Connecticut

The Great Appalachian Storm of 1950

Over the Thanksgiving holiday in 1950, New England was hit by a monster that was part blizzard, part hurricane. The storm became known as ‘The Great Appalachian Storm’ and ‘The Storm of the Century.’

A woman digs out after the blizzard. Photo courtesy Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection.

A woman digs out after the blizzard. Photo courtesy Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection.

Unlike most New England nor'easters, the winds came from the south, earning it another nickname: The Great Sou'easter.

Great Appalachian Storm

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration called the Appalachian storm one of the most ‘meteorologically unique’ storms ever because it produced both record high and record low temperatures. At 6:30 pm on November 25, snow battered Pittsburgh and temperatures fell to 9 degrees. But in Buffalo, 200 miles away, temperatures reached a balmy 54 degrees.

As a result, the Appalachian Storm was called 'perhaps the greatest combination of extreme atmospheric elements ever seen in the eastern United States.'

It formed on Nov. 24 as an extratropical cyclone in southeast North Carolina. The storm brought warm Atlantic air northwestward even as an Arctic front moved to the southeast through Ohio. The storm caused high winds, heavy rains and coastal flooding. Blizzards struck the western slopes of the Appalachians, dumping the most snow ever on the mountainsides.

One of the oddest features of the storm was that it moved from east to west. But more than 99 percent of cyclones move the other way -- from west to east.

The storm blanketed Ohio – including Columbus, where Ohio State and the University of Michigan played their annual game despite the weather.

weather history
The 1950 Snow Bowl. Michigan won, 9-3.

The 1950 Snow Bowl. Michigan won, 9-3.

Howling Winds

To the east, the Great Appalachian Storm produced gale force winds -- at least 39 mph -- for an extraordinary 12 hours. Boston had a sustained one-minute gust of 80 mph, and Concord, N.H., recorded a wind gust of 110 mph.

Hartford clocked a gust at 100 mph with sustained winds of 70 mph, the highest on record. And then on one amazing day, Hartford experienced winds of 38 mph for an entire day.

As you might expect, the storm's highest wind was observed at the home of the world's worst weather --  Mount Washington in New Hampshire. Gusts reached 160 mph.

Along the coast, the violent winds produced the highest tides since 1821. In Bridgeport, the weather station was inundated with as much as 5 feet of water. Some places sustained more damage than they had in the hurricane of 1938.

On the Connecticut shoreline, the Appalachian Storm washed away houses, beaches, cottages and railroad tracks. People who refused to evacuate had to be rescued from their homes.  Winds blew off roofs at the University of Connecticut.

Winds blew so much beach sand onto the roads that plows had to remove it.

The storm hit 22 states, knocked out power to 1 million people, killed 353, injured 160 and caused $66.7 million in damages. U.S. insurance companies paid out more claims for the Appalachian Storm than any weather event to that date.

Cyclone researchers Paul Kocin and Louis Uccellini said the Appalachian Storm 'is the bench mark against which all other major storms of the 20th century could be compared."

This story about the Great Appalachian Storm was updated in 2018. If you enjoyed reading it, you may want to read about the snow hurricane of 1888 here.

54 Comments

54 Comments

  1. Linda DeGagne

    Linda DeGagne

    November 24, 2013 at 7:11 pm

    Wow

  2. Kimberly Anne DiStefano

    Kimberly Anne DiStefano

    November 24, 2013 at 8:01 pm

    Amazing…..

  3. Robert Mooney

    Robert Mooney

    November 24, 2013 at 8:02 pm

    Pre-global warming too.

  4. Ed Kingsland

    Ed Kingsland

    November 24, 2013 at 8:29 pm

    And the wires are still up

  5. Hope Warnke Brissette

    Hope Warnke Brissette

    November 24, 2013 at 9:06 pm

    Scary!

  6. Daniel C. Purdy

    Daniel C. Purdy

    November 24, 2013 at 9:54 pm

    Don’t remember; but then, I was only tree.

  7. Gloria Sperry Tillman

    Gloria Sperry Tillman

    November 24, 2013 at 11:08 pm

    Sounds like a horrible storm. I can’t seem to remember it, though. I was just going to turn seven the next week.

  8. Dan Bolton

    Dan Bolton

    November 24, 2013 at 11:25 pm

    I never heard of this storm. and I know a lot of weather history. Ironically, we have a major coastal storm heading for us between Tuesday and thanksgiving.

  9. Eva Thurston

    Eva Thurston

    November 25, 2013 at 12:10 am

    I wasn’t’ born so no memory of it or heard about it until today!

  10. Drue Signorelli

    Drue Signorelli

    November 25, 2013 at 12:27 am

    Don’t remember this and no one ever mentioned it…

  11. Cherylann Deprey

    Cherylann Deprey

    November 25, 2013 at 12:30 am

    Wow..

  12. Cindy Shea-Lizano

    Cindy Shea-Lizano

    November 25, 2013 at 12:35 am

    Oh my gosh.. that looks awful….

  13. Don Burelle

    Don Burelle

    November 25, 2013 at 4:36 am

    All I can say is hunker down

  14. Mary Payne

    Mary Payne

    November 25, 2013 at 4:48 am

    The year I was born. Storm of the century. Hmmmmmmm…

  15. Sarah Wells

    Sarah Wells

    November 25, 2013 at 9:28 am

    That’s really something. I was 5 years old in 1950 and I don’t remember this. We had a storm like this in 1998. Two thirds of Maine were without power for about three weeks.

  16. Madeleine Christie Jarvis

    Madeleine Christie Jarvis

    November 25, 2013 at 9:32 am

    I’d have been 5 and wouldn’t remember it I’m sure! But I’ll never forget the Blizzard of ’78!

