Discover the Biggest Blizzard to Ever Hit New York City

Written by Colby Maxwell
Published: January 10, 2023
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New Yorkers are well and truly used to getting smashed by a blizzard or two throughout the year. Putting on your long johns and heading out in sub-zero temps for groceries is just a part of the city’s charm, right? Still, that being said, not all blizzards are created equal. Now and again, a real doozy of a blizzard will make its way across the eastern seaboard and hit the City of Dreams with feet of snow and frigid temperatures to match. Today, we are going to look at one of these blizzards. Let’s discover the biggest blizzard to ever hit New York City! Let’s get started.

The Biggest Blizard to Ever Hit New York City

Blizzard Snow

New York City had the biggest blizzards in 2006.


The North American Blizzard of 2006 is remembered as one of the biggest and most destructive blizzards to ever hit the East Coast of the United States, particularly New York City. The storm battered cities from Baltimore to Boston with heavy snow and strong winds, causing widespread power outages and travel disruptions. For NYC, this blizzard was the biggest in recorded history. A staggering 26.9 inches of snow fell on the city, breaking all previous records and making it the highest snowfall ever recorded in the city, according to government records. The blizzard caused widespread chaos in the city, with schools and businesses closed for days and streets buried under deep drifts of snow.

Of all the cities hit, however, NYC got hit the hardest. All three of the major airports in the area – LaGuardia Airport, John F. Kennedy International Airport, and Newark Liberty International Airport – were closed due to the storm, a first since September 11, 2001. The storm also caused some extremely rare weather phenomena known as “thundersnow,” which occurred for four hours in parts of the Bronx, Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Rockland, and Westchester. Central Park received an impressive 26.9 inches of snow, breaking the previous record of 26.4 inches that fell on December 26, 1947. The storm caused lots of damages, with snow removal in New York City alone estimated at around $27 million and utility crews taking nearly two days to restore service to 300,000 customers.

Unusually, the northern part of the state wasn’t hit as hard as NYC was. Generally, inland New York experiences more severe weather, particularly when it comes to snow. In 2006, however, cities like Albany received as little as 1-2 inches, breaking records in the reverse.

What Caused the Blizzard in the First Place?

The infamous blizzard began as a storm referred to as a “noreaster” on February 11th, traveling across the Mid-Atlantic and into New England, before finally ending on February 13th in Canada.

A nor’easter is a type of storm that affects the Northeastern United States and Atlantic Canada. These storms are characterized by strong winds and heavy precipitation, often in the form of snow or rain. Nor’easters are often associated with cold air masses moving in from the northwest and colliding with warmer, moist air coming up from the south. This collision can lead to the development of low-pressure systems, which can bring strong winds, heavy precipitation, and often coastal flooding. Nor’easters typically occur between September and April and are most common in the winter months. They can cause significant problems, as seen in the storm in 2006.

Other Notable Blizzards in New York City

Before this event, one of the record blizzards (at least regarding snowfall) was known as the Great White Hurricane of 1888. During that weather phenomenon, New York City got hit with 21 inches of snow. Railways and telegraph lines went down in the storm as 50-foot snowdrifts forced people to stay inside their homes. While some areas received a full 60 inches, New York City got off with a lesser, but still devastating, 22 inches.

A more recent event that many remember was the January 23rd-24th blizzards of 2016. With the rise of social media, the storm’s presence was seen in a way that many others hadn’t. Dubbed “Snowzilla” online, the storm was caused by Winter Storm Jonas. During the storm, over 11 governors and mayors declared states of emergency and banned travel, New York City included. In the two days, 26.8 inches of snow fell, only a tenth less than the current record (from 2006).

Winter Storm Frequency on the Rise

While many people understand climate change to be exclusively about warmer weather, it is actually the driving cause behind the increase in severe weather events during the winter, too. Climate change is causing more severe weather events, including winter storms and blizzards, to occur more frequently and with greater intensity. This is primarily due to the rising levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which trap heat and cause the Earth’s temperature to rise. As the Earth’s temperature increases, the air, and oceans become warmer, leading to more evaporation and more moisture in the air. This can lead to more intense storms and heavier precipitation events, especially snow and ice storms.

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The photo featured at the top of this post is © National Climatic Data Center, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons – License / Original

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About the Author

Colby is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering outdoors, unique animal stories, and science news. Colby has been writing about science news and animals for five years and holds a bachelor's degree from SEU. A resident of NYC, you can find him camping, exploring, and telling everyone about what birds he saw at his local birdfeeder.

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