Remembering Richmond’s blizzard of 1996

Where were you when the blizzard hit?

RIC blizzard 1996

The blizzard of ’96 blanketed all of Virginia in a layer of snow.

Photo courtesy of NOAA

If this week’s winter weather has you feeling nostalgic, you may have found yourself thinking back to Jan. 6-8, 1996, when Virginia was “walloped” by over a foot of snow. The massive storm was the last time Richmond has been issued a Blizzard Warning.

The event was one of the largest winter storms to hit the East Coast in recent memory. A full foot of snow was measured at Richmond International Airport and total accumulation was even higher in the western Henrico. Out in Louisa, a building collapsed under the weight of the precipitation.

State and federal government offices shut down for two days. Schools were out for longer — Chesterfield County schools had to pause for a full nine days. Some parts of the state, especially in the Shenandoah Valley region, were coated in 3+ feet of snow. There were 18 fatalities in Virginia, according to the National Weather Service.

January 1996 has become a local touchstone as the most snow received in the last 30 years. However, if you dig back into Richmond’s history, there have actually been ten storms with greater snowfall. The biggest snowstorm on record in the River City was Jan. 23-24, 1940, when 21+ inches of snow fell on the city, and a new record low temperature of -12°F was set.

The next greatest, in order of total accumulation, were 1922, 1983, 1908, 1899, 1962, 1980, 1966, 1980 (again), and 1936.