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Have You Ever Wondered About Snowfall Records?

I’ve lived in snow country my entire life and I was rather surprised when I did research to answer a question of what was the greatest amount of snow to fall from one snowstorm?

First, it should be mentioned that the question isn’t quite properly phrased. It should be ‘a snowstorm system’, rather than ‘a snowstorm’. Storms usually come in waves, all generated in a single system. It is a single system, but not a single storm. People might notice this if they are in a snowstorm. The snow can fall heavily for a while, then taper off, then fall heavily again, as different waves move through, all associated with the same system. This is sometimes referred to as a squall line.

Anyway, for the question, several things could be measured; the largest amount of snow in a day from a single system, the most total snow on-the-ground, or the total amount of snow from beginning to end of the storm.

According to the US Weather Service, the largest amount of snow to fall in 24-hours happened at Silver Lake, Colorado, April 14-15, 2017 when 6.3 feet of snow fell. Thompson Pass, Alaska, holds the record for the most snow in a 2-day span. On Dec. 29-30, 1955, 10 feet of snow fell there. Mount Shasta, California, holds the record for the largest snowfall from a single snowstorm system. On Feb. 13-19, 1959, it received 189 inches of snow (15.75 feet). For On-the-ground totals, the record was set on Feb. 14, 1927, on Mount Ibuki in Japan (Honshu Island), with 465.4 inches (~38.75 feet).

People who haven’t experienced large snowfalls often have a hard time visualizing the amount of snow we’re talking about here. For example, although Crater Lake National Park gets a lot of snow each year, it isn’t one of the snowiest places. Yet, I vividly remember being able to step from the second story window out onto the snowbank. The amount of snow registered on Honshu Island in Japan would nearly cover a 4-story building with snow.

In all of this, the water content of the snow can be highly variable. Snow can be wet or dry, largely depending on the temperature when it falls. At Crater Lake, on average, a foot of snow represented an inch of water. This is wet snow and it adds up fast.

On the other hand, where I currently live, our snow tends to be dry. Often, it will snow hard for hours, yet result in only an inch or two of snow. The flakes are usually tiny. We also get pellet snow, which is snow that partly melts on the way down, then freezes into tiny balls. They are literally little pellets of snow and it takes a large number of them to add up to an inch.

  • Have you ever wondered what the largest amount of snow from a single system was?

    • Yes
    • No
    • I can’t even imagine that much snow

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Written by Rex Trulove

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