Skip to main content

Main Area

Main

Most destructive winter storms of the decade

1/
LadyDragonflyCC // Flickr

Most destructive winter storms of the decade

Winter storms famously pummel the northern U.S. each year, but every state has experienced its share of severe winter weather. Freezing rainstorms have glazed Texas cities in ice, snowdrifts have buried cars in New Mexico, and thundersnow storms have knocked out power nationwide.

For regions acclimated to harsh winters and those that aren't, cold weather storms can disrupt daily life and cause extensive damage. This is because it's challenging to forecast snow. The temperature line between snow and rain is razor-thin, and the different types of snow to contend with—from light and powdery to wet and heavy—complicate predictions and preparations.

Even when storms are accurately predicted, only so much can be done to prepare for the impending weight of snow on roofs and power lines. Add high winds and low visibility, and snowstorms become full-blown blizzards, capable of shutting down major roads and collapsing buildings.

Blizzards are just as treacherous as ice storms. Freezing rain falls disguised as normal rain—but when a layer of cold air above the ground super-cools water droplets, rain forms ice over the surface and can quickly accumulate and add weight over the roads, roofs, trees, and power lines they fall on. Such storms can create widespread power outages that take weeks to restore.

To establish the most destructive winter storms of the decade, Stacker consulted the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Storm Events database from 2010 up to September 2019. The storms were ranked by the highest dollar value of property damage across the states affected.

Stacker's list includes ice storms, blizzards, frosts, freezes, heavy snow, and sleet. Although the database is comprehensive, damage reports often come from local sources and may, therefore, be incomplete.

Read on to learn where and how winter storms caused the most damage in the past decade.

You may also like: 15 wild weather phenomena

2/
Pixabay

#25. Nov. 27-29, 2015

- Dates where damage occurred: Nov. 27-29, 2015
- Event type: Ice Storm
- Total damage: $11.3 million
- States affected heaviest: Oklahoma, Kansas

A swirling mass of moist air from the Gulf of Mexico met a mass of cold air to create this four-day ice storm. Ice coated everything from trees to cars to roads; in parts of central Kansas, a layer of ice nearly an inch thick covered the ground. The storm damaged trees and power lines, leading to widespread power outages across both Kansas and Oklahoma before dissipating. At least 15 people died from the effects of the storm.

3/
Pixabay

#24. April 29, 2012

- Dates where damage occurred: April 29, 2012
- Event type: Extreme Cold-Wind Chill
- Total damage: $13 million
- States affected heaviest: Ohio

No snow or ice fell during this "storm," but a devastating cold spell enveloped the Ohio Valley on April 29, 2012. This late spring freeze destroyed nearly 80% of the grape crop and damaged fruit trees, causing millions of dollars in damages. This cold spell interrupted what had been a warmer-than-average month for the upper Midwest.

4/
Stephen Maturan // Getty Images

#23. April 11, 2019

- Dates where damage occurred: April 11, 2019
- Event type: Blizzard
- Total damage: $13.44 million
- States affected heaviest: Minnesota

This storm system formed in eastern Colorado, moving across the Plains before becoming a blizzard over the southern portions of South Dakota and Minnesota. This storm brought with it nearly every form of precipitation—rain, ice, sleet, hail, and snow—and dust blowing in from Oklahoma turned some of it brownish. Snow fell at rates over an inch per hour in Minnesota and South Dakota, which, combined with winds exceeding 40 miles per hour, created blizzard conditions. Thundersnow occurred in some areas of the region, and the blizzard cut power to almost 77,000 people.

5/
Keith Ballard // www.minot.af.mil

#22. Jan. 24-25, 2010

- Dates where damage occurred: Jan. 24-25, 2010
- Event type: Blizzard
- Total damage: $16.4 million
- States affected heaviest: North Dakota

This blizzard moved eastward across North Dakota, covering the state in snow and knocking out power for at least 10,000 people. In some places, wind gusts downed power lines. After dumping between six and 10 inches of snow on North Dakota, the storm moved toward the Great Lakes region.

6/
Leandra Hernandez // www.altus.af.mil

#21. Jan. 28-29, 2010

- Dates where damage occurred: Jan. 28-29, 2010
- Event type: Ice Storm
- Total damage: $18 million
- States affected heaviest: Oklahoma, Texas

A day before the ice storm began, the region had enjoyed abnormally warm January temperatures in the mid-60s. However, a cold front, the zone that marks where a cold air mass replaces a warmer one, advanced southward, bringing freezing temperatures that night. By the time the storm moved eastward and out of the region, ice covered vast swaths of northern Texas and southern Oklahoma.

