what happens during a blizzard

What happens during a blizzard? If you recently moved to a place prone to getting hit by snow storms, you will likely have this question.

The truth is that things can quickly change and become worse during a blizzard.

Therefore, you must be prepared to deal with everything. But you can do it better once you know exactly what happens when a blizzard occurs.

Blizzards can lead to strong winds and heavy snowfall, quickly declining visibility affecting travel, power, life, and property. 

Severe Weather Leading to Blizzards

bad weather leading to blizzards

Amid severe weather, many events can occur, including powerful and highly dangerous winds.

In the chilly seasons or winter months, these intense conditions give rise to what is commonly known as a blizzard.

Blizzards have the potential to be deadly, leading to traffic accidents and causing cities to come to a standstill. 

More about a Blizzard

As per National Geographic, a blizzard is a meteorological phenomenon characterized by:

  • Frigid temperatures
  • Wind speeds surpassing 35 miles/hour
  • A substantial volume of snowfall
  • Snow is blown around, dropping visibility to 0.25 mile/h for at least three hours.

The current weather conditions can lead to car accidents, and pedestrians may become disoriented.  

Witnessing Full-Blown Blizzards

witnessing all-out blizzards

Once snowstorms reach these wind speeds, they are categorized as blizzards.

A blizzard is classified as severe if:

  • It reaches speeds of over 45mph (72km/h).
  • It causes visibility to drop to near zero.
  • It drops the temperature to below 10° F (-12° C).

Fierce blizzards can unleash winds as powerful as those in category one or two hurricanes. 

Fact: An Iowa newspaper named a snowfall a "blizzard" in the 1870s, and it became associated with deadly snowstorms in England and the US in the 1880s. 

The Greatest Blizzards Recorded

greatest blizzards ever recorded

Snowstorms do not simply transform into blizzards; specific weather conditions must be met for a blizzard to be officially declared.

However, it has happened numerous times in the past. In fact, some deadly blizzard events have resulted in deaths exceeding 4000. 

Here is a bit more about the greatest blizzard events:

Blizzard EventDurationSnowfallDeaths
Great Blizzard of 18882 daysOver 4 feet400+
The Schoolhouse Blizzard 18881 dayPlains States (TX to SD)235
Iran Blizzard 1972UnknownOver 26 feet4,000

What Happens During a Blizzard?

So many things can go wrong quickly during a blizzard. The wind speed and quickly dropping temperatures are responsible for most of the damage. Here is what you may see happening during a blizzard. 

Blizzards Disrupting Transportation

transportation disruption on blizzards

When a blizzard strikes, it affects numerous individuals, including those still driving on the road.

Blizzards can cause a significant impact as visibility is greatly diminished. Consequently, it could lead to substantial traffic jams lasting hours or even days.

When drivers exceed the speed limit, there is an increased risk of collisions, particularly with other vehicles, due to reduced visibility.

This has the potential to cause severe harm and even fatalities. Moreover, dealing with medical emergencies becomes challenging in the midst of a blizzard. 

Blizzards Causing Adverse Health Effects

adverse health effects caused by blizzards

Being caught in a blizzard without proper protection or preparation can result in various adverse health effects.

This includes:

 Exposing the skin to extreme conditions can cause a complete loss of sensitivity in just a few minutes.

Certain health conditions can impact an individual, necessitating prompt medical attention, which might be hindered by inclement weather.

An Important Consideration

important consideration

Not everyone is fully prepared to take on a blizzard, so it is wise to stay indoors when faced with such extreme weather conditions.

Fact: Blizzard conditions are possible within 12–48 hours, and blizzard warnings are issued if blizzard conditions are expected within 12–18 hours. 

Blizzards Damaging the Infrastructure

it damaging the infrastructure

Blizzards are known for their fierce winds and abundant snowfall in frigid regions, which is why they bring about a series of devastating outcomes.

Blizzards, with their powerful wind speeds surpassing 35 mph, have the ability to:

  • Uproot trees
  • Rip off roofs
  • Damage properties

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), blizzards in the United States are responsible for billions of dollars in annual economic losses. 

