In mid-March 1993 a powerful depression worked its way up the eastern seaboard of the USA. It sparked tornadoes in the Florida panhandle and record precipitation in many Atlantic states. Ferocious winds and bitingly low temperatures caused havoc, leading this freak weather occurrence to be dubbed the ‘Storm of the Century’.
On March 12 a deep depression had formed in the Gulf of Mexico. As the storm moved northwards towards New Orleans the pressure dropped rapidly, producing hurricane-force winds in Florida and Cuba that spawned huge waves causing coastal flooding. The sheer scale of the storm was revealed when it hit Georgia. Laden with moisture, it dumped record-breaking rainfall to the south and east and as it moved inland over cold terrain this turned to snow. Transport was virtually shut down, interstate highways were closed, and at one point all the airports in the eastern United States lay idle.
By March 13 satellite imagery showed the full extent of the storm. Like a giant, billowing tornado, it now stretched the whole way up the coast of North America as far as Nova Scotia. Blizzard warnings were issued for many locations, and upstate New York was particularly hard hit as snow turned to icy rain, making conditions even more treacherous. Parts of New Jersey experienced 90 cm (3 ft) of snow in a single day. Roofs collapsed under the weight of snow, economic activity slowed to a virtual halt, and the most vulnerable were cut off from help.
In all, 26 states of America were affected by the storm as well as Cuba and much of eastern Canada. By March 15 the storm had begun to abate, leaving many millions of people to mop up and count the cost.
When: March 12-15 1993
Where: Cuba and the East coast of North America
Death toll: 100
You should know: The storm was a triumph for weather forecasters, who had predicted its path and intensity several days in advance. This information was vital to at least 100 million people who were in its path, allowing them to hunker down in the warmth and security of their homes.