PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – March 13, 1993 – it was the snowstorm to end all snowstorms. It became known as the Blizzard of ’93.
It paralyzed Pittsburgh and much of the East coast, closing roads and forcing Public Works crews and emergency personnel to work around the clock.
It also forced people to hunker down in their homes.
Today marks the 25th anniversary of the Blizzard of ’93. If you lived through it, you probably have your own story to tell.
But, we decided to lookback on it with two beloved former KDKA-TV employees, who worked through the storm to keep you informed.
It’s known as the “Storm of the Century.” Forming on March 12, 1993, this megastorm decimated the south by producing 11 tornadoes. It also left double-digit snow totals in unlikely places like Alabama and Tennessee.
In Pittsburgh, the extreme storm dumped a single day record of 23.6 inches of snow. It’s a record that still stands to this day.
Most memories tend to fade away, but events like the Blizzard of ’93? Most say it’s hard to forget something like that.
“I had been here 37 years before I just retired, and the Blizzard of ’93 – what a storm – was something that I will never forget,” Harold Hayes said.
For nearly 40 years, Hayes was a fixture on KDKA-TV. From cover-ups, to sentencings, to just plain old bad weather, he covered it all. Yet, this storm stands out.
“It almost reminded you of a movie where there had been total destruction, and your driving down the street and there’s nobody on the street,” Hayes said.
For more than 30 years, no one has kept a better account of Pittsburgh weather than retired KDKA-TV Meteorologist Dennis Bowman.
“According to my journaling, the first flakes began around 2:30 a.m. We had 3 inches on the ground by 7:30. And then, 22 by 9 in the evening and it was still totaling up there to our total of 23.6 inches,” Bowman said.
When the Blizzard of ’93 hit, Dennis was working at another television station. He worked the Friday night before the storm arrived in Pittsburgh. Then, he came back Saturday morning as the storm intensified and stayed for 24 hours straight.
“It was all hands on deck and everyone who could get to work did,” Bowman said. “By noon, we knew that there was the potential to have something historic.”
The storm by itself is historic enough, but there’s a local spin that adds even more notoriety to this blizzard. It will always go down in history as the year Pittsburghers held the city’s annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade in a blizzard, with a sea of white replacing the normal green of the day.
“Most units didn’t show up, but some did. Most people didn’t show up to watch it, but some did,” Bowman said.
Looking back at the Blizzard of ’93, it’s a storm that most say not even Snowmageddon in 2010 tops. Additionally, it is still the storm by which all others are measured.
“The 1950 storm was something that your parents or even grandparents talked about, and ‘93 was the modern day storm of that caliber,” Hayes said.
If you’re wondering, Pittsburgh has seen more than 20 inches of snow falling in a single day only twice in the city’s history.
The only other instance was on Dec. 17, 1890, when an even 22 inches of snow was recorded.