This week marks 25th anniversary of ‘Blizzard Of 1993’ |
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Megan Guza
A woman and her small daughter were dwarfed by the plowed snow mounds in the JCPenney parking lot along Leechburg Road in Lower Burrell on March 14, 1993, just a day after the Alle-Kiski Valley experienced a 2-foot snowfall. VND archives

New Englanders are bracing for another Nor’easter that could dump more than a foot of snow on the region Tuesday — the 25th anniversary of what became known as the Storm of the Century in 1993.

In Western Pennsylvania, it’s referred to as the “Blizzard of 1993.”

The snow began to fall late Friday, March 12, 1993, but the real chaos began the next day. By the end of the weekend, the region would be under two or more feet of snow. Three feet fell in Latrobe, where drifts measured up to 10 feet high.

Major interstates – and many roads in general – were shut down across the state. State and local officials begged drivers to stay off the roads, not only for their own safety, but to leave the roads wide open for emergency vehicles.

John Darnley, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Moon, was in the Air Force in Ohio when the 1993 storm hit.

“I remember sitting in a meeting, and we had aircrafts up and down the eastern seaboard that we wanted to move,” he said. “(Prediction) models back then only went out 48 hours. We moved all the planes to Texas. One of the colonels looked at me and said, ‘You better be right.'”

The models were right, and meteorologists were able to sound the alarm about the impending storm days in advance.

“That model that day of that particular forecast was very accurate,” he said. The conditions that developed in the Gulf of Mexico that worked their way north were hurricane-like, he said.

The Pittsburgh area received little accumulated snow March 12, but over the course of the next day 23.6 inches fell (though the St. Patrick’s Day parade went on as planned). By storm’s end on March 14, the region was under 25 inches of snow.

On top of the snow, it was also a frigid weekend – the high on March 14, 1993 was 17, with a low temperature of 6. Those temperatures set a record for coldest March 14. That record still stands.

Across the state 49 people were killed – the highest statewide death toll of the storm. All told, 270 people died during the storm, and 48 were considered lost at sea as the storm ravaged the Gulf of Mexico.

The snow fell as far south as Alabama – Birmingham saw 13 inches — and the storm system itself stretched from Canada to Honduras. It produced 11 tornadoes across Florida that killed five people. Wind gusts reached more than 100mph.

Darnley said that while it will be unseasonably cold and there is snow in the forecast over the next several days, there’s no fear of a repeat: The region will likely see a maximum of a half inch of the white stuff this week.

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