The state of Tennessee is not necessarily known for record amounts of snowfall. Although northeastern Tennessee frequently experiences its share of snowfall during the winter months, winters are generally mild, with average temperatures of 40 degrees. The snow that Tennessee typically sees is often due to its lower temperatures and mountain terrain. Tennessee winters can be quite cold. However, frozen precipitation is unlikely, and cold seasons are much shorter than in other U.S. states.
Since the winter months in Tennessee are much shorter than in other places around the country, most people might not expect to encounter severe snowfall as early as November. Nevertheless, there was a time when blizzard conditions swept across the Volunteer State, leaving people stranded. In fact, the biggest November snowstorm in Tennessee history will blow your mind.
When Was the Biggest November Snowstorm in Tennessee History?
According to the National Weather Service, a record early season snowfall impacted most localities in the Mid State on November 1st and 2nd of 1966. While it’s been nearly 57 years, the 1966 snowstorm resulted in more than a solid foot of snow! The heavy, wet snow totaled approximately three to six inches across southern counties. In northern sections of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberland Plateau area, accumulation reached as high as 12 inches. The city of Cookeville in Putnam County saw an unprecedented November snowfall of 15.5 inches!
Multiple schools across the state were closed due to the snow. Schools dismissed students early in many districts because of hazardous driving conditions on roads, bridges, and overpasses. Several minor traffic accidents were reported, as well as damage to late crops and rooftops. The area saw extensive damage to many trees and shrubs that were still carrying their autumn foliage at the time the storm hit.
What Was the Biggest Snowfall Ever Recorded in Tennessee?
A 2022 scientific study by Climate Control reported that warmer-than-normal winter air is currently impacting many regions around the U.S. However, countless gigantic snowstorms and blizzards have landed all over the world throughout history, and Tennessee is no exception. The most significant snowstorm ever recorded in the state of Tennessee is the famed blizzard of 1993. Between March 13th and 14th of 1993, a threatening snowstorm swept across much of eastern Tennessee, dumping a total of 30 inches of snow on Sevier County.
Other counties around the state that were heavily affected include Johnson County (20 inches), Hamilton County (18.5 inches), and Cumberland County (18 inches). The National Weather Service has tracked powerful snowstorms for over a century. The earliest Tennessee snowstorm of significance was reported on December 8, 1917. That day, Gibson County saw 18 inches of snow grace their area.
When Was the Blizzard of 93 in Tennessee?
As mentioned above, the blizzard of 1993 struck Tennessee between March 13th and 14th. However, that is actually when the snowfalls were measured. The start of the storm moved in one day earlier. It started on March 12, only one week before the official start of spring. The massive eastern blizzard dropped a total of 15 inches of snow all over the Knoxville area within a span of only 24 hours.
What Is the Snowiest Month in Tennessee?
Despite the unusually large snowstorm of 1993 occurring in March, the two snowiest months of the year in Tennessee are typically January and February. According to the National Park Service, most snow storms in the Tennessee Smoky Mountains occur in February, with January coming in as a close second. Of course, this is not to say it can’t snow during any month in Tennessee. In fact, back in 1816, people referred to the year as the year without a summer. Temperatures regularly dipped into the low 40s, chilling the residents of east Tennessee. During that year, snow fell in Tennessee in June, and the months of June, July, and August saw heavy frosts.
When Was the Largest Blizzard Ever Recorded in the U.S.?
Like the blizzard of 93 that tortured the people of East Tennessee, the Great Blizzard of 1888 also occurred in the second week of March. Specifically, from March 11-14. One of the most devastating snow storms in the United States dropped as much as 58 inches of snow! The incredible blizzard heavily affected parts of Rhode Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York. Winds hit up to 45 mph, and subsequent snowdrifts mounded snow to heights over 50 feet!
Reports say that many reported snow drifts reached high enough to blanket three-story buildings. The immense blizzard left people confined to their homes for up to a week, and railways were effectively shut down, as well as emergency services. Interestingly, railways and telegraphs being disabled provided the incentive to move such infrastructure underground, leading to modern developments such as subways.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Anne Kitzman/Shutterstock.com
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