This Day in History: The Great North American Blizzard of 1999

So on a snowy day like this, what’s better to talk about than great snowstorms to remind me that this snow right now is really not that horrible.

This blizzard hit a large part of the Midwest and Eastern Canada. The US states that were hit the hardest include Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin. The hardest hit provinces in Canada were Ontario and Quebec. Many areas got up to 2 feet of snow between January 2nd and January 4th and then after the first day the temperatures dropped extremely low (up to -50 Fahrenheit in some places). As expected, airports were heavily effected as well as highways, railways, rivers, schools and businesses. Some places in Indiana experienced blackouts. Parts of Illinois and Indiana were also declared federal disaster areas. With the cold temperatures that followed, many pipes also burst.

Totals in some individual cities:
-Chicago: 22 inches (second worst blizzard to hit Chicago in the 20th century)
-Toronto: 16 inches (Toronto would end up getting 46 inches over the next 10 days and the Canadian forces would be called in to help get rid of the snow)
-Milwaukee: 15.4 inches
-Detroit: 11.3 inches
-Ottawa: 10.6 inches

One interesting thing that I learned about this snowstorm was that it contributed to a nationwide blood shortage (in the US) because a large amount of blood donations come from the midwest and people weren’t able to get out and donate because of the combined heavy snowfall and cold temperatures.

Unfortunately, these storms were also deadly. 73 people died – some from automobile accidents, as you would expect, but also from freezing to death, snowmobile accidents, and over-exertion and heart attacks primarily brought on by snow shoveling (so take it easy on yourself!) It was a miracle more people didn’t die, since the storm was responsible for over 2,500 car accidents. They also say that while they don’t have hard data, storms such as this usually contribute to related illnesses and they estimate that possibly 2,800 people were effected by those. The related costs for the storm totaled between $300 and $400 million. An example of this is Chicago, which had to spend $44 million on snow removal for this storm. You can see how numbers like that can add up very quickly.

It’s funny because I don’t directly remember this storm, but I remember one time when there was snow all the way up our back door. I wonder if that was part of this storm system. Who knows? I guess sometimes just looking at how bad the weather could be, makes me feel a little less upset and mopey about our weather outside.


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