A blizzard's strong winds can knock down trees, power lines and utility poles. Coastal storms can cause flooding and beach erosion. Blizzards occurring in the west may produce damage to roofs and other structures due to high winds gusting to 100 mph, or more, off mountaintops.
The National Weather Service describes a blizzard as large amounts of falling, or blowing, snow, with winds in excess of 35 mph and a visibility of less than one-quarter mile for a period of greater than three hours. When these conditions are imminent, a blizzard warning is issued. Traveling by car becomes extremely dangerous, or impossible due to whiteout conditions and blowing snow. Strong winds and cold temperatures can also combine to create dangerous wind chills, which could lead to frostbite and hypothermia.
The worst blizzard in United States history occurred in March 1888 and impacted areas from the Chesapeake Bay to Maine. Washington, Philadelphia and Boston were paralyzed, according to the National Weather Service. Snow amounts ranging from 40 to 50 inches were recorded in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts. Snow drifts reached 40 to 50 feet high, and 400 people were killed as a result of the storm.
In January 2005 a blizzard hit the lower Great Lakes region. Record snowfall amounts were seen in southern New England. The Boston area saw snowfall rates of three to five inches per hour. Winds gusted to 85 mph and parts of Massachusetts were buried under 6-foot snow drifts.