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Posted at 10:00 AM ET, 01/ 7/2011

Remembering the Blizzard of '96 in photos

By Kevin Ambrose

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Sledding down the Capitol Steps on January 7, 1996. Source: Snowmageddon: Washington's Record Breaking Winter of 2009-10

To celebrate the 15 year anniversary of the Blizzard of '96, I have assembled a few photos to showcase the amazing storm. The photos may remind us of last year's Snowmageddon, but the snowstorms were different. In comparison to Snowmageddon, the snow from the Blizzard of '96 was not quite as deep or dense in the immediate Washington area, but the drifting was much more extensive. The Blizzard of '96 had a prolonged dry slot during the middle of the storm while Snowmageddon had continuous snow. Both storms were followed by cold weather and more snow but Snowmageddon had a slow melt while the Blizzard of '96 had a quick melt with major flooding.

At National Airport, Snowmageddon is ranked 4th with 17.8" of snow and the Blizzard of '96 is ranked 5th with 17.1" of snow. Ultimately, both snowstorms produced historic snow for our area, but the Blizzard of '96 was a historic snowstorm for much more of the East Coast, particularly north of Philadelphia.

Keep reading to see more photos from the Blizzard of '96. What are your memories of this storm?

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The GOES IR satellite image from January 7, 1996. Source: Washington Weather

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Cars and balconies buried in snow in Fairfax, VA, January 8, 1996.

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Cars with snow drifts in Fairfax, VA, January 8, 1996.

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I am posing in knee-deep snow in Fairfax, Va. with my first son on January 8, 1996. My son is almost as big as me now.

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The visible satellite image showing snow cover across the region, January 9, 1996. Source: Washington Weather

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The Lincoln Memorial in snow, January 14, 1996.

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A quick snow melt after the Blizzard of '96 resulted in major flooding of the Potomac River. This photo shows Great Falls with flooding. The river level was above the overlooks. Source: Washington Weather

By Kevin Ambrose  | January 7, 2011; 10:00 AM ET
Categories:  History, Latest, Photography  
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Next: Dusting to 1" possible Saturday morning

Comments

I wasn't living where I am now in '96, but my neighbors reported getting three feet here in the mountains east of Front Royal. Virginia set it's single storm record of 48" at Big Meadows in SNP over Jan 6-7, 1996.

Posted by: spgass1 | January 7, 2011 10:17 AM | Report abuse

Is that all we have now, just memories? Sad.... I think I'll hunker down and wait for spring.

Posted by: ennepe68 | January 7, 2011 10:51 AM | Report abuse

I was attending college at East Carolina University, and remember heading back to school after the christmas break, right as the storm was coming up the coast. I was able to dodge the storm. Enjoyed looking back at the rain/snow line image as Greenville NC stayed completely rain.

Posted by: Bryan231 | January 7, 2011 10:56 AM | Report abuse

I remember this storm really well. We had just moved to Virginia from Denver, CO, and was amazed that it took three days for the snow plows to reach our street!

Posted by: rcky-mtn-roots | January 7, 2011 11:03 AM | Report abuse

Actually, it wasn't a "quick melt" in the sense that there was a warm-up soon after the storm (as happened with the freak Veterans Day Storm of '87). Rather, it stayed bitter cold for two weeks afterwards, then a warm rain came in and melted virtually everything overnight. That was a recipe for major flooding.

Posted by: craighowell1 | January 7, 2011 11:06 AM | Report abuse

That was the first winter in our new house outside Baltimore. What I most remember about the storm was the ice damning and resulting leak in the living room ceiling that began on Friday night. We spent that evening drilling holes in the ceiling to give the water a place to escape.

Posted by: weatherwatcher1 | January 7, 2011 11:18 AM | Report abuse

this was quite a memorable one for me - I broke up with a girlfriend but then ended up snowed in together for 3 days. awkward....

Posted by: Section107 | January 7, 2011 11:21 AM | Report abuse

This was such an awesome storm! I was only twelve at the time, so even though the official snowfall was 17", it seemed to me like many, many feet! I remember getting many days off from school, which for a kid was just short of miraculous. The best memory for me of this storm, though (backed up by pictures), is that my brother and I were finally able to build igloos, like our cousins from the North had been doing EVERY winter. That one sweet taste of a Winter Wonderland was almost enough to last a lifetime :)

Posted by: kolya02 | January 7, 2011 11:26 AM | Report abuse

Wow, looks fun! Thanks, Kevin. Sorry I missed it, though I had my share of New England weather back then. Can't believe that river level. I wonder how the photographer took the picture with the water that high...from a boat?