You may also like: How weather has shaped human history

7/
Kayana Szymczak // Getty Images

#20. Oct. 29-30, 2011

- Dates where damage occurred: Oct. 29- 30, 2011
- Event type: Heavy Snow
- Total D\damage: $19 million
- States affected heaviest: Connecticut, Massachusetts

The storm system formed off the coast of North Carolina traveled north, meeting cold air when it reached New England and resulting in a heavy snowstorm. Though New England is used to intense snow, this early Nor'easter wrought so much damage that cities rescheduled Halloween trick-or-treating, colleges extended early application deadlines, cell service suffered, and airports diverted flights. The storm dumped 31 inches of snow over southern New Hampshire and parts of Massachusetts, brought minor to moderate flooding along the Massachusetts coast, and left hundreds of thousands without power.

8/
Matthew Stockman // Getty Images

#19. Dec. 10-11, 2010

- Dates where damage occurred: Dec. 10-11, 2010
- Event type: Winter Storm
- Total damage: $19.3 million
- States affected heaviest: Minnesota, Ohio

After forming in Iowa and moving north, this winter storm brought between one and two feet of snow to Minnesota's Twin Cities region, the worst snowstorm in nearly 20 years. The storm caused road closures, which even applied to plows due to the snowfall intensity, and shut down the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Enough snow fell on Minneapolis's Metrodome to deflate the dome, collapsing the Teflon roof. Southern Minnesota saw blizzard conditions, with winds of up to 50 miles per hour.

9/
Oregon Dept. of Transportation // Flickr

#18. Feb. 24-25, 2019

- Dates where damage occurred: Feb. 24-25, 2019
- Event type: Heavy Snow
- Total damage: $19.45 million
- States affected heaviest: Oregon, Michigan

A storm system began to form in Washington state but moved south and stalled over Oregon to bring over 24 hours of snowfall. An additional storm system coupled with moisture from the Pacific continued to feed the storm, eventually pushing it eastward. The storm grew increasingly intense as it approached Michigan, generating wind gusts of more than 60 miles per hour, which created whiteout conditions in the northern part of the state.

10/
Davis Turner // Getty Images

#17. March 6-7, 2014

- Dates where damage occurred: March 6-7, 2014
- Event type: Ice Storm
- Total damage: $20.1 million
- States affected heaviest: North Carolina

An early March ice storm downed trees and power lines in central North Carolina, leaving over 400,000 people without power. While the more northern counties received a few inches of snow, counties to the south were covered in half an inch of ice.

11/
Jeff Swensen // Getty Images

#16. Oct. 29-30, 2012

- Dates where damage occurred: Oct. 29-30, 2012
- Event type: Heavy Snow
- Total damage: $23.5 million
- States affected heaviest: West Virginia

Hurricane Sandy might be best remembered for heavy rainfall and flooding along the eastern U.S. coast, but in the mountains of West Virginia, a cold front bringing polar air with it met Sandy to produce snow and blizzard conditions. Higher elevations had the most significant snow accumulations, with Kumbrabow State Forest—located between 3,000 and 3,930 feet above sea level—reporting 38 inches of snow. The capital city, Charleston—just 650 feet above sea level—only saw two inches of snow accumulation. After about a day of snow, the system moved north into Pennsylvania.

You may also like: Average temperature change in every state over the past 100 years

12/
David Ryder // Getty Images

#15. Feb. 5-7, 2019

- Dates where damage occurred: Feb. 5-7, 2019
- Event type: Ice Storm
- Total damage: $27.2 million
- States affected heaviest: Michigan, Washington, California

Affecting an area from the West Coast to the Great Lakes region, this ice storm caused $27.2 million in damages. A layer of nearly an inch-thick coated central lower Michigan. Trees and power lines collapsed under the weight of ice accumulation, cutting off about 150,000 people from power.

13/
Andrew Kelly // Getty Images

#14. Feb. 8-9, 2013

- Dates where damage occurred: Feb. 8-9, 2013
- Event type: Blizzard
- Total damage: $32 million
- States affected heaviest: New York

A storm began to form in the Gulf of Mexico Feb. 7, moving up to the North Carolina coast by the next morning. Between Feb. 8-9, the system created blizzard conditions on Long Island and brought over 20 inches of snow to parts of Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. Some areas received as much as 40 inches of snow before the storm tracked northeast, passing Cape Cod. The storm knocked out power for over 650,000 customers.

14/
Chris Erickson // archive.defense.gov

#13. April 2, 2010

- Dates where damage occurred: April 2, 2010
- Event type: Winter Storm
- Total damage: $34 million
- States affected heaviest: North Dakota

North Dakota kicked off its warmest April on record (according to data from 1881 to 2010) with a winter storm. What started as rain in the upper Mississippi Valley turned into thunderstorms that cooled the atmosphere above North Dakota, bringing sleet and six to 12 inches of snow to a couple of southern counties. As the heavy, wet snow piled onto power lines, thousands collapsed, and hundreds of high voltage transmission towers fell, leaving thousands in the dark.