  17. Joanne Fitzgerald McCrea

    Joanne Fitzgerald McCrea

    November 25, 2013 at 11:42 am

    Wow, don’t remember this one or anyone mentioning it. Thought the worst one was the 1938.

  18. Susan Kirsch

    Susan Kirsch

    November 25, 2013 at 11:58 am

    Thanks for posting that pic.

  19. Karen Burdick

    Karen Burdick

    November 25, 2013 at 9:43 pm

    Wow. That is the worst I’ve heard of mean cold. I’m sure glad I wasn’t around.

  20. Karen Burdick

    Karen Burdick

    November 25, 2013 at 9:43 pm

    Wow. That is the worst I’ve heard of mean cold. I’m sure glad I wasn’t around.

  21. Ken Farrin

    Ken Farrin

    November 24, 2014 at 12:00 pm

    I remember this. I was 7 years old.

  22. Peter Mayo

    Peter Mayo

    November 24, 2014 at 12:28 pm

    I do not like this.

  23. Bruce Weigman

    Bruce Weigman

    November 24, 2014 at 1:03 pm

    I was 7 years old also. Remember it well.

  24. Chris Mayo

    Chris Mayo

    November 24, 2014 at 2:45 pm

    And 9 months later??? Babies everywhere.

  25. Sandra Leblanc-Casino

    Sandra Leblanc-Casino

    November 24, 2014 at 3:21 pm

    Wow.

  26. David Plummer

    David Plummer

    November 24, 2014 at 4:35 pm

    climate change in 1950… who knew

  27. Ruth Elizabeth Mesarch

    Ruth Elizabeth Mesarch

    November 24, 2014 at 6:48 pm

    looks like most of us was 7

  28. Ruth Elizabeth Mesarch

    Ruth Elizabeth Mesarch

    November 24, 2014 at 6:49 pm

    lol

  29. R Scott Sherman

    R Scott Sherman

    November 24, 2014 at 7:14 pm

    If this identical storm happened today it we be caused by…..Global Warming….

    • David Bergquist

      David Bergquist

      November 24, 2014 at 10:36 pm

      Why’s that?

    • R Scott Sherman

      R Scott Sherman

      November 24, 2014 at 10:52 pm

      Every major weather event we have is blamed on Global Warming today. Sandy. Katrina. It’s too warm. It’s too cold. You are saying it is not? I just saw an MSNBC report saying they believe the snow in Buffalo and the cold November is due to “Global Warming.”

    • R Scott Sherman

      R Scott Sherman

      November 24, 2014 at 10:55 pm

      If we have a major hurricane next summer. It will be caused by “Global Warming.”

    • David Bergquist

      David Bergquist

      November 24, 2014 at 11:01 pm

      Climate change, or by your terms global warming is a measurement of conditions over a given time be it decades, centuries or longer. I think your refering to weather events. But if you want to call it Global warming go ahead.

    • David Bergquist

      David Bergquist

      November 24, 2014 at 11:01 pm

      Great pictures by the way..

    • R Scott Sherman

      R Scott Sherman

      November 24, 2014 at 11:02 pm

      Last winter. The Polar Vortex caused the intense cold last winter. Which in turn was “said” that the Polar Vortex was caused by? Global Warming. Yet the coldest record in the history of the U.S. was in 1936.

    • R Scott Sherman

      R Scott Sherman

      November 24, 2014 at 11:02 pm

      What photos?

    • R Scott Sherman

      R Scott Sherman

      November 24, 2014 at 11:05 pm

      That does not mean we should not care about environment. Of course we should.

    • Wes Woodman

      Wes Woodman

      November 26, 2014 at 12:09 am

      Just out of curiosity, do you have some scientific evidence to back up your claim that the scientific evidence about climate change is false, or are you just spewing back what Faux News jammed down your throat?

  30. Linda Desrosiers Champagne

    Linda Desrosiers Champagne

    November 24, 2014 at 7:18 pm

    Wow! The year I was born!

  31. Sara MacLeod

    Sara MacLeod

    November 24, 2014 at 7:38 pm

    Here we go again?

  32. Joan McCusker Johnson

    Joan McCusker Johnson

    November 24, 2014 at 8:07 pm

    Thanksgiving 1971 blizzard! Over a foot of snow .

  33. Jay Kasal

    Jay Kasal

    November 24, 2014 at 8:18 pm

    Not even a gleam yet

  34. Barbara Benedict

    Barbara Benedict

    November 24, 2014 at 9:24 pm

    My oldest sister was born during this storm! My mom said it was dreadful!

  35. Phalin Paula

    Phalin Paula

    November 24, 2014 at 11:16 pm

    Wowee!!!!!!!!

  36. Donna Parfitt

    Donna Parfitt

    November 24, 2014 at 11:39 pm

    A month before I arrived!

  37. Barbara Francis Crawford

    Barbara Francis Crawford

    November 25, 2014 at 9:38 pm

    Yikes!

  38. Marette Power

    Marette Power

    November 25, 2014 at 9:40 pm

    No thanks

  39. Patricia Eaves

    Patricia Eaves

    November 26, 2014 at 10:33 pm

    Thanks for sharing!

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  42. Patricia Lavalette

    September 15, 2015 at 2:24 pm

    I was born and lived in Vermont. I was only 10 months old. At the time but my sister being 4 1/2 years older was very frighten and do not like strong winds even today. The wind blew so hard it took the whole house roof off and left it open to the downpour of rain then snow.

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  44. Nick

    November 23, 2017 at 10:43 am

    Was 10 yrs old. Was the only “snow days” I can remember having. not like today! Reason it stands out is my favorite uncle died. Had to wait till spring for the burial. Sure had fun tunneling through to the burn barrel. Didn’t need to pile the snow….the drifts were to the eaves!!

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