Posted by: Ann-CapitalWeatherGang | January 7, 2011 11:33 AM | Report abuse

I remember all the time we had off from work. I also remember having to dig out my car several times with a broom and a snow shovel.

Posted by: AmyReeder1 | January 7, 2011 11:37 AM | Report abuse

I was a high school senior in New England. It was the only time (until I moved to DC) I had 2 consecutive snow days. Good thing we had them. I didn't read the book I was supposed to give an oral report on until the snow started :)

Posted by: kim6160 | January 7, 2011 11:54 AM | Report abuse

Well, my wife and I will never forget this storm. We were living in Kensington and our 4 month old son was to be baptised the weekend of the storm. My wife cooked for two days in preparation of the gathering we were having after the ceremony, and my in-laws were on their way in from NY. The in-laws arrived Fri night just ahead of the snow - by Sat morning when we awoke there was about 6-8 inches and coming down fast. Late that morning I took a test drive around the block just to see if we could make it to the church and almost got stuck. So the baptism was off. We invited a couple over to the house that afternoon who lived within walking distance and we all ate and drank as much as we could of the food that was to serve about 15 people. As Sunday afternoon came my in-laws were getting antsy. No plow had touched our street so there was no way they could get out. Monday came and I walked with my father-in-law to the only establishment open in Kensington - the liquor store! Tuesday the plows finally came through our street and the in-laws were gone within 10 minutes! What a memory.

Posted by: TerpInTime | January 7, 2011 12:18 PM | Report abuse

Well, my wife and I will never forget this storm. We were living in Kensington and our 4 month old son was to be baptised the weekend of the storm. My wife cooked for two days in preparation of the gathering we were having after the ceremony, and my in-laws were on their way in from NY. The in-laws arrived Fri night just ahead of the snow - by Sat morning when we awoke there was about 6-8 inches and coming down fast. Late that morning I took a test drive around the block just to see if we could make it to the church and almost got stuck. So the baptism was off. We invited a couple over to the house that afternoon who lived within walking distance and we all ate and drank as much as we could of the food that was to serve about 15 people. As Sunday afternoon came my in-laws were getting antsy. No plow had touched our street so there was no way they could get out. Monday came and I walked with my father-in-law to the only establishment open in Kensington - the liquor store! Tuesday the plows finally came through our street and the in-laws were gone within 10 minutes! What a memory.

Posted by: TerpInTime | January 7, 2011 12:30 PM | Report abuse

Surely you must have gone for a bit of the breakup/blizzard shagging, no?
___________________________________________
this was quite a memorable one for me - I broke up with a girlfriend but then ended up snowed in together for 3 days. awkward....

Posted by: Section107 | January 7, 2011 11:21 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: getjiggly2 | January 7, 2011 12:43 PM | Report abuse

I'll never forget this storm. One of my friends got married that Saturday in Falls Church and I was a bridesmaid. We made it through the ceremony but the reception emptied out pretty fast once the snow started falling. Fortunately I planned ahead and took my snow boots with me to the reception! Nothing like trying to walk through a blizzard in a long bridesmaid's dress....

Posted by: lgp2 | January 7, 2011 12:47 PM | Report abuse

I was supposed to fly to Disney World for a sales conference during the blizzard. Many people in my office moved their flights up so they could miss the storm and make the conference. I chose to keep my existing flight, which was canceled, so I could experience the blizzard. I thought one can always visit Disney World but there will be only one Blizzard of '96. It was a great storm.

Posted by: Kevin-CapitalWeatherGang | January 7, 2011 12:53 PM | Report abuse

As noted in a previous thread the first storm was part of a triple whammy that shut the city down for a week. The Feds reopened on Thursday but traffic was hopeless and most people gave up and went home. By Friday, were up to our waists in snow, in some places.

Posted by: JerryFloyd1 | January 7, 2011 1:00 PM | Report abuse

Can we please retire the term "Snowmageddon?"

Posted by: Nixonin08 | January 7, 2011 1:21 PM | Report abuse

"Can we please retire the term "Snowmageddon?"

Why? Just curious. That's like saying can we retire the "Immaculate Reception" or the "Thriller in Manilla" -- that's just the unofficial name of what took place.

