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Most destructive winter storms of the decade

  • Most destructive winter storms of the decade

    Winter storms famously pummel the northern U.S. each year, but every state has experienced its share of severe winter weather. Freezing rainstorms have glazed Texas cities in ice, snowdrifts have buried cars in New Mexico, and thundersnow storms have knocked out power nationwide.

    For regions acclimated to harsh winters and those that aren't, cold weather storms can disrupt daily life and cause extensive damage. This is because it's challenging to forecast snow. The temperature line between snow and rain is razor-thin, and the different types of snow to contend with—from light and powdery to wet and heavy—complicate predictions and preparations.

    Even when storms are accurately predicted, only so much can be done to prepare for the impending weight of snow on roofs and power lines. Add high winds and low visibility, and snowstorms become full-blown blizzards, capable of shutting down major roads and collapsing buildings.

    Blizzards are just as treacherous as ice storms. Freezing rain falls disguised as normal rain—but when a layer of cold air above the ground super-cools water droplets, rain forms ice over the surface and can quickly accumulate and add weight over the roads, roofs, trees, and power lines they fall on. Such storms can create widespread power outages that take weeks to restore.

    To establish the most destructive winter storms of the decade, Stacker consulted the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Storm Events database from 2010 up to September 2019. The storms were ranked by the highest dollar value of property damage across the states affected.

    Stacker's list includes ice storms, blizzards, frosts, freezes, heavy snow, and sleet. Although the database is comprehensive, damage reports often come from local sources and may, therefore, be incomplete.

    Read on to learn where and how winter storms caused the most damage in the past decade.

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  • #25. Nov. 27-29, 2015

    - Dates where damage occurred: Nov. 27-29, 2015
    - Event type: Ice Storm
    - Total damage: $11.3 million
    - States affected heaviest: Oklahoma, Kansas

    A swirling mass of moist air from the Gulf of Mexico met a mass of cold air to create this four-day ice storm. Ice coated everything from trees to cars to roads; in parts of central Kansas, a layer of ice nearly an inch thick covered the ground. The storm damaged trees and power lines, leading to widespread power outages across both Kansas and Oklahoma before dissipating. At least 15 people died from the effects of the storm.

  • #24. April 29, 2012

    - Dates where damage occurred: April 29, 2012
    - Event type: Extreme Cold-Wind Chill
    - Total damage: $13 million
    - States affected heaviest: Ohio

    No snow or ice fell during this "storm," but a devastating cold spell enveloped the Ohio Valley on April 29, 2012. This late spring freeze destroyed nearly 80% of the grape crop and damaged fruit trees, causing millions of dollars in damages. This cold spell interrupted what had been a warmer-than-average month for the upper Midwest.

  • #23. April 11, 2019

    - Dates where damage occurred: April 11, 2019
    - Event type: Blizzard
    - Total damage: $13.44 million
    - States affected heaviest: Minnesota

    This storm system formed in eastern Colorado, moving across the Plains before becoming a blizzard over the southern portions of South Dakota and Minnesota. This storm brought with it nearly every form of precipitation—rain, ice, sleet, hail, and snow—and dust blowing in from Oklahoma turned some of it brownish. Snow fell at rates over an inch per hour in Minnesota and South Dakota, which, combined with winds exceeding 40 miles per hour, created blizzard conditions. Thundersnow occurred in some areas of the region, and the blizzard cut power to almost 77,000 people.

  • #22. Jan. 24-25, 2010

    - Dates where damage occurred: Jan. 24-25, 2010
    - Event type: Blizzard
    - Total damage: $16.4 million
    - States affected heaviest: North Dakota

    This blizzard moved eastward across North Dakota, covering the state in snow and knocking out power for at least 10,000 people. In some places, wind gusts downed power lines. After dumping between six and 10 inches of snow on North Dakota, the storm moved toward the Great Lakes region.

  • #21. Jan. 28-29, 2010

    - Dates where damage occurred: Jan. 28-29, 2010
    - Event type: Ice Storm
    - Total damage: $18 million
    - States affected heaviest: Oklahoma, Texas

    A day before the ice storm began, the region had enjoyed abnormally warm January temperatures in the mid-60s. However, a cold front, the zone that marks where a cold air mass replaces a warmer one, advanced southward, bringing freezing temperatures that night. By the time the storm moved eastward and out of the region, ice covered vast swaths of northern Texas and southern Oklahoma.

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  • #20. Oct. 29-30, 2011

    - Dates where damage occurred: Oct. 29- 30, 2011
    - Event type: Heavy Snow
    - Total D\damage: $19 million
    - States affected heaviest: Connecticut, Massachusetts

    The storm system formed off the coast of North Carolina traveled north, meeting cold air when it reached New England and resulting in a heavy snowstorm. Though New England is used to intense snow, this early Nor'easter wrought so much damage that cities rescheduled Halloween trick-or-treating, colleges extended early application deadlines, cell service suffered, and airports diverted flights. The storm dumped 31 inches of snow over southern New Hampshire and parts of Massachusetts, brought minor to moderate flooding along the Massachusetts coast, and left hundreds of thousands without power.

  • #19. Dec. 10-11, 2010

    - Dates where damage occurred: Dec. 10-11, 2010
    - Event type: Winter Storm
    - Total damage: $19.3 million
    - States affected heaviest: Minnesota, Ohio

    After forming in Iowa and moving north, this winter storm brought between one and two feet of snow to Minnesota's Twin Cities region, the worst snowstorm in nearly 20 years. The storm caused road closures, which even applied to plows due to the snowfall intensity, and shut down the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Enough snow fell on Minneapolis's Metrodome to deflate the dome, collapsing the Teflon roof. Southern Minnesota saw blizzard conditions, with winds of up to 50 miles per hour.

  • #18. Feb. 24-25, 2019

    - Dates where damage occurred: Feb. 24-25, 2019
    - Event type: Heavy Snow
    - Total damage: $19.45 million
    - States affected heaviest: Oregon, Michigan

    A storm system began to form in Washington state but moved south and stalled over Oregon to bring over 24 hours of snowfall. An additional storm system coupled with moisture from the Pacific continued to feed the storm, eventually pushing it eastward. The storm grew increasingly intense as it approached Michigan, generating wind gusts of more than 60 miles per hour, which created whiteout conditions in the northern part of the state.

  • #17. March 6-7, 2014

    - Dates where damage occurred: March 6-7, 2014
    - Event type: Ice Storm
    - Total damage: $20.1 million
    - States affected heaviest: North Carolina

    An early March ice storm downed trees and power lines in central North Carolina, leaving over 400,000 people without power. While the more northern counties received a few inches of snow, counties to the south were covered in half an inch of ice.

  • #16. Oct. 29-30, 2012

    - Dates where damage occurred: Oct. 29-30, 2012
    - Event type: Heavy Snow
    - Total damage: $23.5 million
    - States affected heaviest: West Virginia

    Hurricane Sandy might be best remembered for heavy rainfall and flooding along the eastern U.S. coast, but in the mountains of West Virginia, a cold front bringing polar air with it met Sandy to produce snow and blizzard conditions. Higher elevations had the most significant snow accumulations, with Kumbrabow State Forest—located between 3,000 and 3,930 feet above sea level—reporting 38 inches of snow. The capital city, Charleston—just 650 feet above sea level—only saw two inches of snow accumulation. After about a day of snow, the system moved north into Pennsylvania.

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