The worst blizzards in the United States occur in the upper Plains, according to Ball State University professor Robert Schwartz. He said that from 1959 through 2000, North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota led the nation in the most blizzards. Blizzards affect about 26 million people and cost an average of $572 million in damages annually, Schwartz said.
Minnesota is famous for its blizzards. Its earliest recorded blizzard was in 1866, and according to the Minnesota Climatology Working Group, it was one of the worst. It lasted three days and caused 20-foot drifts. Blizzards in Minnesota have been known to take lives as well. An 1888 blizzard killed 200 people; in the 1940 Armistice Day Blizzard, more than 100 people died; and in 1975, 14 people died because of the storm and 21 more died of heart attacks.
A 1975 blizzard in South Dakota is considered the worst of the century. Just 7 inches of snow came with the blizzard, but winds reached 70 mph, sending the wind chill to 70 below F. and the visibility was less than a quarter of a mile for one day. This storm also caused eight deaths, but only two were directly attributed to the storm. A 1986 blizzard is famous for having caused some of the worst livestock losses.
North Dakota blizzards usually originate in southern Alberta or Colorado and are called Alberta lows and Colorado lows. These lows do not always develop into a blizzard. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, of the approximately 39 annual Colorado lows, only two or three develop into blizzards, and of the approximately 42 Alberta lows, only two usually develop into blizzards. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, forecasting blizzards in North Dakota is a matter of identifying which low will develop into a blizzard. Alberta lows, the USGS states, pose more of a threat because they develop rapidly and come with sub-zero temperatures.
New England States
Although not as frequent, blizzards in New England states can be severe. The most memorable is the blizzard of 1978, referred to as the Great Northeast Blizzard. This blizzard developed when an Alberta clipper system joined with a weaker system that developed off the coast of South Carolina. Warnings of heavy snow were given, but because preceding warnings didn't materialize, people did not take the forecast seriously and thousands were trapped on clogged highways when the storm came rapidly.