Posted by: luvhh1 | January 7, 2011 2:23 PM | Report abuse

Regarding the 1996 Blizzard -- I remember a Food Lion opening up practically next door to us -- the first grocery store in walking distance to us ever. They opened on Saturday and by Sunday all bread, tp and milk was gone. By Monday pretty much all that was left was toys and motor oil.

Posted by: luvhh1 | January 7, 2011 2:27 PM | Report abuse

I remember this storm fondly because this was my first winter in DC.

I remember leaving my parent's house in NJ back to DC. I was there for Xmas break. My father said, "Don't you think you should bring back your boots?"

"No, Dad," I said. "This is Washington. It's in the South. It doesn't snow much there."

My Dad FedExed my boots to me the day after the storm...

Posted by: ablasko73 | January 7, 2011 3:14 PM | Report abuse

I was a few weeks from turning 18 and a Senior in High School. I woke up around 10 am Sunday morning and the window in my bedroom in the basement was covered, I knew this would be big.

That evening, we got a call that one of my Dad's biggest customer's (he's an electrical contractor) had lost power, his mother-in-law was ill and on some kind of medical equipment (ventilator?) and his generator wouldn't last all night. So, my mom, who didn't care for the guy, begged and pleaded for us not to go. We loaded up the '91 Bronco w/ blankets, shovels, tools, etc. and headed out. We lived in Herndon and had to drive to Fairfax to pick up a store mgr at a supply house, drive to Sterling to get a part, back to Fairfax and out to Manassas. The power company got the power turned back on and we headed back home. We must have driven 50 miles that night but we got stuck at a 45 degree angle in the driveway and just left the truck there to dig out the next morning.

2 things I vividly remember are all the Virginia Power trucks that were at the house and how brightly the lights shined and how hard they worked to get the power working. The other thing is the complete lack of vehicles on the road. Route 28 in Chantilly looked like we were on the moon with no one around and the biggest snow removal equipment I've ever seen. It was surreal.

Posted by: matt555 | January 7, 2011 3:46 PM | Report abuse

How much snow did Dulles get? I pay no attention to snow totals from the heat island and snow black hole known as National Airport.

Posted by: rwalker66 | January 7, 2011 4:04 PM | Report abuse

rwalker66: Dulles Airport received 24" of snow during the Blizzard of '96. In comparison, Dulles received 32" of snow during the Snowmageddon storm of Feb 5-6, 2010.

Posted by: Kevin-CapitalWeatherGang | January 7, 2011 4:33 PM | Report abuse

Can you even still go sledding down the steps of the Capitol anymore?

Posted by: nlcaldwell | January 7, 2011 4:55 PM | Report abuse

The '96 Blizzard came right after the federal govt. furloughs. Talk about some time off! Those were the days.

Posted by: shoveit | January 7, 2011 5:12 PM | Report abuse

Also, I agree with RWalker66 re National Airport. It also seems to have a dome over it so that its rainfall amounts are always about a third of everyone else's.

Posted by: shoveit | January 7, 2011 5:14 PM | Report abuse

Ha! It's funny to see this photo again. The one with the sledding is my brother (top of the steps), sister (just out of the frame) and me (sledding). I was a hs senior, my sister was in 8th grade and my brother must have been in 5th, I think.

By mid morning, we were bored by the small hill by our house near Stanton Park, so we walked over to the Capitol to find something steeper--a longer chain of steps. Officially, the steps were closed and there was a yellow police tape across the bottom. But there was so much snow that the tape was really just laying on the ground and we walked right up. It was the perfect place to sled with lots of opportunities to get air off of each landing. We had the steps to ourselves for about an hour or two until one of the Capitol Police came over and told us to leave. Ahhh...those were the days.

Posted by: PatrickfromNHA | January 7, 2011 5:41 PM | Report abuse

PatrickfromNHA: That's great that you saw your photo on our post. Here's the caption that was attached to the photo, "Patrick, 17, flies down the Capitol steps Sunday Jan. 7, 1996 in Washington. His brother and sister kept watch for Capitol Police as the steps were closed off to the public because of the snow." By the way, Ian and I used that photo in our latest Snowmageddon book. It's a great shot.

Posted by: Kevin-CapitalWeatherGang | January 7, 2011 6:16 PM | Report abuse

I remember watching a Hummer with a snow plow get stuck while trying to plow my apartment building's parking lot. It was the second of three vehicles that made the attempt. The third one, a truck with a huge plow, actually made it up the slight incline to the lot and also plowed it.

