25 years later: looking back on Richmond’s last blizzard


RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — 25 years ago, Richmond was socked in with the “Blizzard of 1996” which marks the last time that a Blizzard Warning was issued for Metro Richmond.

The storm, which started on a Saturday afternoon and lingered on Sunday and Monday with some lighter precipitation was part of a monster storm system that swept up the East Coast, dumping 30” on parts of the Philadelphia area and lead to the first closings of schools for snow in New York City  since the 1970s.

This storm was so immense that it and the Superstorm of 1993 — which only 3” of snow in Richmond– are the only 2 winter storms classified as Category 5 on the Northeast Snow Impact Scale.

When it all was added up, Richmond ended up with a foot of snow at the airport.  Just like in 2016, there were higher amounts in the West End. It also marks the last time we have officially received a foot of snow from a storm here.

The heavier amounts of show were all to the west of us, with a swath of snow exceeding 2 feet along and west of US-29.  There was also 2 feet of snow in parts of Cumberland, Goochland and Fluvanna, centered up near Columbia. Atop the higher elevations of the Blue Ridge Mountains over 3 feet of snow with 35”-40” reported by Bob Burger from Madison County.

While the snow was done and over with by midday Monday and the sun came out, the effects of the storm lingered for a long time.  Schools were out for a long time— children were out of Chesterfield County schools for 9 days. And as far as getting the roads cleared, that also took an eternity over the area.

The storm was well forecasted, and people had stocked up.  But by the middle of that week for many it was time to reload.   At the same time another “garden variety” winter storm was on the way for Friday.  However, in the rush to the market that ensued ahead of that one, the grocery stores were stampeded. On the day before that storm hit, Ukrops (remember them??) sold 4 times the amount of milk, bread, and…………chicken (you were thinking toilet paper!) than on a normal day.

Not too surprisingly, the next winter tuned out of be a dud for the Richmond area.  In the 1996-1997 school year, Chesterfield County only closed for weather on one day.  That was on Friday, September 6th when the remains of Hurricane Fran passed through the area.  At the time, that storm lead to the largest power outages Virginia had seen.

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