Frequency and Severity of Major Snow Storms in Chicago
Though Chicago gets plenty of snow every year, a truly massive winter storm only comes once in a while. Many long-term residents can remember several of these incidents from their lifetime, and likely have stories about how they and their loved ones (or at least stuff they saw on the news) were affected. If you’re new to the area, you might be wondering how worried you should be about the approaching winter. About how often do blizzards hit the Chicago area?
Blizzards seem to hit Chicago approximately every ten years. Sometimes the time in between will be less, sometimes more. But over the past hundred years, ten major blizzards have been recorded in Chicago.
As of 2010, the ten worst snowstorms recorded in Chicago history took place in 1886, 1918, 1929, 1930, 1931, 1939, 1967, 1970, 1979 and 1999. The distribution seems to average to about ten years in between each, although there are significant variations. It must’ve been rough in the late twenties and early thirties, just as the great depression was kicking off, to experience a major blizzard each consecutive year.
Additionally, a year after that data was reported, there was a large Chicago blizzard in 2011.
To deal with winter driving, we strongly recommend switching to snow tires.
Have You Ever Wondered: How does the Honda Civic handle snow?
Are blizzards dangerous in Chicago?
As long as you take proper precautions, blizzards are not a huge hazard. However, they can cause damage, death, and most of all, inconvenience.
The largest blizzard in Chicago history was the one that took place in 1967. The storm deposited about 23 inches of snow on the ground, leaving 50,000 cars and 800 busses stranded on Chicago streets. The airports were closed due to snow on the runways. People were trapped in their homes and offices. Kids in the south suburbs had to camp out at school overnight. Shootouts occurred between looters and police. In total, 26 people died.
After the 1999 blizzard occurred, President Clinton declared half the state of Illinois as a disaster area. In addition to the snow, low temperatures contributed to the death of 73 people in the Midwest. Again, airports were closed and roads were impassible.
More recently, the 2011 blizzard dropped 21.1 inches of snow on the Windy City. Danger was increased because the snow was preceded by an ice storm. Lake Shore Drive was closed down, leaving 900 cars and buses stranded. Winds reached up to 35 miles-per-hour, as thunder crashed and lighting flashed. In total, 11 people in northern Illinois died.