« Climate Prediction Center 8 - 14 Day Outlook... | Main | Radar Update: Slow & Sloppy Friday Evening Commute... »


Storm of the Century - 1993 SUPERSTORM

Some know it as the '93 Superstorm, others know it as the Storm of the Century while others simply reference it as the Great Blizzard of 1993.  

Recently, NOAA recognized it as the worst snowstorm to ever strike the United Sates! 

Noaa top 5

Regardless of how you remember it, the storm that struck the Eastern US between March 12th and March 14th of 1993 will always be known for it's incredible size and intensity as it brought a swath of severe weather and extreme snowfall from the Gulf Coast all the way north into Eastern Canada.

590x393_03051555_1993blizzardImage credit: Accuweather

In total, the storm killed more than 300 people while causing somewhere between 6 and 11 Billion Dollars worth of damage! 

While the impacts of this system was far and wide, perhaps the hardest hit region was the Southeast where places that don't normally see much snow, were crippled by record shattering snowfall amounts.  Both Atlanta and Birmingham set their all time single storm snowfall records with nearly a foot and a half of snow! 

3_12_1993_Snow_Totals_2Image credit: Weather Underground

Accumulating snow reached all the way south to the Gulf of Mexico where Mobile Alabama saw three inches.  (To put that into perspective, Mobile averages less than an inch of snow each year.)

Further north into the Appalachians, they were measuring snow in feet.  Ashville for example picked up a record 20 inches of snow!

Asheville, North CarolinaAshville, North Carolina

The Superstorm of 1993 was a freak of nature. Its seeds had been sown a month earlier as the jet stream dipped dramatically down from Canada and blasted cold arctic air across Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas and Texas and into the Gulf of Mexico before banking back up the eastern seaboard.

The jet stream looked like a giant "U" flowing over the central and eastern United States as three distinct jet streams merged to form an absolute monster of a storm!

1993cImage credit: Accuweather

The storm developed as a 1002mb low on March 12th off Brownsville, TX and tracked east to northeast deepening very rapidly while still over the north-central Gulf of Mexico dropping to 984mb just south of the Mississippi Delta and making landfall along the Florida Panhandle during the early morning hours of March 13th as an intense storm low with a minimum pressure of around 975mb.  (Typically, barometric pressure readings this low are reserved for hurricanes.)


A powerful cold front associated with the emense system swept across Florida and reached all the way down into Cuba producing an intense squall line. The squall line produced a serial Derecho (a widespread and long lived windstorm that is associated with a band of rapidly moving thunderstorms) as it swept across the Florida, Cuba, and adjacent waters producing hurricane force wind gusts and several tornados.


Winds gusted to 100 mph in several locations across the Florida Peninsula with the squall line and it was accompanied by a 12 foot storm surge in the Panhandle!

The extreme squall extended well south into the Caribbean where extensive wind damage occurred in Cuba.  A study from the Cuban weather service found evidence of wind speeds up to 120 mph from severe thunderstorms spawned there.


The United States Coast Guard dealt with "absolutely incredible, unbelievable" conditions within the Gulf of Mexico. The 200-ft. freighter Fantastico sank 70 miles offshore Fort Myers during the storm. Seven of its crew died when a Coast Guard helicopter was forced back to base due to low fuel levels after rescuing three of their crew. The 147-ft. freighter Miss Beholding ran aground on a coral reef ten miles from Key West.  

Several other smaller vessels sank within the rough seas. In all, the Coast Guard rescued 235 people from over 100 boats across the Gulf of Mexico during the storm.


In addition to widespread severe straight line winds, the Superstorm produced at least a dozen tornadoes across the Sunshine State.

The storm continued to strengthen as it turned north-north eastward becoming the most powerful storm to affect the continental US since the blizzard of 1888. 

Bradley County Georgia 1993
Bradley County Tennessee

The storm brought high winds, tornadoes, record cold temperatures, coastal flooding, and heavy precipitation including blizzard conditions as far south as northern Georgia and Alabama. Heavy snow in Atlanta forced officials closed the airport, stranding 3,000 people while snow drifts of over 20ft were reported in Boone, N.C and 4.5 ft. of snow fell in Mount LeConte, TN.


Semi-trucks began jackknifing as the interstates iced up, causing miles-long delays and fatal accidents. I-75 experienced an 80-mile delay that stretched from outside Atlanta all the way to Tennessee. In the backcountry, hundreds of hikers had to be rescued along the Appalachian Trail.

In the North Atlantic, the 586-ft. freighter Gold Bond Conveyor 200 miles south of Nova Scotia reported that 90-mph winds and 100-ft. waves were battering the ship, and it was beginning to take in water. Later the ship was hit by a huge swell and went down with the loss of 29 crewmembers.


By late Saturday afternoon, the storm had descended on the major cities of the Northeast. Television coverage was nonstop. The nation's capital looked completely abandoned as people hunkered down in their homes.

When all was said and done, the storm had delivered an incredible swath of 30 to 40 inches of snow along the the spine of the Southern Appalachians that extended all the way through the Northeast!

3_12_1993_Snow_TotalsImage credit: Weather Underground

All time record snows were recorded in numerous cities with Snowshoe West Virginia and Syracuse New York near the top of the list with more than 40 inches of snow.  

Snow reports were absolutely incredible in the higher elevations with both Mount Mitchell in North Carolina and Mount LeConte in Tennessee receiving an estimated 50 and 56 inches respectively!


Here are more images of the '93 Superstorm courtesy You Tube...


WDRB Meteorologist Jeremy Kappell

Jeremy 6sx

Jeremy's Bio

Find me on Facebook!

Follow me on Twitter!

Email me at [email protected]


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

The comments to this entry are closed.