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One of the United States’ worst blizzards earned many names: The Great Storm of 1975, the Super Bowl Blizzard, and Storm of the Century (as it was known in Minnesota). This storm may not qualify as the deadliest or snow-filled; but it stands as the most atypical, as it spawned one of the worst tornado outbreaks known to winter months.
By definition, a blizzard isn’t simply a heavy snowstorm. Blizzards must also meet the criteria of strong, sustained winds (35 mph or more), reduced visibility (whiteouts), and a length of over three hours. The Super Bowl Blizzard of 1975 met all those requirements several times over. The blizzard affected a great swath of the United States spanning from the Central to the Southeast, from Oklahoma and Colorado all the way to the Minnestota-Canadian border and down into Georgia.
As the storm’s name would indicate, this intense weather phenomenon fell upon Super Bowl weekend on January 9, 1975 and lasted until January 12. Much of the country found themselves incapacitated as the Minnesota Vikings and Pittburgh Steelers went head to head at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans. Luckily, ‘Nawlins wasn’t drastically affected by the terrible blizzard that crippled much of the country, and the game went on without a hitch.
The storm produced a total of 58 fatalities with 12 of those resulting from the 42 tornadoes spawned in the Southeast over the course of four days. Over two feet of snow fell over much of the Midwest, and much of this snowfall fell in areas not equipped to deal with the immediate fallout. The storm was marked by a record low-pressure system, which resulted from its unusual origins.
Most winter storms start in Canada, but this one spawned itself over the the Pacific Ocean with gale force winds pushing across the Pacific Northwest before straddling the Rocky Mountains. As the resulting blizzard dove into the Great Plains, the snow met with clashing temperatures between Arctic air and Gulf of Mexico mosture. This low-barometric recipe whipped up a two-day tornado outbreak on top of the snowfall.
When all was said and done, the storm’s lingering cold temperatures killed over 100,000 livestock and 58 people. Twisters hit Oklahoma, Arkansas, Texas, Indiana, Illinois, Alabama, Florida, North Carolina, and parts of Louisiana. In Mississippi alone, an F4 tornado crossed four counties and killed 10 people. In several of these states, the strong winds created snowdrifts up to 20 feet high. The total amount of property damage tallied up to an estimated $63 million.
By the time Super Bowl Sunday rolled around, the storm sputtered its last gasps upon Georgia and Florida. And the Steelers beat the Vikings, 16-6.