Impact on Power Lines

blizzards impact on power lines

These strong gusts have the potential to knock down power lines, resulting in residents being deprived of crucial electricity and heating.

This also increases the vulnerability to hypothermia and other cold-related illnesses.

Communication systems also face the impact, as blizzards disrupt emergency channels, impeding response efforts.

Fact: Blizzards can persist for hours or even days and worsen the hardships faced by affected communities. 

Blizzards Changing Food and Water Supplies

food and water supplies during blizzards

Blizzards significantly impact the availability of food and water, affecting basic sustenance.

When supply chains come to a standstill, and transportation becomes extremely challenging, communities face the daunting task of managing depleting resources. 

A Couple of Examples to Consider

Following the 1993 Superstorm, famously dubbed the “Storm of the Century,” a staggering number of 10 million individuals found themselves without electricity.

This resulted in the affected areas’ scarcity of essential resources like food and water.

Additionally, blizzards resulting in power outages render refrigerators ineffective, leading to the spoilage of stored food.

Similarly, the 2016 Winter Storm Jonas impacted the U.S. East Coast. It resulted in numerous households experiencing a food shortage as they endured days of isolation without access to fresh supplies. 

Blizzards Impacting the Environment

impacting the environment

Blizzards can cause trees to topple and plants to wither.

The destruction of forests leads to the release of excessive carbon dioxide, resulting in an ecological imbalance that affects local plants and wildlife.

The prolonged blizzard periods, with their wet and damp conditions, have the potential to harm the environment by causing damage to plants and trees.

This destruction can impact food sources and disrupt the delicate balance of the local ecosystem.

Fact: The polar vortex has been linked to blizzards because of its ability to drastically reduce temperatures and dramatically increase snowfall. 

Blizzards Affecting Wildlife

blizzards affecting the wildlife animals

Blizzards take a toll on wildlife, causing disruptions in the delicate balance of ecosystems.

The harsh conditions may result in the decline of plants and smaller creatures, causing a food shortage for the wildlife in the area.

Moreover, bigger animals such as deer and elk might face difficulties locating nourishment, compelling them to embark on migrations in pursuit of sustenance or contend with humans for limited resources. 

An Example to Consider

Following a massive snowstorm in 2018, scientists observed a notable decrease in bird populations due to limited access to nourishment. 

An Important Consideration

This disturbance has the potential to set off a chain reaction, affecting the delicate balance between predators and prey and possibly causing imbalances that resonate throughout the entire ecosystem.

The susceptibility of wildlife during blizzards highlights the interdependence of nature and the wide-ranging impacts of severe weather occurrences.

Fact: Despite being violent, blizzards may produce an eerie silence because snowfall absorbs and muffles sound waves. 

More about Subsequent Effects

the subsequent effects of blizzards

Most people are usually concerned about what happens during a blizzard, but it is also important to learn how to deal with subsequent effects.

Okay, so what happens after a blizzard?

Blizzards can potentially increase the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere, resulting in increased rainfall and intense storms throughout the year.

These storms cause water levels to rise and affect plant and animal populations, depending on their severity.

Flooding is highly likely after a blizzard. As the temperature increases and the snow begins to melt, it can melt more quickly than the land can absorb it. 

How Do You Prepare for Things Happening During a Blizzard?

what to prepare for things happening during a blizzard

It is important to prepare for all possibilities in advance to get a good idea of how quickly things can take a nosedive during a blizzard.

Here are a few things you should always bear in mind:

  • Keep your emergency medicine bag ready.
  • Remember to keep enough water and food in stock.
  • Keep an eye on the latest winter storm warnings.
  • Never ignore any signs of frostbite.
  • Watch out for any signs and symptoms of hypothermia.
  • Prepare your car for winter weather emergencies.
  • Get ready to deal with a power outage.
  • Practice care when clearing snow during and after a storm.


What happens during a blizzard? You witness nature’s fury with the wind speeds rising and temperatures dropping quickly.

Blizzards can have a direct impact on the infrastructure, transportation, and overall economy of a region.

Also, your health and life will be at stake. So be sure to keep yourself updated and take all safety measures during and after a blizzard.