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Think Monday's storm was big? Northern Ohio is no stranger to heavy snow

Posted at 10:31 PM, Jan 20, 2022

CANTON, Ohio — Weather observer C. F. Stokey called the storm the “greatest snowstorm ever known” as he peered outside his Canton home on April 21, 1901.

For the last two days, he had watched the heavy wet snow pile up around him.

When it was all said and done, he measured a total of 42 inches of snow, some of it blown into 10-foot drifts. An incredible amount by any standards!

Stokey was a voluntary weather observer during one of the heaviest snowfall events in Ohio history: April 19 thru April 21, 1901. Thirty-seven inches in Warren, 24 inches in Akron, and closer to 12 inches in Cleveland.

His handwritten notes are some of the only mentions we have of this monster storm from so long ago.

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After digging out from this past Monday's snowstorm, many are wondering if this latest attack from Mother Nature was one for the record books. The short answer is: no.

That's not to say our latest winter wallop wasn't impressive.

It certainly was a doozy for many.

Snow totals ranged from two to four inches in Sandusky and Mansfield, to as much as 28 inches in Geauga and Ashtabula counties.

Cleveland Hopkins measured a total of 9.2 inches from Sunday night through Monday.

The Akron/Canton Airport shoveled out 13.6 inches.

While snowfall records aren't super detailed, northern Ohio’s history is filled with big snow events. Many even greater than the storm that visited your driveway this past week.

With a little digging, we can look back at some significant storms that were even bigger than this week’s snowmageddon.

Daily and monthly weather records are chronicled for the bigger cities across the state.

When it comes to snow, the easiest numbers to find are the daily snowfall records: How much snow fell from midnight to midnight during any given day.

These measurements go all the way back to the late 1800s for Cleveland.

But not nearly as far back for Akron, Canton, and Mansfield. Let’s start there…

Top 10 DAILY Snowfall Amounts for Cleveland:
1) January 10, 1913 = 17.4"
2) February 23. 1993 = 13.6" (The Blizzard of '93!)
3) February 9, 1896 = 13.0"
4) November 25, 1950 = 12.8" (The Great Thanksgiving Day Storm)
5) December 19, 1995 = 12.0"
6) February 4, 2009 = 10.9"
7) March 8, 2008 = 10.8"
8) March 1, 1954 = 10.8"
9) March 3, 1960 = 10.7"
10) February 13, 2007 = 10.4"
*  January 20, 1978 = 10.4" (NOT the Blizzard of '78!)

For the Akron & Canton Area, on April 4, 1987, 19.7 inches of snow piled up on city streets in a single day.

The snow actually started late on April 3.

On December 1, 1974, snowfall measured 16.4 inches in 24 hours. But, on December 2, another 7.9 inches accumulated for a storm total of 24.3 inches in less than 48 hours.

Aside from the April 1901 storm mentioned at the top of this article, these are a couple of notable BIG snow totals for Summit & Stark Counties.

Those are all daily snowfall records.

But when we look a little closer, we see most of these daily snow records are attached to two or more days of accumulating snows.

This gives us an impressive list of Top 10 Snow EVENTS for Cleveland and Northern Ohio:
1.) February 21-24, 1993 = 24" (The Blizzard of '93 plus Lake Effect Squalls)
2.) November 9-11, 1913 = 22.2" (The Great Lakes Hurricane)
3.) February 28-March 4, 1954 = 20.8" (2 Storms in 4 Days Combined with 50 mph winds!!)
4.) November 24-26, 1950 = 20.6 (The Great Thanksgiving Snow Storm)
5.) December 1-2, 1974 = 17.8" (Identical Storm Track to 1/17/22 Storm!)
6.) February 12-14, 2007 = 17" (The Valentine’s Day Blizzard)
7.) November 9-12, 1996 = 16.8" (Record Lake-effect Squalls including Ohio Record Snowfall: 66" Hambden, OH)
8.) March 30-31, 1987 = 16.5"  
9.) February 27-29, 1984 = 16.5
10.) December 22-23, 2004 = 15.5" (It was a very white Christmas that year!!) 

11) December 5-14, 1962 = 26" in Cleveland (Never-ending Squalls = On and off snow for 10 days, 45" snow depth in Ashtabula!)

By no means is this a comprehensive list.

There are likely several other snowstorms like the recent January 17, 2022, buried in the archives.

Remember, too, these are events based on snow amounts. 

Other monster winter storms, which brought the area lesser snow amounts, had much bigger impacts due to high winds and extreme cold.

For instance, the Blizzard of '77 only dumped 4.6" of snow on Cleveland on January 28. But there were already six to 12 inches of snow on the ground from previous snows. 40 to 60 mph winds whipped that snow up into drifts to six feet high.

Temperatures during that storm plummeted to 10 degrees below zero for two days.

Wind chills dropped to minus 50 degrees

The Blizzard of 1978 is also not on the list of major snow events. But, it's one of northern Ohio's most devastating winter storms.

The storm itself dropped about eight inches of snow in Cleveland. But the 70+ mph winds and dangerous cold shut down northern Ohio and parts of surrounding states for five straight days.

Heavy snow events are the winter norm for the hearty souls of northern Ohio.

The latest one sure did sting! But, looking back through history, in Greater Cleveland, storms with snowfall amounts of eight inches or greater are more common than you think.

Snowstorm accumulation totals of:

  • eight inches or more = Once every 2-3 years.
  • 10 inches or more = Once every 4-5 years.
  • 12 inches or more = Once every 7 years.
  • 14 inches or more = Once every 10 years.
  • 16 inches or more = Once every 16 years.
  • 20 inches or more = Once every 31 years.

So, just remember: Heavy snow happens. You best get ready for the next one. When you shovel...lift with your legs, not your back! Stay warm my friends. 

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