Meteorological events that happened on January 28th:
The Columbia River froze in Oregon. Pedestrian traffic and sleighs were able to cross from Vancouver, WA to Portland, OR on the frozen river.
Snowflakes "as large as milk pans" fell across several square miles of Montana. The flakes, which were measured at 15 inches across and 18 inches thick, hold the unofficial size record.
Exactly 150 years after the "Washington and Jefferson Storm" which dropped 3 feet of snow on the region came, the deepest snow of this century to the greater Washington and Baltimore region. The snow came on the heels of a cold spell. High temperatures did not climb above freezing from the 24 through the 28th and the low temperature dipped to 11° on the 26th. Snow began at 4:30 p.m. on the 27th and continued until just past midnight on the morning of the 29th. A record 21 inches fell in a 24-hour period on the 28th. The heavy band of snow stretched from Richmond, VA north to Baltimore, MD. Washington, D.C. reported 28 inches, Baltimore, MD: 25 inches and Richmond, VA: 19 inches. Strong north to northeast winds accompanied the storm drifting snow into deep banks. Roads were blocked. Main highways were the first to open in two to four days. On the evening of the 28th, the weight of the snow became too much for the Knickerbocker Theater on 18th Street and Columbia in northwest Washington, D.C. The horrible scene was described in the Washington Post on January 29th and 30th and was reprinted in the Post on January 19, 1996 following another big snow. They described it as "the greatest disaster in Washington's History". The theater was cramped with an estimated 900 moviegoers. The roof of the theater collapsed taking the balcony down with it and crushing 98 people below to death and injuring another 158. People were pulled from the rubble for hours and bodies were pulled out for days. A small boy squeezed into small holes and between crumbled cement slabs to give those injured and trapped pain pills. From this disaster, the storm is known historically as the "Knickerbocker Storm"
New Hampshire's coldest temperature ever was recorded as Pittsburg dropped to -46°. This record was broken on 1/31/1934.
The Paisley Storm generated wind gusts of 102 mph at Paisley, England. 11 people were killed and over 100 injured, with widespread damage throughout the Clyde Valley area.
Amazing photographs showed thick ice on the Mississippi River at the unlikeliest of locations; Vicksburg, MS as the Deep South was in the throes of an intense cold wave.
An ice Storm from Arkansas to South Carolina caused $20 million dollars damage and resulted in 30 fatalities.
The worst ice storm in U.S. History struck from Texas to West Virginia through February 1st, causing $100 million in damage and 25 fatalities. Tennessee was one of the hardest-hit states, with roads remaining impassable up to 10 days after the event.
The low of -34° at Cynthiana, KY equaled the state record established just four days earlier at Bonnieville. This record was broken 1/19/1994.
Tornadoes touched down in Polk, Orange, Osceola, and Brevard Counties in Central Florida. In Orlando, hundreds were left homeless and 16 people were injured by a tornado crossing the southwest side of the city. Another tornado ripped off the Beacon Tower at the Titusville Airport and damaged many signs. A tornado near Dade City injured a man in a mobile home. Another Tornado struck the Ixora Park area of Northwest Osceola County damaging 300 homes injuring seven people.
