Discover the Biggest Blizzard to Ever Hit North Carolina

Appalachian Trail in the winter snow
© iStock.com/skiserge1

Written by Brandi Allred

Updated: May 17, 2023

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North Carolina is known as the Tarheel State. It has a population of over ten million people, many of which live in or around Charlotte. This eastern state includes a long segment of coast on the Atlantic Ocean, as well as a portion of the Appalachian Mountains further inland. With its wide east-to-west footprint, North Carolina experiences a variety of climate conditions year-round. It’s generally warmest on the coast and coolest in the higher-elevation inland areas. Summers tend to be mild and wet, with the exception of the subtropical southeastern corner of the state. Snowstorms and blizzards are uncommon but do occasionally happen. But just how big was the biggest blizzard to ever hit North Carolina?

The Carolina Crusher

Before we talk about the biggest blizzard to ever hit North Carolina, let’s talk about how blizzards are measured. One metric is the amount of snow that falls (in inches), another is duration, and yet another is the relative severity of the storm in terms of property damage and danger to humans. Because there are so many different ways to measure blizzards, there are also many ways to determine which blizzard is the largest. Here, we’ll go by the amount of snow (in inches) that fell in the briefest period of time.

Using that metric, the biggest blizzard to ever hit North Carolina is, without question, the Carolina Crusher of 2000. This snowstorm hit North Carolina on January 25, 2000, and dumped up to 24 inches of snow in just 24 hours. The total snowfall in the Raleigh-Durham area was 30 inches! For a state that doesn’t get frequent snowstorms, that’s pretty significant. This incredible weather event is also known as the Great Blizzard of 2000. It was caused when a nor’easter storm from the south met cold air from the north, leading to most of eastern North Carolina seeing snow.

North Carolina blizzard

The biggest blizzard to ever hit North Carolina was the Carolina Crusher of 2000 which dumped close to 24 inches of snow in just 24 hours.

©Charles Collard/Shutterstock.com

Runners-Up: Other Large North Carolina Blizzards

The Carolina Crusher was an extremely rare event for North Carolina. But it isn’t the only freak snowstorm to blanket the state. Let’s check out four more of the largest, most newsworthy blizzards to ever hit the Tarheel State.

1. The 1927 Blizzard

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), one of the biggest blizzards to ever hit North Carolina occurred in 1927. This snowstorm, which took place between February 27 and March 3, dumped more than 20 inches of snow in parts of central North Carolina. Reportedly, it covered most of the state with at least a few inches of snow.

2. The 1980 Blizzard

Another one of the biggest blizzards to ever hit North Carolina struck in 1980. The snowstorm of March 1, 1980, is what you get when you combine cold temperatures, lots of snow, and windy conditions. This storm blanketed the entire state, with some areas seeing 22-24 inches of snowfall. Additionally, winds up to 40-50 mph were recorded throughout the state. 

3. The 1993 Blizzard

Sometimes called “the storm of the century,” North Carolina’s 1993 blizzard was a doozy. Between March 12-15, a large nor’easter struck the western half of the state. While parts of central North Carolina received up to eight inches of snow, the higher elevation zones in the west received up to 24 inches of snowfall. 

This historic storm (also known as the Great Blizzard of ‘93, the ‘93 Superstorm, or the 1993 Storm of the Century) occurred later in the year than any of North Carolina’s large blizzards. The city of Asheville reported an overnight snowfall of around 20 inches. But North Carolina wasn’t alone in weathering this blizzard; the 1993 storm impacted just about the entire East Coast.

Storm of the Century also hit North Carolina with 20 inches of snow

The Storm of the Century, which hit the entire East Coast, resulted in parts of North Carolina receiving an overnight snowfall of around 20 inches.

©justoomm/Shutterstock.com

4. The 1996 Blizzard

In 1996, one of the biggest blizzards to ever hit North Carolina struck most of the state. Snowfall was heaviest in the mountains to the west — totaling up to 24 inches of snow. The nor’easter (all these nor’easters!) struck eastern and north central North Carolina, stretching almost all the way to the coast. To the north, Virginia had it even worse, with many parts of the state receiving over two feet of snow. It took three days for this nor’easter to wear itself out, from January 6-9.

Asheville North Carolina mountain region under snow

Nor’easters like the blizzard of 1996 can leave North Carolina mountain areas covered in two feet of snow.

©Yiwenz/Shutterstock.com

Conclusion

North Carolina doesn’t get much snow, so when it gets a significant amount (over a couple of inches), it’s a pretty big deal. But every single one of the biggest blizzards to ever hit North Carolina would be a big deal for any state. Nor’easters scored high on our list, and we discovered that the mountains in the westernmost part of the state generally get the most snow. We also found that snowstorms in North Carolina can be accompanied by high winds and very low temperatures. Altogether, North Carolina generally has mild weather, but every once in a while, a real doozy of a blizzard gets conjured up.

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About the Author

Brandi is a professional writer by day and a fiction writer by night. Her nonfiction work focuses on animals, nature, and conservation. She holds degrees in English and Anthropology, and spends her free time writing horror, scifi, and fantasy stories.

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