Great Appalachian Storm of 1950

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Great Appalachian Storm of November 1950
Category 5 "Extreme" (RSI/NOAA: 34.69)
Great Appalachian Storm 1950-11-26 weather map.gif
Surface analysis showing cyclone near time of maximum intensity on November 25, 1950
TypeExtratropical cyclone
Winter storm
FormedNovember 24, 1950[1]
DissipatedNovember 30, 1950
Lowest pressure978 mbar (28.88 inHg)
Maximum snowfall
or ice accretion
57 inches (1,400 mm)
Fatalities383 fatalities
Damage$66.7 million (1950 dollars)[2]
Areas affectedEastern United States
Southeast Canada

The Great Appalachian Storm of November 1950 was a large extratropical cyclone which moved through the Eastern United States, causing blizzard conditions along the western slopes of the Appalachian Mountains and significant winds and heavy rainfall east of the mountains. Hurricane-force winds, peaking at 110 miles per hour (180 km/h) in Concord, New Hampshire, and 160 mph (260 km/h) in the highlands of New England, disrupted power to 1 million customers during the event.

In all, the storm impacted 22 states, killing 383[3][4][5] people, injuring over 160, and causing $66.7 million in damage (equivalent to $751,000,000 in 2021).[5] U.S. insurance companies paid out more money to their policy holders for damage resulting from the cyclone than for any previous storm or hurricane at the time. The cyclone is also one of only twenty-six storms to rank as a Category 5 on the Regional Snowfall Index.[6]

Termed, the "Storm of the Century".[3][5]

Synoptic history[edit]

The preceding atmospheric state was one of La Niña conditions, the cold phase of ENSO, which favors a storm track from the Ohio and Tennessee Valleys into the Appalachians.[7] The cyclone initially formed in southeast North Carolina near a cold front on the morning of November 24 as the main cyclone over the Great Lakes weakened.[1] Rapid development ensued as the surface center began to migrate back into a closed 500 hPa-level (14.75 inHg) (around 6,000 m/20,000 ft above sea level) cyclone, and the cyclone bombed while moving north through Washington D.C. the next morning. The former occluded front to its northwest became a warm front which moved back to the west around the strengthening, and now dominant, southern low pressure center. By the evening of November 25, the cyclone retrograded, or moved northwestward, into Ohio due to a blocking ridge up across eastern Canada. It was at this time that the pressure gradient was its most intense across southern New England and eastern New York. A wide area of +4 standard deviation 850mb winds occurred.[8] The cyclone moved west over Lake Erie to the north of the upper cyclone before looping over Ohio as the low-level and mid-level cyclone centers coupled. Significant convection within its comma head led to the development of a warm seclusion, or a pocket of low level warm air, near its center which aided in further development due to the increased lapse rates a warmer low level environment affords under a cold low. After the system became stacked with height, the storm slowly spun down as it drifted north and northeast into eastern Canada over the succeeding few days.[9]

United States effects[edit]

This extratropical cyclone rapidly deepened as it moved up the eastern side of the Appalachians during November 24 and November 25 and continued into November 27. Coastal flooding was seen along the U.S. coastline from New Jersey northward.


In Alabama, all-time record lows for November were set at Birmingham 5 °F (−15 °C), Mobile 22 °F (−6 °C), and Montgomery 13 °F (−11 °C). Across Florida, all-time record lows for November were set at Apalachicola (24 °F), Pensacola (22 °F), and Jacksonville (23 °F). Within Georgia, all-time record lows for November were set at Atlanta (3 °F), Columbus (10 °F), Augusta (11 °F), and Savannah (15 °F).


An all-time record low for November was set at Louisville (−1 °F).

New Hampshire[edit]

Concord recorded a wind gust of 110 miles per hour (180 km/h) during the height of the storm. Winds at Mount Washington reached 160 miles per hour (260 km/h).

New York[edit]

Sustained winds of 50–60 mph (80–100 km/h) with gusts to 83 miles per hour (134 km/h) were recorded at Albany, New York. A wind gust of 94 miles per hour (151 km/h) was recorded in New York City. Extensive damage was caused by the wind across New York, including massive tree fall and power outages.[10] Coastal flooding breached dikes at LaGuardia Airport, flooding the runways.[11] Flooding extended to New York City's Office of Emergency Management on the Lower East Side, in Manhattan.[12]


Extensive wind damage with tidal flooding along the coast. On the coast structures and railroad tracks washed away. Plows were needed to remove sand from coastal roads. Roofs torn off on the coast and at the University of Connecticut. The tide at New London was 7.58ft MLLW third highest in the last 100 years. Hartford had sustained winds of 70MPH the highest ever on record, 100 MPH gusts also the highest on record were recorded on 3 separate occasions. The 62 MPH sustained wind recorded at Bridgeport is the 4th highest on record. Other gusts 88MPH at Bridgeport and 77MPH at New Haven.[8]

New Jersey[edit]

A wind gust of 108 mph (173.8 km/h), the strongest ever recorded in New Jersey, occurred in Newark.[13]

North Carolina[edit]

All-time record lows for November were set at Asheville 1 °F (−17 °C) and Wilmington 16 °F (−9 °C).


