Christmas Storm in Midwest Ranked Worst in 104 Years

You don't have to tell residents of the Midwest that the wallop they got just before Christmas was the storm of the century. But now scientists have spelled it out.

The Dec. 22-23 storm broke all records for storm intensity, size, snowfall totals and damages in the region, according to a new study. It was the most significant winter storm in the region in 104 years.

More than 120 counties in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio declared snow emergencies. The storm generally lasted 30 hours in many locations.

"What's unusual is that this record snowfall occurred over rolling topography and hills, areas that usually don't have heavy snows," said Stanley Changnon, chief emeritus of the Illinois State Water Survey and leader of the study.

Among the snowfall records set:

  • 29 inches at Seymour, Indiana
  • 24 inches at Greenfield, Ohio
  • 14 inches at Paducah, Kentucky
  • 18 inches at Carmi, Illinois

The storm created a travel nightmare.

"The timing of the storm couldn't have been worse, making travel hazardous and stranding thousands of holiday travelers across the Midwest," Changnon said. "The storm's southwest-northeast orientation from the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers at Cairo, Ill., to Cleveland blocked both east-west traffic across the eastern United States and north-south traffic between the Midwest and South."

The storm killed 17 people. The cost, including damages and flight cancellations and delays, exceed $900 million, Changnon said.

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