Winter kicked off to an icy, chilly and snowy start in the final weeks of 2022 but many began to wonder what would come for Winter 2023 in terms of blizzards. Will this snow season turn our region into a winter wonderland? Or another disappointing dud?
You can read all about our winter expectations in our winter outlook, released back in November. One thing is true though: the DC area has certainly been home to some very memorable blizzards over the years.
Here is a timeline of the most impactful blizzards to ever hit our region. If you're having trouble viewing the interactive timeline above (such as if on a mobile device), click here.
January 22-23, 2016 – 17.8" Officially
The most recent major blizzard to hit our region occurred 7 years ago in the middle of what was actually one of the warmest winters in DMV history. The powerful blizzard buried suburbs like North Potomac, MD in nearly 40" of snow. Over 100,000 people lost power as winds gusted over 50 mph. Nationally, the storm caused ½ a billion dollars in damages and caused the deaths of 55 people. It was a category 5 blizzard on the Regional Snowfall Index scale (RSI), the most extreme category.
February 5-6, 2010 – 17.8" Officially
The storm that would go down in the history books as "Snowmageddon." It was the most impactful blizzard of the snowiest winter in DMV history. The storm struck on a Friday with heavy snow falling well into the morning hours of Saturday. Elkridge, MD saw the highest snowfall totals with just over 38" of snow, while Dulles Airport picked up just about 33". A category 4 blizzard on the RSI scale, its impact was exacerbated a second blizzard on February 9-10 that added an additional foot of snow in many locations.
WASHINGTON - FEBRUARY 09: A groundkeeper plows snow from the last snowstorm on a driveway of the White House as visitors come out from the North Portico February 9, 2010 in Washington, DC. The area is expecting another 10 - 12 inches of snow which will begin at around noon today. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
December 18-19, 2009 – 16.4" Officially
This was the first storm of the monster 2009-2010 winter that would bring nearly 60" of snow in total to the area. This blizzard remains the most intense to ever hit our area in the month of December. A category 4 blizzard on the RSI scale, this storm brought Olney, MD nearly 2 feet of snowfall in the days before Christmas. Enough snow fell that D.C. was still reporting over ½ a foot on the ground during Christmas Day.
A worker uses a snow-blower to clear a sidewalk December 19, 2009 in Washington, DC. AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGAN (Photo by Mandel NGAN / AFP) (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)
February 16-18, 2003 – 16.4" Officially
Known to many as the Presidents' Day Storm of 2003, this storm could have significantly worse for the district had sleet not mixed in with the snow during the latter half of the storm. This RSI category 4 blizzard remains the snowiest on record for Baltimore, where over 28" of snow was measured officially. DC, Boston, New York and places in-between picked up over a foot of snow, crippling the I-95 corridor.
January 7-9, 1996 – 17.3" Officially
One of only three blizzards to ever receive a category 5 ranking on the RSI scale, this powerful storm dropped over two feet of snow at Dulles Airport, while parts of the West Virginia mountains received four feet of snow. Much of the I-81 corridor received over 30" of snow. The storm is believed to have been a factor in a deadly Metro crash at Shady Grove station.
February 10-11, 1983 – 16.6" Officially
This Blizzard, known as the "Megalopolitan Blizzard of 1983," is remembered widely for its intense episodes of "thundersnow," mostly across Maryland during the height of the storm. Germantown and Frederick, MD each received over 30" of snow, while western Loudoun County received as much as 3 feet. A category 4 blizzard on the RSI scale, the storm is also known for sinking a bulk carrier, the SS Marine Electric, off the Virginia coastline, killing 31 crew.
February 18-19, 1979 – 18.7" Officially
The original President's Day blizzard, this storm was known for catching our region completely off guard. Weather forecasting has come a long way since the 1970s, but back then the guidance available to weather forecasters did not show a major storm until about 24 hours prior to the first snow falling. After an initial snow of about 4," a rapidly intensifying nor’easter brought snowfall rates exceeding 5" per hour to some locations, and areas within the beltway picked up nearly 2 feet of snow.
February 15-16, 1958 – 14.4" Officially
Another winter that featured two blizzards, though the second one in March 1958 mostly impacted areas farther northwest of the D.C. Metro area, this blizzard was part of a powerful coastal nor’easter remembered as being one of the worst for portions of the interior Northeast. The blizzard buried the DC-Baltimore corridor in a widespread 1-2 feet of snow.
(Original Caption) 2/18/1958-Baltimore, MD: A convoy of 68 Second Army trucks and personnel rolls down Baltimore's snow-clogged streets to assist the city in digging out stranded autos and delivering oil and food to families isolated by the snow, as the city tries to recover from its worst snowstorm in thirteen years. Twelve inches of snow were dumped on the city and most of the state last week.
February 7, 1936 – 14.4" Officially
Coming in the midst of what remains the coldest February for the contiguous United States, the storm is remembered for it’s widespread heavy snows across the entirety of the Mid-Atlantic. Even the lower Eastern Shore, which typically sees warm air aloft keep snowfall rates down due to ocean interference, picked up widespread 12-18" of snowfall. Extreme snow in the mountains followed by continued cold temperatures and a lack of melting were the precursors to the Great Spring Flood of March 1936, which was one of the worst recorded flooding events for our region.
January 27-29, 1922 – 28.0" Officially
What still stands as the snowiest single storm in DC area history happened over a century ago. Now infamously known as the "Knickerbocker Blizzard" after the heavy snows caused the collapse of the roof of the Knickerbocker Theater, killing nearly 100 people who were attending a showing of Get-Rich-Quick Wallingford during the height of the storm. It was an extremely rare case of a cutoff-low nor’easter, which caused the storm to move at nearly half the forward speed of a typical blizzard up the East Coast.
Richmond (19"), Washington, D.C. (28") and Baltimore (25") were all paralyzed by widespread 2-3 feet snowfall amounts. This is the worst snowstorm in D.C. history that we have verified data for, though it should be noted that the Washington-Jefferson Snowstorm of 1772 may have been greater, with estimates of widespread 30-36" of snow made in the journals of the two great presidents.
Onlookers stand by as rescue workers carry the dead from the wreckage of the Knickerbocker Theatre, Washington DC, January 29, 1922. The structure's roof collapsed under the weight of 28 inches of snow from a blizzard, resulting in 98 deaths and 113 injuries; later, both the building's owner and architect committed suicide. The blizzard, which also affected a large portion of the Eastern Seaboard, came to be called the Knickerbocker Storm. (Photo by Herbert A. French/Buyenlarge/Getty Images)
February 12-14, 1899 – 20.0" Officially
Now remembered as the Great Blizzard of 1899, it occurred during one of the most extreme outbreaks of arctic air ever recorded in the United States, and remembered for just how widespread the snowfall was, particularly across areas of the Southeast. Snow showers were reported as far south as New Orleans, LA and Tampa, FL. Much of Florida recorded record cold temperatures as the storm crossed, including Miami falling to 29°F.
Following an initial blizzard on February 8th that dropped 14" of snow, temperatures plummeted to their coldest on record including -15°F for downtown D.C. while Quantico dropped to -20°F. A week later, this second and stronger blizzard added an additional nearly 21" of snow. By the time the snow was done, D.C. had a official snow depth of 34" (from both blizzards) which is a record that remains to this day. February of 1899 remains the snowiest month on record for D.C. with 35.2" of snow. The winter of 1899 was so cold over the eastern United States that ice flowed from the Mississippi River into the Gulf of Mexico.