Saturday, November 04, 2017

Northern Virginia Snow in the 18th and 19th Centuries

      Weather information goes back a long time in Virginia, thanks to record keeping by observers such as George Washington, James Madison and Thomas Jefferson. Snow is the most common form of natural disaster in Northern Virginia.  George Washington recorded that a gigantic snow storm on January 28, 1772 left thirty six inches of snow on the ground in Northern Virginia.  This number is the unofficial record for the area, assuming that Washington’s measurements were accurate.  Washington also reported a late season cold snap, with spits of snow and a hard wind on May 4, 1774.  During the winter of 1783-1784 the Potomac River froze over in November and the ice did not break up until March 15.  The previous year an entire regiment of the Virginia infantry marched across the frozen Rappahannock River

     The great winter events of the 19th century were theGreat Arctic Outbreak of '99” and the “Great Eastern Blizzard of '99”.  On February 11, Quantico recorded a record low of  -20°F.  The blizzard struck on Valentine's Day, dropping thirty four inches on Northern Virginia. The winter of 1898-1899 was so cold throughout the United States that ice flowed down the Mississippi River into the Gulf of Mexico.

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