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March 12-14, 1993 - "Storm Of The Century" Brings Blizzard Conditions To WV
By Heath Harrison
January 19, 2014


In March of 1993, West Virginia was paralyzed by its heaviest widespread snowfall since World War II, as the cyclonic superstorm the media dubbed "The Storm of the Century" was felt across 26 states.

Forecasters first realized the developing threat of the storm as early as March 2, and blizzard warnings were issued for much of the east coast on March 10.

The first snow arrived in West Virginia on Friday, March 12, bringing with it 30 straight hours of snowfall, accompanied by wind gusts of up to 60 miles per hour and whiteout conditions.

While common in northern areas, the thunder and lightning that accompanied the snow surprised many area residents, who had never seen the phenomenon during a snowstorm in our region.

Nationally, the storm caused severe weather from Canada to Florida, burying the northern half of the country under snow, while causing derecheo conditions and tornadoes in the south. At its peak, the storm cell stretched from Canada to Central America.

Across West Virginia, snowfall ranged from 1 to 2 feet in the lowlands, to up to three feet in the mountains. All of West Virginia's 55 counties saw significant snowfall, with records set in many locations, including Huntington, which received 22.6 inches of accumulation. The highest total in the state (and nationally) was reported in Snowshoe in Pocahontas County, which received 44 inches of accumulation. Snow drifts of more than four feet were reported in some mountain areas.

Charleston got off easier than some parts of the state, but still received 17.2 inches within a 24-hour period, breaking the previous record set in 1978. The overall total for the storm in Charleston of 19.4 inches was third highest in the city's history. (The all time record of 25.7 inches was set in November 1950).

The storm prompted Gov. Gaston Caperton to declare a state of emergency, order residents to stay indoors and close Interstates 64, 77 and 79 to all traffic other than emergency use for the night of March 13. The speed limit was reduced on the interstates to 45 mph when they reopened.

Power outages were reported throughout the state and about 1,400 people were stranded in public shelters after roads became buried. In Bluefield alone, nearly 100 motorists were stranded after officials closed Interstate 77 after it became impassable.

Although the storm struck on a weekend, roads remained hazardous for days and schools across the state were closed until mid-week. In Kanawha County, schools finally reopened (though under a two-hour delay) on Wednesday, March 17. City services such as KRT and garbage collection were also shut down for days.

The storm was estimated to have cost Charleston $90,000, including overtime pay for about 50 street department employees who put in roughly 48 hours of overtime digging the city out.

Charleston would be hit with another crippling snowfall just 9 months later, when it received 12 inches and 10 inches of accumulation in two back-to-back January 1994 snowstorms. Those storms, accompanied by an all time low temperature of -12 in Charleston, also left roads shut down, schools closed for days and 165,000 without power.

This week's video, courtesy of the West Virginia Archives at the Culture Center, contains several WCHS reports, including two by Bob Aaron, from January 1993, showing the region under the storm and later digging out from the snow.


Remember When: March 12-14, 1993 -

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