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The Great Arctic Outbreak (1899)
In February 1899, devastating winter conditions gripped the North American continent for two weeks, causing widespread devastation from Saskatchewan, Canada, all the way south as far as Cuba. The frigid conditions not only produced a major blizzard, but also froze a good portion of the United States also. The situation was particularly difficult in the South, which had little experience with such weather conditions. The Great Arctic Outbreak began slowly when a mass of cold air moved southward from Canada during the first week of February. The western United States was the first to feel the bite, as
What: The Great Arctic Outbreak of 1899, across much of the United States When: First two weeks of February 1899 Casualties: Estimates put the death toll at about 100, although many suspect it was a
good deal higher. Damage: Tens of
millions of dollars were lost in crop and livestock. Did You Know?
temperatures dropped as low as 33°F (0.5°C) in Los Angeles, and −9°F (−22°C) degrees in Boise, Idaho. The cold plunged down into the northern Great Plains and Midwest. It was so cold in Chicago that the ground froze 5 feet (1.5 m) below the surface, snapping water lines as well as gas and sewer pipes. The cold continued its trek southward, freezing parts of the Mississippi River. Cold air then poured eastward, with the thermometers reaching −20°F (−28°C) in the Ohio Valley. By February 13, below-zero temperatures stretched as far south as Florida. But it wasn’t just the cold that wreaked havoc—blizzard and icy conditions ravaged the Mid-Atlantic all the way through to New England. That’s because the snow that began falling on western Florida on February 12 moved up the coast, forming into a nor’easter . As the storm moved north, it brought with it devastating snow and sinking temperatures. The cold air and snow stopped a yellow fever epidemic in the South by killing the mosquitoes that were spreading the disease.
The Ultimate Book of Dangerous Weather
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