See Why This Storm Still Ranks as the Worst Snowstorm in Ohio
Thanksgiving 2020 is just around the corner. While the madness and stress of this year may hamper your desire for the typical turkey affair, it can be reassuring to look back at other challenging holiday seasons and draw strength from our collective resilience. One such historic Thanksgiving that comes to mind for many Ohioans, whether they lived through it or not, is the snowstorm of 1950. This isn’t your typical tale from Grandma about having to walk 20 miles uphill both ways on a dirt road to school, but instead a tale of ice and snow that impacted the whole state and nearly buried the Buckeyes.
Imagine this: you're preparing for Thanksgiving dinner in your cozy 3 bed, 2 bath home in Youngstown. Looking out the window, you watch the end of a calm November day as the sun sets on Ohio. There's no snow in sight as you daydream about the delicious treats you'll soon enjoy with your family. By the following morning, you wake up to a white weighted blanket of snow.
That was the reality faced by the Buckeyes on November 24, 1950. The whole state was covered in at least 10 inches of snow, with some areas to the east recording 20-30 inches. As the storm strengthened, wind speeds reached 40 mph, which plummeted temperatures to below zero. Overall, the Thanksgiving Blizzard of 1950 impacted more than just Thanksgiving Day. In Ohio, 32 people died, and 350 people died nationally as a result of the storm. As the days passed and snow began melting, flooding took much of Ohio and the Northeast, resulting in massive food shortages. The storm and its impact could be felt from the far northeast all the way down Pensacola, FL, which saw temperatures fall to the low 20s.
After the storm ended, the country experienced higher-than-normal temperatures which began a rapid melting phase of the snow that had fallen. This led to flooding throughout much of the Midwest and Northeast, straining the tributaries leading inland. In turn, water heights in major river systems, like the Ohio and Cincinnati Rivers, rose to 30 feet.
Snowstorms Don’t Stop Old Rivalries
Every year, a charity football game was sponsored by The Plain Dealer, featuring two of the top prep teams in the state. The 1950 game between St. Ignatius and Benedictine was scheduled for Saturday, but the game was quickly canceled as the snow fell.
This historical snowstorm may have stopped the annual charity game, but nothing could stop the Ohio State versus Michigan game. The rivalry between Ohio and Michigan extends well outside of just sports, but this moment in time revealed the passion and competitive spirits of these two states. The Ohio State Buckeyes versus the Michigan Wolverines football game had already been scheduled for Saturday in Columbus, and both teams agreed to play the game despite the onslaught of snow.
With the Big Ten Championship and Rose Bowl on the line for the winner, the stakes were high. If the game wasn’t played, the Buckeyes would have won the Big Ten title by default. The match was set for Saturday morning, with temperatures recorded around 5 degrees and winds up to 40 mph. Naturally, the game was dubbed the “Blizzard Bowl”. Players on both teams struggled to keep their footing in the snow. The game looked more like a backyard pick-up game than two top-tier collegiate football teams going head to head. Ultimately, Michigan won 9-3 in the frosty showdown.
How Does The Great Thanksgiving Snowstorm Match Up To Others in Ohio?
Over the past 70 years, the National Center for Environmental Information analyzed 212 Ohio snowstorms, and The Great Thanksgiving Snowstorm remains the worst snowstorm in state history. Across the eastern half of the state, over 6.1 million people were affected by over 18 inches of snow.
Thankfully, the eastern half of Ohio hasn’t experienced a serious snowstorm like this since 1993. In fact, the real estate market for cities like Cleveland, Canton, Akron, and Youngstown is heating up as Ohio’s home value is forecasted to grow 7.4% within the next year.
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*Hero image provided by National Centers for Environmental Information (NORA)