I also remember two more snowstorms coming in the days after the big one ended, and of course not being able to go to work for days on end.

Posted by: Murre | January 7, 2011 6:45 PM | Report abuse

Sigh. The snow so so much fun...

We had a 26' boat that we had wintered over in the Anacostia Marina parking lot, a good 100 feet from the Anacostia shoreline. The boats in the lot were all plastic wrapped, so we were told not to worry about them until the snow melted. When it all melted at once, the Anacostia went 20 feet above flood stage, which put the boats on blocks in a raging river. Our poor old '78 Wellcraft landed on top of a brand new Donzi sitting next to it; it's new thin hull was no match for my old boat's thick fiberglass hull and it cracked like an egg. Mine went underwater, of course, but after life support, my boat survived, albeit with perpetually suspect eletricals.

The Donzi was smashed and I believe totalled. When the waters receded, my boat was left on top of it. Noah's Ark on Ararat? Maybe not, but close.

Posted by: RogerRamjet2 | January 7, 2011 7:25 PM | Report abuse

This was the best storm ever! My birthday was the night of the sixth and my roommates and I threw a rager. A couple of people got stuck there for a couple of days. I don't remember much because we had the foresight to get tons of booze. I think we all became very well acquainted with some of the girls who decided to stay over and enjoy the fire and company. Those were the days.

Posted by: Rileymrtn | January 7, 2011 11:00 PM | Report abuse

That was such a strange couple of weeks. First the federal shutdown so we feds weren't permitted to work, which was really demoralizing. (Who would have thought that Newt was so serious?) And then the snow. We had just moved to a new house with a looong driveway and that was the first-but not the last-time we had to shovel significant amouts of snow off it. I also remember there was a Vermeer show at the National Gallery that I had put off going to see until the madness of the holidays was past and what with the shutdown (Thanks a bunch, Newt.) and the snow I ended up missing it entirely, which I still regret.

Posted by: Middle-agedF | January 8, 2011 12:11 AM | Report abuse

I remember driving back from Pittsburgh to AU after the storm for my second semester of college. My Dad and I were driving down 355 in the right lane and all of a sudden he slammed on his brakes. When I asked him what was wrong, he pointed ahead. There was a wall of snow in front of us. They had just stopped plowing the right lane and left a wall of snow. Other highlights included watching someone in Tenleytown try to clear a foot of snow from their front walk using a corn row broom and walking to Heckingers with friends to buy cheap plastic sleds. What a great storm!

Posted by: wondering123 | January 8, 2011 8:36 AM | Report abuse

My husband (then boyfriend) and I were living in Richmond during the blizzard, and, if you think DC can't handle snow...

The Village Cafe (which is arguably one of the greatest diners in the state) stayed open and we ate every meal there for several days.

I think the grocery store behind our apartment opened back up the Wednesday after the storm. The shelves were all but empty. We bought some Guinness, some Carr's crackers, and some caviar and sat and ate it on our apartment floor. I kid you not.

It was maybe a week before our street was plowed. And this was not some residential cul de sac; we lived right in the city on a main road. After experiencing that, I never badmouth DC's ability to clean up after a storm...

Posted by: dinergirl1 | January 8, 2011 9:17 PM | Report abuse

My wife, our two sons and I were living in Springfield at the time. Our house was on a pie shaped lot with a LONG driveway. I recall that the snow started around 8:00PM Saturday night, and it wasn't a gradual buildup to an accumulating snow. It started falling hard immediately.

We wisely stayed put on Sunday, while my youngest son (who was 10 at the time), was acting as the resident meteorologist, venturing outside and giving us frequent updates on the snow accumulations.

While I don't recall the lull, I do remember waking up Monday morning with snow still falling. That afternoon, with the winds picking up and the snow drifting, part of the Assembly of God Church next door had a partial roof collapse (the building was relatively new at the time). I knew the architect, and I'm sure he had liability insurance on his mind.

It was quite a week following the storm - three more inches on Tuesday, snow flurries on Wednesday, followed by six more inches Friday night. I only went to work one day that week (Friday), while most people in the office took administrative leave.

We were fortunate to get plowed early, and I finally managed to clear the driveway on Tuesday. I barely got the final shovelful out of the way when my wife came barreling down the driveway to go to the store. What's a husband's life worth when his wife has a severe case of cabin fever?

Posted by: MillPond2 | January 10, 2011 9:26 AM | Report abuse

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