami wave that rose 133 feet at its highest and traveled as far as six miles inland – much larger and more powerful than expected.
That alone would have been cataclysmic enough, but the event also triggered a technological disaster on the scale of the infamous 1986 Chernobyl crisis: a series of nuclear meltdowns and a large-scale release of radioactive material from the Fukushima Daiichi power plant.
Although estimates of the death toll vary, as many as 20,000 people were killed, in a country whose wealth and well-developed infrastructure made that number feel impossible.
Hurricane Sandy (2012)
A predicted Category 1 storm quickly morphed into the largest hurricane on record (at the time), causing widespread havoc through the Caribbean before crashing into the United States’ eastern seaboard, taking large swathes of New Jersey and New York, including New York City, offline.
People were choked off from power and heat for days, with many trapped in high-rise buildings, unable to evacuate or procure supplies. Over 100 people died in the United States alone, many from exposure or related conditions.
The event challenged the sense of security felt by many Americans, and frenzy of media attention on seemingly invincible New York City – itself one of the media centers of the world – was unprecedented.
Typhoon Haiyan (2013)
This Category 5 “super typhoon” crashed into the Philippines with wind speeds hovering near 200 miles per hour – at the time, the strongest cyclone ever. No matter what, Haiyan was going to be deadly.
But the sheer scale of disaster was difficult to fathom. The storm surge – rising above 20 feet in some areas – shocked the world. It swept through densely populated areas, including the major city of Tacloban, leaving devastation in its wake.
The storm killed approximately 7,000 people and displaced more than 4 million.
West Africa Ebola outbreak (2014-2016)
The deadliest Ebola outbreak in recorded history. The outbreak began in Guinea and quickly spread to Sierra Leone and Liberia – and striking heavily in urban centers. Ebola killed more than 11,000 people – approximately 40% of those who fell ill – over the course of two years.
The world was horrified by the deadliness and scope of the outbreak, and developed countries were concerned for their own safety – Ebola cases even reached the United States and Europe. The international community dove in to bolster local efforts.
Concern over the deadliness of the disease also spurred more concentration on vaccines and treatments, some of which are being used in the fight against the Democratic Republic of Congo’s current outbreak.
Nepal earthquake (2015)
This magnitude 7.8 earthquake destroyed homes throughout much of the country and toppled tall buildings in Kathmandu, the capital.
Nepal’s weak infrastructure made the earthquake especially dangerous, but the timing of the earthquake was lucky: Because it was a Saturday afternoon, many people were outside their homes. It’s thought that the death toll – nearly 9,000 – could have been much higher.
Nepal’s mountainous terrain made it difficult to access remote areas, which left many of the injured stranded while rescue workers struggled to reach them.
Hurricane Harvey (2017)
At its strongest, Harvey was a Category 4 storm with 130-mile-per-hour winds.
But the storm brought home an important truth: It’s water, not wind, that’s the most perilous part of a hurricane. Harvey brought trillions of gallons of rain to the southern coast, causing levels of flooding in some places that scientists only expect to see once every 500,000 years. Tens of thousands were displaced, critical access to health care was cut off, and 88 people died.
Hurricane Maria (2017)
When the devastating storm hit first Dominica (as a Category 5 hurricane) and then Puerto Rico (as a Category 4), it left devastation in its wake. Both countries were plunged into darkness – in Puerto Rico’s case, for up to a year in some places.
But the storm drew particular attention to Puerto Rico’s status as a United States territory. 3.4 million citizens of one of the most developed countries in the world went without power for months. The loss of power is also thought to be a major factor in many of the 3,000 deaths attributed to the storm.
In addition, federal aid was and remains slow in coming, sparking concerns about unequal treatment.
Cyclone Idai (2019)
The Category 3 storm crashed into southern Africa in March of this year, leaving devastation behind in Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Malawi. 1,300 people were killed infrastructure, including many health facilities, was destroyed and agricultural land was flooded with salty water.
While all three countries struggle with economic and other issues, severe tropical storms – the kind that regularly plague the Caribbean – have not historically been a problem in southern Africa. Idai made it clear that, as the climate changes, sub-Saharan African countries will have to be aware of tropical storms and have measures in place to protect against them.
Global wildfires (2019)
Slash-and-burn agriculture caused massive, devastating wildfires in both the Amazon and Indonesia, sickening hundreds of thousands and destroying treasured forest and rainforest lands.
The blazes pitted palm oil farmers and beef ranchers against the international community, raising the question of how to meet individual needs as the world works to fight climate change and conserve valuable spaces.
