Blizzard; the Origin and Frequency of the “White-Out”

The word blizzard is common in these parts, and there are even etymologists (those who study where words come from) who tracked the word’s early beginnings.  Many experts examined publications from all over the globe and found the earliest usage of the word was actually in a newspaper in Estherville, Iowa in 1870.  That’s pretty cool, and would make sense; it’s doubtful that it was coined by some sun soaked, beach-going novelist in Florida.

A blizzard has a very strict definition: snow and/or blowing snow reducing visibility to ¼ mile or less for three hours or longer AND sustained winds of 35 mph or greater or frequent gusts to 35 mph or greater.

The High Plains is the region where the criteria are most often observed in winter storms.  2009 was an especially busy year for forecasters and nationally, 177 blizzard warnings were issued.  The busiest area that year was in western North Dakota.  It has been 283 days since any of our regional forecast offices have issued a blizzard warning, and unbelievably, Duluth hasn’t issued once since spring of 2012!  The image below shows the number of days since a blizzard warning has been issued in the respective area.

Regardless, it looks like tomorrow our streak will end with heavy snow and winds 40-50 mph that will lead to very dangerous travel conditions.  If you are one of those people wanting/needing to hit the road tomorrow, please use for the latest road conditions.

If you have been procrastinating on getting ready for the winter weather, the items above are all smart things to have in your vehicle and could end up saving your life if things take a turn for the worst.

Stay safe!

Categories: Weather Blog, Weather Blog-imported, Weather-imported