The Blizzard of 1996
The Blizzard of 1996 was incredibly
massive and truly historic in its scope. All-time snowfall records were
widespread, including 24.9 inches in
Snow began falling in
For several hours during the afternoon, sleet took over, primarily in the eastern suburbs. The precipitation stopped during late Sunday afternoon and early evening, giving the impression that the worst of the storm was over.
But this proved to be just a lull. During the overnight hours, as the storm crawled slowly north along
The snowfall ranged between 15 to 20
inches in the southeastern portion of the metro area and 20 to 25 inches in the
northern and western suburbs.
On Monday, road crews began the epic
struggle to dig out from the crippling snowfall. The entire region was shut
down. High winds caused snow to blow back onto plowed roads, and many streets
were not plowed at all. The Metro system fared no better as frozen rails
crippled the outside portion of that system. One train, with one hundred
passengers on board, got stuck for five hours near
The Blizzard of 1996 was just the
first of three snowstorms to hit the
The Alberta Clipper snowfall pattern was verydifferent from the blizzard. The western suburbs were dusted with only an inch of snow while up to six inches of snow fell in the eastern areas such as Prince George’s and Charles Counties. At the conclusion of the Clipper storm, two-foot snow depths were fairly common across all sectors of the metro region.
Wednesday, January 10, was a nice
sunny day with the high temperature reaching a relatively balmy 34°F. Nevertheless,
snow removal in residential neighborhoods
proceeded quite slowly. As late as
Wednesday afternoon, fifty percent of
Finally, on Thursday, January 11, the Federal Government reopened for the first time in nearly a month, following an extended furlough and the weather-related shutdown. However, the morning and evening rush hours proved disastrous, with major roads narrowed significantly by tall snowbanks. Also, many Metro trains remained out of commission, still mired in deep snowdrifts.
The third and final blow of the snowy
sequence took place on Friday, January 12 as a quick moving coastal storm
dropped inches of snow across the region.
The snow began during the predawn hours and was over by early afternoon. Snow
fell heavily during mid-morning, before switching over to sleet east of
The Federal Government was once again closed on Friday, January 12, as were most schools and business establishments. Fortunately, temperatures warmed into the 40’s during the three-day Martin Luther King Holiday weekend of January 13-15. Finally, on Tuesday, January 16, schools and businesses reopened, after an 11-day blizzard holiday.
However, many problems still
remained. As late as Tuesday, January 16, dozens of
A rapid thaw brought 62°F temperatures and heavy rain into the area on Thursday, January 18. The huge snow piles vanished overnight and green grass appeared where deep snow had blanketed the ground just a day earlier.
The sudden meltdown sent the