The Great Buffalo Blizzard started like many other snow squalls from Lake Erie, but during this storm, strong northwest winds lifted up the snow piled on frozen Lake Erie and blasted the city with it. As winds strengthened from the south ahead of a sharp cold front, about 2 inches of new powder had accumulated on top of the 37 inch snowpack and drifts from previous storms dating back to Christmas. City streets were already clogged so badly that the National Guard was called in even before anyone knew about the coming blizzard. During the morning the temperature rose rapidly from 5° at midnight to 26° at 11am. At 11:35am, the front passed Buffalo Airport. In a short time the visibility dropped from three-quarters of a mile to zero and the wind shifted and increased from south at 16 mph to southwest at 29 mph with gusts to 49 mph. The temperature fell 26° to 0° in just over four hours. The blizzard reached its worst severity during the late afternoon as winds at the airport averaged 46 mph gusting to 69 mph. Gusts of 75 mph were recorded at Niagara Falls airport. An average speed of 46 mph and temperature of -1° resulted in a wind chill factor of -55° to -60° which contributed to the deaths of 29 people, many found frozen in their half-buried cars during the four day ordeal. Blizzard or near blizzard conditions prevailed on and off for the next three days ending about midday February 1st. Daily peak gusts of 51, 52, 58, and 46 mph were recorded on the 29th through the 1st. When the sun finally came out for good on the first of February, its cold light revealed a scene of incredible desolation in the Buffalo area and to a slightly lesser degree in much of the seven western county area. The city as well as most other communities banned traffic for several days. The army was called in from Fort Bragg, NC to augment the number of National Guard troops which had been called before the storm. Some of the eastern suburbs of Buffalo, particularly Lancaster, were buried, to the roof in some cases. President Carter declared seven western counties and two eastern Lake Ontario counties a federal disaster area, the first time ever for a snowstorm in the U.S. The snow at Buffalo airport totaled about 12 inches from January 28th to February 1st but much of this is believed to be from existing snow lying on the frozen surface of Lake Erie being blown into the Buffalo area.
The same strong cold front moved across the Mid-Atlantic region during late afternoon and early evening accompanied by strong winds, snow squalls and plunging temperatures. Wind gusts reached over 60 mph and, combined with snow squalls, brought near blizzard conditions. Allentown, PA reported a wind gust of 67 mph, Philadelphia and Pottstown, PA to 60 mph, and Reading, PA hit 58 mph, where 3 airplanes were flipped over. Temperatures near 40 degrees ahead of the front dropped as much as 15 to 20 degrees in 1 hour, 25 to 30 degrees in 2 hours, and up to 40 degrees in 5 hours.
Beginning the previous day through this date, strong northwest winds gusting to 55 mph combined with sub-zero temperatures and one to two inches of snow to bring blizzard conditions to northern and eastern Iowa. Travel was halted as most roads and highways were blocked with drifts to six feet or more. Wind chill factors of -60° to -90° were common with many cases of frost bite reported. There were also numerous reports of broken water lines due to freezing.
The wind-chill temperature dropped to -78° at Minneapolis, MN during the morning, perhaps the lowest on record in that city. The blizzard of January 1977, in and around Buffalo, NY, was so severe that winds up to 73 mph broke windows in homes, which were then quickly filled with blowing and drifting snow.
An upper level trough brought chilly, unsettled weather to the West. Las Vegas received 2.4 inches of snow. Big Bear Lake, CA dropped to -18°, a record for the day and their second lowest temperature on record.
The Space Shuttle Challenger exploded at 11:39am EST; 73 seconds after liftoff from the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, FL on an extremely cold morning. Starting in the 20’s, the ground temperature at liftoff was 36°. Morton Thiokol recommended not launching if the liftoff temperature was below 53°. The cold was blamed for causing the O-rings on the Shuttle's external booster to fail, leading to the explosion.
A storm moving out of the Central Rockies into the Northern Plains produced up to a foot of snow in the Colorado Rockies, and wind gusts to 99 mph at both the National Center for Atmospheric Center in Boulder, CO and the Rocky Flats Plant south of Boulder. The top wind gust at the former Stapleton Airport in Denver was 54 mph. Planes were damaged at both the Boulder and Jefferson County Airports. Hangars were also damaged at the Jefferson County Airport. Many windows were broken, signs toppled, trees downed and structural damage occurred. Total insured damage along the Front Range was $10 million dollars making the windstorm the second most costly on record in Colorado up to that time.
Barometric pressure readings of 30.55 inches at Miami, FL, 30.66 inches at Tampa, FL, and 30.72 inches at Apalachicola, FL were all-time record high readings for those locations.