And months after the Camp Fire killed 85 people in California and sent shock waves through the United States, a spate of wildfires erupted across the state, displacing hundreds of thousands and threatening a future of large-scale, climate-fueled blazes.
Climate Change and Extreme Snow in the U.S.
Years with heavy seasonal snow and extreme snowstorms continue to occur with great frequency as the climate has changed. The frequency of extreme snowstorms in the eastern two-thirds of the contiguous United States has increased over the past century. Approximately twice as many extreme U.S. snowstorms occurred in the latter half of the 20th century than the first.
Conditions that influence the severity of eastern U.S. snowstorms include warmer-than-average ocean surface temperatures in the Atlantic. These can lead to exceptionally high amounts of moisture flowing into a storm and contribute to greater intensification of the storm. Unusually high ocean surface temperatures in the Atlantic were a contributing factor to the February 5&ndash6, 2010, snowstorm dubbed &ldquosnowmaggedon&rdquo that hit Washington, DC, with 17.8 inches of snow at Reagan National Airport&mdashthe fourth highest total storm amount for the city at the time.
Natural variability can affect ocean surface temperatures, but as global surface temperatures increase, the temperature at any time is higher than it would have been without climate change. Overall, global ocean surface temperatures have increased at a rate of +0.18°F per decade since 1950.
Also, some recent research has shown that increasing surface temperatures and reductions in Arctic sea ice may produce atmospheric circulation patterns that are favorable for winter storm development in the eastern United States. Most notably, a greater prevalence of high pressure blocking patterns over the North Atlantic that result in cold outbreaks in the eastern United States along with slower moving systems can further exacerbate the persistence and severity of a storm.
In addition, studies have shown that natural variability associated with the presence of El Niño conditions has a strong influence on the incidence of severe snowstorms in the eastern United States. Based on an analysis of the top 100 snowstorms in six regions east of the Rocky Mountains, scientists found that severe snowstorms are approximately twice as likely to occur in the Northeast and Southeast regions during years when a moderate to strong El Niño is present as compared to years when neutral conditions exist.
For now, it remains to be seen how factors such as ocean surface temperatures, the influence of El Niño, and conditions in the Arctic influenced the severity of the recent snowstorm that affected the Mid-Atlantic.
The Great Appalachian Storm of 1950
One of the most damaging and meteorologically unique winter storms to strike the eastern United States occurred on Thanksgiving weekend 1950. After it was over, as much as 57 inches of snow blanketed the central Appalachians (with locally up to 62 inches at Coburn Creek, WV) and one of the most widespread and damaging wind events ever recorded over the Northeastern U.S. made the Great Appalachian Storm of 1950 the costliest storm on record up until that time. East Kentucky wasn&rsquot spared as record setting cold combined with over a foot of snow for many areas.
The precursor to the storm was the passage of an arctic cold front late on the 23 rd into the 24 th . The front passed through eastern Kentucky around midnight and the change in airmass was dramatic. Temperatures plunged from the 40s and 50s just ahead of the front to the teens just behind it. A thin but heavy band of snow accompanied the dramatic temperature drop behind the front with as much as 7 inches falling across southeast Kentucky on the morning of the 24th.
The record setting arctic airmass behind the front sent temperatures to all-time monthly lows across the Upper Midwest and Ohio Valley. Chicago dropped to -2ºF on the 24 th equaling their all-time monthly low, and a day later Louisville (-1ºF), Lexington (-3ºF) and Bowling Green (-7ºF) all recorded record lows for the month. Temperatures across eastern Kentucky by the morning of the 25 th were in the single digits and teens, and still dropping.
Low pressure quickly developed on the arctic front over the Carolinas on the 25 th . The low tracked northwestward into Ohio by midday on the 26 th with a shield of heavy snow expanding back to the northwest as it did so. The storm slowly wound down as it spun in place over Lake Erie on the 27 th and 28 th before it finally weakened and exited into Canada on the 29 th and 30 th .
Surface maps are included below for each day from the 24 th through the 29 th . Click on each map to enlarge.
|Surface Chart, 1:30 am November 24, 1950||Surface Chart, 1:30 am November 25, 1950||Surface Chart, 1:30 am November 26, 1950|
|Surface Chart, 1:30 am November 27, 1950||Surface Chart, 1:30 am November 28, 1950||Surface Chart, 1:30 am November 29, 1950|
More information on this storm can be found in the article "The Great Appalachian Storm in Historical Context" courtesy of the National Centers for Environmental Information.