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The Great Appalachian Storm of 1950


Over the Thanksgiving holiday in 1950, New England was hit by a monster that was part blizzard, part hurricane. The storm became known as “The Great Appalachian Storm” and “The Storm of the Century.” Some call it “The Great Appalachian Wind Storm.”

A woman digs out after the blizzard. Photo courtesy Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection.

A woman digs out after the blizzard. Photo courtesy Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection.

Unlike most New England nor’easters, the winds came from the south, earning it another nickname: “The Great Sou’easter.” One of the oddest features of the storm, in fact,  was that it moved from east to west. More than 99 percent of cyclones move the other way — from west to east.

Great Appalachian Storm

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration called the Appalachian storm one of the most ‘meteorologically unique’ storms ever because it produced both record high and record low temperatures. At 6:30 pm on November 25, snow battered Pittsburgh and temperatures fell to 9 degrees. But in Buffalo, 200 miles away, temperatures reached a balmy 54 degrees.

As a result, the Appalachian Storm was called ‘perhaps the greatest combination of extreme atmospheric elements ever seen in the eastern United States.’

The monster storm formed on November 24 as an extratropical cyclone in southeast North Carolina. It brought warm Atlantic air northwestward even as an Arctic front moved to the southeast through Ohio. The storm caused high winds, heavy rains and coastal flooding from Maine to Florida.

It stretched as far west as Ohio. Blizzards struck the western slopes of the Appalachians, dumping the most snow ever recorded on the mountainsides.

The storm blanketed Ohio – including Columbus, where Ohio State and the University of Michigan played their annual game despite the weather.

The 1950 Snow Bowl. Michigan won, 9-3.

The 1950 Snow Bowl. Michigan won, 9-3.

Howling Winds

In 1950, weather satellites had yet to come into use, and people had few weather reports. So much of what happened came as a surprise.

To the east, the Great Appalachian Storm produced gale force winds — at least 39 mph — for an extraordinary 12 hours. Boston had a sustained one-minute gust of 80 mph, and Concord, N.H., recorded a wind gust of 110 mph.

Hartford clocked a gust at 100 mph with sustained winds of 70 mph, the highest on record. And then on one amazing day, Hartford experienced winds of 38 mph for an entire day.

FM broadcasting station WMTW’s ice-covered Mount Washington transmitter site. It’s windy there, too.

As you might expect, the storm’s highest wind was observed at the home of the world’s worst weather —  Mount Washington in New Hampshire. Gusts reached 160 mph.

Along the coast, the violent winds produced the highest tides since 1821. In Bridgeport, the weather station was inundated with as much as 5 feet of water. Some places sustained more damage than they had in the hurricane of 1938.

On the Connecticut shoreline, the Appalachian Storm washed away houses, beaches, cottages and railroad tracks. People who refused to evacuate had to be rescued from their homes. Winds blew off roofs at the University of Connecticut.

The Damage Done

Winds blew so much beach sand onto the roads that plows had to remove it.

The storm hit 22 states, knocked out power to 1 million people, killed 353, injured 160 and caused $66.7 million in damages. U.S. insurance companies paid out more claims for the Appalachian Storm than any weather event to that date.

The National Centers for Environmental Information ranked the Great Appalachian Storm as the ninth worst in the Northeast out of 211 analyzed. Thirty inches of snow affecting 1.3 million people contributed to the storm’s ranking. In the Ohio Valley, it ranked as the all-time worst storm of 217 studied.

Cyclone researchers Paul Kocin and Louis Uccellini said the Appalachian Storm “is the bench mark against which all other major storms of the 20th century could be compared.”

This story about the Great Appalachian Storm was updated in 2022. If you enjoyed reading it, you may want to read about the snow hurricane of 1888 here.


Linda DeGagne November 24, 2013 - 7:11 pm


Kimberly Anne DiStefano November 24, 2013 - 8:01 pm


Robert Mooney November 24, 2013 - 8:02 pm

Pre-global warming too.

Ed Kingsland November 24, 2013 - 8:29 pm

And the wires are still up

Hope Warnke Brissette November 24, 2013 - 9:06 pm


Daniel C. Purdy November 24, 2013 - 9:54 pm

Don’t remember; but then, I was only tree.

Gloria Sperry Tillman November 24, 2013 - 11:08 pm

Sounds like a horrible storm. I can’t seem to remember it, though. I was just going to turn seven the next week.

Dan Bolton November 24, 2013 - 11:25 pm

I never heard of this storm. and I know a lot of weather history. Ironically, we have a major coastal storm heading for us between Tuesday and thanksgiving.

Eva Thurston November 25, 2013 - 12:10 am

I wasn’t’ born so no memory of it or heard about it until today!

Drue Signorelli November 25, 2013 - 12:27 am

Don’t remember this and no one ever mentioned it…

Cherylann Deprey November 25, 2013 - 12:30 am


Cindy Shea-Lizano November 25, 2013 - 12:35 am

Oh my gosh.. that looks awful….