On the storm's west side, nearly a foot of snow fell on Dayton, Ohio, which combined with the wind and cold temperatures, became their worst blizzard on record.[14] Nearly the entire state was blanketed with 10 inches (25 cm) of snow, with 20-30 inches (50–75 cm) being measured in eastern sections of Ohio. The highest report was 44 inches (110 cm) from Steubenville.[15] Snow drifts were up to 25 feet (7.6 m) deep. Winds exceeded 40 miles per hour (64 km/h) with gusts as high as 60 miles per hour (97 km/h). Bulldozers were used to clear roads.[1] Despite the high winds and snow, the annual football game between the University of Michigan and Ohio State University went on as scheduled in Columbus and was nicknamed the Snow Bowl. When the snow melted during the first four days of December, river flooding occurred in Cincinnati.


During the height of the storm, record to near-record flooding occurred along the eastern side of the Appalachians across eastern and central sections of the state. The Schuylkill at Fairmount Dam reached its highest stage since 1902.[2] In Pittsburgh, 30.5 inches (77 cm) of snow accumulated from this cyclone. Tanks were used to clear the resultant snow.[16] When a warm spell visited the region during the first four days of December, river flooding struck Pittsburgh.

South Carolina[edit]

All-time record lows for November were set at Charleston (17˚F) and Greenville (11˚F).


All-time record lows for November were set at Chattanooga (4˚F), Knoxville (5˚F), Memphis (9˚F), and Nashville (−1˚F).

West Virginia[edit]

Parkersburg recorded 34.4 inches (87.3 cm) of snowfall during the passage of this low, which exceeded its snowiest November on record by over 5 inches (13 cm). Pickens reported the highest amount from anywhere within the cyclone, with 57 inches (140 cm) measured. November 1950 became West Virginia's snowiest month on record.[17] This remarkably heavy snow led to 160 deaths.

Effects in Canada[edit]


This system was a major snowstorm for the area, with 12 inches (30 cm) in Toronto on November 24. This set a record for single-day snowfall in November.[18]

Lasting impact[edit]

This cyclone was used as a test case for some of the first attempts at numerical modeling of the atmosphere, and is still used as a case study to run recent versions of forecast models. These studies helped create what is now known as the National Centers for Environmental Prediction.[19]

Other similar storms[edit]

Storms during the time frames November 8–10, 1913, October 22–25, 1923, and November 19–22, 1952 were considered analogous to this cyclone.[20] Despite their similarities, there are some differences. For example, the 1913 event was much more destructive to Great Lakes shipping, while the 1950 storm caused greater snowfall amounts.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Ohio History. November 23-27, 1950: Great Thanksgiving Storm. Archived December 9, 2006, at the Wayback Machine Retrieved on 2006-11-26.
  2. ^ a b National Climatic Data Center. Climatological Data: National Summary 1950.[permanent dead link] Retrieved 2006-11-26.
  3. ^ a b Magazine, Editors of Time (December 7, 2004). Time: Almanac 2005. Time Home Entertainment, Incorporated. ISBN 978-1-932273-35-9. {{cite book}}: |first= has generic name (help)
  4. ^ Halverson, Jeff. "In 1950, an iconic storm blasted through the Eastern U.S. at Thanksgiving". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved December 30, 2020.
  5. ^ a b c National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. NOAA'S TOP U. S. WEATHER, WATER AND CLIMATE EVENTS OF THE 20TH CENTURY. Retrieved on 2006-11-25.
  6. ^ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Regional Snowfall Index (RSI). Retrieved on 2014-11-18.
  7. ^ Joe D'Aleo. SOME MEMORABLE LA NINA NOVEMBER STORMS. Retrieved on 2006-11-25.
  8. ^ a b The Great Southeaster – November 25, 1950 Meteorologist Ryan Hanrahan November 24, 2012
  9. ^ Clarence D. Smith, Jr. The Destructive Storm of November 25-27, 1950. Retrieved on 2006-11-25.
  10. ^ Old Farmers Almanac. Weather—Thanksgiving Storms. Archived December 10, 2006, at the Wayback Machine Retrieved on 2006-11-25.
  11. ^ Richard Monastersky. Acclimating to a Warmer World. Retrieved on 2006-11-26.
  12. ^ Alexis S. Nussbaum. Powerful Hurricanes and Northeasters: Threat to the Big Apple. Archived February 3, 2007, at the Wayback Machine Retrieved on 2006-11-26.
  13. ^ "Extreme weather records in N.J. include 110-degree scorcher". Retrieved November 27, 2018.
  14. ^ Weather Channel. Storms of the Century: #8 – November 1950 "Appalachian Storm." Retrieved on 2006-11-25.
  15. ^ Ron Hahn. November. Retrieved on 2006-11-26.
  16. ^ Remember Pittsburgh. Snow Disaster. Archived July 1, 2007, at the Wayback Machine Retrieved on 2006-11-26.
  17. ^ National Climatic Data Center. Climate of 2003 - February West Virginia Drought. Archived October 5, 2006, at the Wayback Machine Retrieved on 2006-11-26.
  18. ^ Weather Doctor. Significant Weather Events: Canada. Retrieved on 2006-11-26.
  19. ^ Robert E. Kistler, Louis Uccellini, and Paul J. Kocin. Thanksgiving Weekend Storm of 1950. Retrieved on 2006-11-25.
  20. ^ Clarence D. Smith, Jr. and Charlotte L. Roe COMPARISONS BETWEEN THE STORMS OF NOVEMBER 20-22, 1952, AND NOVEMBER 25-27, 1950. Retrieved on 2006-11-25.

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