Historic Snowfall

It was known as the Knickerbocker Storm and it hit the Baltimore-Washington area on January 27-29. The following is a description of the storm taken from the archives of the National Weather Service Office at Sterling, Virginia.

John Collins
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January 27-29, 1922: Exactly 150 years after the Washington and Jefferson Storm, a powerful nor’easter brought the deepest snow of this century and the storm of record to Maryland and the District of Columbia. College Park and Cambridge both set record one day totals with 24 inches of snow in 24 hours.

Temperatures were quite cold across the area before the storm hit setting up excelent conditions for a heavy snow fall. On the 26th, Washington recorded a low of only 11F as arctic air settled in ahead of the nor’easter.

By the 29th, a maximum snow swath of 30 to 32 inches lay across southern Baltimore, eastern Howard, northern Prince Georges, northern Anne Arundel and portions of DC. Weather stations at Baltimore and Washington, DC recorded their all time greatest storm totals with 26.5 inches in Baltimore and 28 inches in Northwest Washington. Southern Maryland saw 20 inches, the Eastern Shore 8 inches, Washington County 12 inches and 25 inches in the Allegany Mountains highlands and 16 inches at Oakland.

Strong northeast winds (gusting up to 50 mph) created blizzard conditions and heavy drifting blocked roads. Some remained impassable for days. The main highways were opened in two to four days. In Baltimore, the cost of cleaning the streets was $50,000 and losses to railroads and businesses was $60,000.

The weight of the snow caused what the Washington Post called “the greatest disaster in Washington’s history”. The roof of the Knickerbocker Theater on 18th Street and Columbia in Northwest DC collapsed taking the balcony down with it. An estimated 900 people were in the theater at the time. While many escaped, 98 people were crushed to death and another 158 injured. A small boy squeezed between the rupple to help administer pain pills to victims that remained trapped for hours.

The storm became now known historically as the Knickerbocker Storm.

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