Don Burelle November 25, 2013 - 4:36 am

All I can say is hunker down

Mary Payne November 25, 2013 - 4:48 am

The year I was born. Storm of the century. Hmmmmmmm…

Sarah Wells November 25, 2013 - 9:28 am

That’s really something. I was 5 years old in 1950 and I don’t remember this. We had a storm like this in 1998. Two thirds of Maine were without power for about three weeks.

Madeleine Christie Jarvis November 25, 2013 - 9:32 am

I’d have been 5 and wouldn’t remember it I’m sure! But I’ll never forget the Blizzard of ’78!

Joanne Fitzgerald McCrea November 25, 2013 - 11:42 am

Wow, don’t remember this one or anyone mentioning it. Thought the worst one was the 1938.

Susan Kirsch November 25, 2013 - 11:58 am

Thanks for posting that pic.

Karen Burdick November 25, 2013 - 9:43 pm

Wow. That is the worst I’ve heard of mean cold. I’m sure glad I wasn’t around.

Karen Burdick November 25, 2013 - 9:43 pm

Wow. That is the worst I’ve heard of mean cold. I’m sure glad I wasn’t around.

Ken Farrin November 24, 2014 - 12:00 pm

I remember this. I was 7 years old.

Peter Mayo November 24, 2014 - 12:28 pm

I do not like this.

Bruce Weigman November 24, 2014 - 1:03 pm

I was 7 years old also. Remember it well.

Chris Mayo November 24, 2014 - 2:45 pm

And 9 months later??? Babies everywhere.

Sandra Leblanc-Casino November 24, 2014 - 3:21 pm


David Plummer November 24, 2014 - 4:35 pm

climate change in 1950… who knew

Ruth Elizabeth Mesarch November 24, 2014 - 6:48 pm

looks like most of us was 7

Ruth Elizabeth Mesarch November 24, 2014 - 6:49 pm


R Scott Sherman November 24, 2014 - 7:14 pm

If this identical storm happened today it we be caused by…..Global Warming….

David Bergquist November 24, 2014 - 10:36 pm

Why’s that?

R Scott Sherman November 24, 2014 - 10:52 pm

Every major weather event we have is blamed on Global Warming today. Sandy. Katrina. It’s too warm. It’s too cold. You are saying it is not? I just saw an MSNBC report saying they believe the snow in Buffalo and the cold November is due to “Global Warming.”

R Scott Sherman November 24, 2014 - 10:55 pm

If we have a major hurricane next summer. It will be caused by “Global Warming.”

David Bergquist November 24, 2014 - 11:01 pm

Climate change, or by your terms global warming is a measurement of conditions over a given time be it decades, centuries or longer. I think your refering to weather events. But if you want to call it Global warming go ahead.

David Bergquist November 24, 2014 - 11:01 pm

Great pictures by the way..

R Scott Sherman November 24, 2014 - 11:02 pm

Last winter. The Polar Vortex caused the intense cold last winter. Which in turn was “said” that the Polar Vortex was caused by? Global Warming. Yet the coldest record in the history of the U.S. was in 1936.

R Scott Sherman November 24, 2014 - 11:02 pm

What photos?

R Scott Sherman November 24, 2014 - 11:05 pm

That does not mean we should not care about environment. Of course we should.

Wes Woodman November 26, 2014 - 12:09 am

Just out of curiosity, do you have some scientific evidence to back up your claim that the scientific evidence about climate change is false, or are you just spewing back what Faux News jammed down your throat?

Linda Desrosiers Champagne November 24, 2014 - 7:18 pm

Wow! The year I was born!

Sara MacLeod November 24, 2014 - 7:38 pm

Here we go again?

Joan McCusker Johnson November 24, 2014 - 8:07 pm

Thanksgiving 1971 blizzard! Over a foot of snow .

Jay Kasal November 24, 2014 - 8:18 pm

Not even a gleam yet

Barbara Benedict November 24, 2014 - 9:24 pm

My oldest sister was born during this storm! My mom said it was dreadful!

Phalin Paula November 24, 2014 - 11:16 pm


Donna Parfitt November 24, 2014 - 11:39 pm

A month before I arrived!

Barbara Francis Crawford November 25, 2014 - 9:38 pm


Marette Power November 25, 2014 - 9:40 pm

No thanks

Patricia Eaves November 26, 2014 - 10:33 pm

Thanks for sharing!

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Patricia Lavalette September 15, 2015 - 2:24 pm

I was born and lived in Vermont. I was only 10 months old. At the time but my sister being 4 1/2 years older was very frighten and do not like strong winds even today. The wind blew so hard it took the whole house roof off and left it open to the downpour of rain then snow.

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Nick November 23, 2017 - 10:43 am

Was 10 yrs old. Was the only “snow days” I can remember having. not like today! Reason it stands out is my favorite uncle died. Had to wait till spring for the burial. Sure had fun tunneling through to the burn barrel. Didn’t need to pile the snow….the drifts were to the eaves!!

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