15/
Hanna Foslein // Getty Images

#12. April 14-15, 2018

- Dates where damage occurred: April 14-15, 2018
- Event type: Winter Storm
- Total damage: $45 million
- States affected heaviest: Michigan, Minnesota

Starting out as an atmospheric disturbance, an area of swirling air and clouds ready to rain or snow, over the Pacific Northwest, it crossed the Rockies before becoming a winter storm. It was the heaviest recorded April snowstorm in Minnesota's twin cities region, bringing 15.8 inches of snow. Some parts of Michigan and Minnesota reported over 2 feet of snow. In Michigan alone, about half a million customers lost electricity. By April 15, the storm had tracked east toward New York.

16/
Tom Pennington // Getty Images

#11. Feb. 11-12, 2010

- Dates where damage occurred: Feb. 11-12, 2010
- Event type: Heavy Snow
- Total damage: $48.9 million
- States affected heaviest: Texas, Mississippi

2010 was a snowy year for Texas and the U.S. as a whole, with every state, including Hawaii and Florida, recording snow on the ground during the second week of February. From Feb. 11-12, around a foot of snow fell in and around the Dallas-Fort Worth area of Texas, which usually receives just a few inches of snow, if any, each year. Fallen trees and tree limbs caused most of the damage and power outages, but a few roofs also collapsed under the weight of snow. Over half a million lost power because of the storm, and in some cases, electricity wasn't restored for four days.

You may also like: States with the most hailstorms

17/
LadyDragonfly // Flickr

#10. Dec. 21-22, 2013

- Dates where damage occurred: Dec. 21-22, 2013
- Event type: Ice Storm
- Total damage: $49 million
- States affected heaviest: Michigan, Vermont, New York

The 2013-2014 winter season began with an ice storm affecting the southern Plains, the Midwest, and the Northeast U.S., hitting Michigan particularly hard. Freezing rain glazed the state with a 0.75-inch layer of ice, weighing down trees and power lines and knocking out power for a couple hundred thousand customers. The storm then continued east, affecting New York, where 25,000 people lost power, and Vermont, where at least 10,000 lost power.

18/
Scott Olson // Getty Images

#9. Feb. 1, 2011

- Dates where damage occurred: Feb. 1, 2011
- Event type: Blizzard
- Total damage: $55.91 million
- States affected heaviest: Oklahoma, Texas, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Arizona

The Groundhog Day Blizzard of 2011 stretched thousands of miles and moved over over 20 states from New Mexico to Massachusetts. Oklahoma saw the first signs of the storm on Jan. 31, as freezing rain and sleet began to fall, soon giving way to snow. After blanketing northeastern Texas and parts of Missouri and Oklahoma in snow, the storm tracked toward Arkansas and moved north, toward the southern Great Lakes, and eventually east toward New England. An inch of ice-coated parts of the Ohio River Valley after the storm, and nearly 2 feet of snow buried Chicago. In Chicago, blizzard conditions shut down roads, airports, schools, and businesses, and stranded hundreds in their cars on major roads. In Connecticut and Massachusetts, several buildings collapsed under the weight of snow.

19/
Chris Somodevilla // Getty Images

#8. Feb. 20-21, 2015

- Dates where damage occurred: Feb. 20-21, 2015
- Event type: Winter Storm
- Total damage: $62 million
- States affected heaviest: Tennessee

Snow began to fall over middle Tennessee during the afternoon of Feb. 20, but the light snowflakes turned to sleet and freezing rain overnight. This storm came just days after two other winter storms, adding more ice to what already covered trees and power lines. Throughout the storm, thousands of trees and power poles fell on homes, businesses, and roads. Some middle Tennessee residents had to wait a month for utilities to restore power.

20/
Ronald Martinez // Getty Images

#7. Dec. 5-6, 2013

- Dates where damage occurred: Dec. 5-6, 2013
- Event type: Ice Storm
- Total damage: $70 million
- States affected heaviest: Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma

This ice event formed from a cold front descending on Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas, and a storm system moved in from the Rockies. Up to half a foot of snow accumulated in northern Texas and southern Oklahoma, while some areas saw three inches of sleet. The downed trees and power poles knocked out electricity for 275,000 customers in North Texas, and most schools closed for several days. This winter storm added a new term to the meteorological lexicon, cobblestone ice, to describe the compacted sand, ice, and sleet that froze together on highways, forming a dangerous cobblestone-like roadway.