A Siberian air mass continued to grip Alaska and western Canada with extremely dangerous cold and wind chills. Nome, AK tied their all-time record low reading of -54° set the previous day and the temperature at Fairwell, AK dipped to -69°. Deadhorse, AK reported a morning low of -49°, and with a wind chill reading of -114° (old scale) and Pelly Bay, Northwest Territories Canada fell to -60° with a wind chill temperature of -132° (old scale).
Alaskan Locations reporting all-time record low temperatures included: Bethel, AK: -48°, King Salmon, AK: -48° and Kodiak, AK: -16° (broke previous daily record by 18 degrees).
Locations in Alaska reporting daily record lows included: McGrath: -58°-Tied, Barrow: -45°, Homer: -24°, Cold Bay: -7° and St. Paul Island: -7°.
Across the lower 48, a winter storm over Colorado produced up to 15 inches of snow around Denver.
Strong and gusty winds prevailed across the northwestern U.S., and heavy snow continued over the mountains of Washington and Oregon. Mullen, ID received 7 inches of snow, and winds gusted to 65 mph southeast of Burley, ID. Heavy rain soaked coastal sections of western Oregon. Rainfall totals of 1.57 inches at Eugene, OR and 1.20 inches at Portland, OR and were records for the date. Winds in Oregon gusting to 60 mph downed power lines in Umatilla County knocking out power to more than 13,000 homes, just prior to the kick-off of the "Super Bowl" game.
A foot of snow fell at Yosemite Valley, CA pushing the monthly total to 175 inches, a record for any month.
Extreme wind chills developed across central, north central, and northeast South Dakota as well as west central Minnesota as cold arctic air moved in behind an area of low pressure. With temperatures falling well below zero and northwest winds increasing to 20 to 35 mph, wind chills were lowered to -40° to -70° throughout the night into the evening of the 29th. Two to five inches of snow had fallen across the area. The strong northwest winds caused areas of blowing snow significantly reducing visibilities.
A major coastal storm over the Mid-Atlantic was in its second day. Ghent, WV was buried under 42 inches of snow. Flat Top, WV had 35 inches in 24 hours; a new state record. 24 hour snowfall records were set at Beckley, WV with 31 inches and Bluefield, WV with 21.9 inches. Severe beach erosion occurred along the coast. The highest storm tides since the Ash Wednesday storm in March 1962 were experienced along the coasts of Virginia and Delaware. Wind gusts reach 83 mph at Cape Henry, VA, and 78 mph at Wallops Island, VA.
Finland's coldest night occurred as the town of Kittilia dropped to -60.7°.
A major winter storm brought snow and ice to Arkansas which began on the 27th of the month. The storm came after a prolonged period of warmer than normal weather and no measurable snow for almost three years in some areas. It was the heaviest snow in 12 years, with 4 to 8 inches or more common. Parts of southern Arkansas received over a foot of snow.
A winter storm brought 19 inches of snow to Poison Ridge and Big Meadows in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California and up to 6 inches to Tehachapi creating hazardous trouble through Tehachapi Pass along Highway 58. Snow even fell in the Kern County deserts, though only a trace was reported at Edwards Air Force Base and the higher terrain near California City.
A storm over Western Europe killed 17 people: 6 in the United Kingdom, 3 in Germany and 8 in Denmark, Poland and the Baltic States. The storm generated winds up to 120 mph on the top of Ben Nevis, Scotland and blew over Lorries in Scotland. This was the worst storm in more than a decade in the United Kingdom.
On this date through the 31st, a 3-day snowstorm dumped 86 inches of snow at Parish, NY located about 25 miles north of Syracuse.
The temperature plummeted to -49° at Saskatoon, Saskatchewan Canada, their coldest reading in 33 years.
The temperature at Adelaide, Australia soared to 114°, making it the location's hottest day in 70 years.
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