The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Blizzard

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BLIZZARD, a peculiarly fierce and cold wind, accompanied by a very fine, blinding snow which suffocates as well as freezes men and animals exposed to it. The origin of the word is popularly conceded to the United States where there is evidence of its use as early as 1840; recent investigations have shown that it is used in the local dialect of Lancashire, England, where it has been traced back over several centuries and is generally written “bleasard.” It came into general use in American newspapers during the bitterly cold winter of 1880-81, and has been in more or less general use since 1888. Such a storm comes up very suddenly and overtakes the traveler without premonition. The sky becomes darkened, and the snow is driven by a terrible wind which comes with a deafening roar. One of the most severe of these storms recorded in the West was that of January 1888 which extended from Dakota to Texas. The thermometer in some places fell from 74° to —28° F., and in Dakota to —40°. The number of deaths amounted to 235. Children were frozen on their way home from school, and farmers in their fields, and travelers were suffocated by the fine snow. The blizzard which will long be remembered in the Eastern States began 11 March 1888, and raged until the 14th, New York and Philadelphia being the cities most affected. The wind at one time blew at the rate of 46 miles an hour. The streets and roads were blocked, railroad trains snowed up for days, telegraphic communication cut off and many lives were lost. Blizzards are due to a southward flow of a large mass of cold air which is being pushed out from a centre of high barometric pressure. The flow progresses regularly according to the differences of density and pressure on either side of its front line of advance. This regularity of advance has been turned to account by the United States Weather Bureau, which is able to forecast with great accuracy the advance of a blizzard, and thus in almost every case the populations affected are amply forewarned.