21/
Matthew Cavanaugh // Getty Images

#6. Dec. 25-26, 2012

- Dates where damage occurred: Dec. 25-26, 2012
- Event type: Winter Storm
- Total damage: $119.6 million
- States affected heaviest: Arkansas, Washington, Iowa

In a rare event for Arkansas, a snowstorm moved over the state on Christmas day, bringing a short bout of freezing rain and then thundersnow. The thundersnow led to over a foot of accumulation in some areas, mainly in central and northeastern Arkansas. After this storm, four recording sites in Arkansas set records for most accumulated snow in one day, and 26 sites set records for monthly snowfall. In Little Rock alone, 70% of customers lost power, and the Public Works Department ended up cleaning over 22,000 tons of debris.

You may also like: 10 ways nature and animals forecast the weather

22/
Paul J. Richards // Getty Images

#5. Feb. 5-6, 2010

- Dates where damage occurred: Feb. 6, 2010
- Event type: Blizzard
- Total damage: $128.8 million
- States affected heaviest: New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland

This storm began forming in Mexico Feb. 4 but moved northeast to blanket southern New Jersey in snow on Feb. 6. Seven cities and towns saw at least two feet of snow, while parts of southern New Jersey and Philadelphia received nearly 30 inches. Washington Dulles International Airport reported 32.4 inches of snow, and Elkridge, Md. recorded 38.3 inches. In New Jersey alone, about 100,000 homes and businesses lost electricity, mostly in New Jersey's Cape May and Atlantic counties, and some remained without power until Feb. 17, nearly two weeks after the storm. This storm covered roughly 60% of the U.S. and resulted in an estimated 41 fatalities.

23/
Robert Couse-Baker // Flickr

#4. Jan. 12-16, 2013

- Dates where damage occurred: Jan. 12-16, 2013
- Event type: Frost- Freeze
- Total damage: $158 million
- States affected heaviest: Arizona, California, Nevada

A four-day freeze enveloped the American Southwest, thanks to a cold area of low pressure in the atmosphere over the desert. The freeze broke a record for the city of Phoenix, which hadn't experienced such a cold streak since 1978. The cold damaged crops, which resulted in significant losses and increased produce prices, as Arizona and California provide the U.S. with 90% of its winter lettuce.

24/
David Greedy // Getty Images

#3. April 9-11, 2013

- Dates where damage occurred: April 9- 11, 2013
- Event type: Winter Storm
- Total damage: $206 million
- States affected heaviest: South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa

South Dakota, Minnesota, and Iowa endured two days of winter precipitation, first accumulating a layer of ice, then snow (up to 30 inches in South Dakota), and finally sleet. The storm traveled across the high plains and then began to weaken as it moved over the upper Midwest. The precipitation and wind gusts reached up to 60 miles per hour and brought down trees and power lines, blocking roads and damaging buildings.

25/
DAVID MCNEW // Getty Images

#2. Jan. 18-19, 2017

- Dates where damage occurred: Jan. 18-19, 2017
- Event type: Heavy Snow
- Total damage: $254.2 million
- States affected heaviest: Oregon, Idaho, Oklahoma, Texas

Winter Storm Jupiter swept across the country from Jan. 11-19. It started off by dumping 12 feet of snow on the Sierra Nevada Mountains and covering Portland, Ore., in over a foot of snow in one day—the biggest single-day snowstorm for the city in two decades. By the end of Jan. 15, portions of Texas and Oklahoma were left without power after severe icing, and the storm had moved on to the Midwest, bringing sleet and freezing rain. Before dissipating, the storm coated Fairfield, N.Y. in half an inch of ice and brought about half a foot of snow to other parts of New York and northern New England.

26/
U.S. Dept. of Defense // Flickr

#1. Dec. 26-27, 2015

- Dates where damage occurred: Dec. 26-27, 2015
- Event type: Blizzard
- Total damage: $434.9 million
- States affected heaviest: New Mexico, Texas

While New Mexico mountaintops frequently see over 100 inches of snow each year, the desert and plains usually only see a couple of inches. A 2015 storm the day after Christmas tested the state's winter preparedness, sweeping east across the Mexico border. A 290-mile stretch of Interstate 40, spanning from Albuquerque in New Mexico to Amarillo in Texas, shut down for a day and a half because of the blizzard. In eastern New Mexico, the storm left several dozen drivers stranded in their cars, trapped in snowdrifts between six and 10 feet deep. Trees and power lines fell under the weight of the snow, knocking out power for over 14,000, and tens of thousands of livestock died during the storm.

You may also like: 20 safety preparations for the weather this summer

2018 All rights reserved.