A furious blast of frost-wind and blinding snow, in which man and beast frequently perish
Such is the rather poetic definition for "blizzard" (written in 1887, when #Blizzard2016 or any other hashtag was undreamt of) in the Oxford English Dictionary.
The origin of the word "blizzard" is a mystery. Before it started to be used of violent snowstorms in the 1850s, it was being used in North America to mean a violent blow.
1856 Sacramento City (Calif.) Item When some true archer, from the upper tier, Gave him a ‘blizzard’ on the nearest ear.The OED speculates an onomatopoeic origin, mentioning such words as blow, blast, blister, and bluster. By the 1870s the word was being applied to snowstorms in the western US and Canada. Not surprisingly for those of us who grew up in its tender climes, the first reference to a blizzard in Canadian sources is describing the weather in Manitoba in February 1875:
The glass measured -38 last night... The boss blizzard of the season howled over Manitoba on Sunday, and kept people from going to church and pleasure driving.Technically, though, a blizzard is not just any big snowstorm.
For the US National Weather Service, a blizzard requires snow and/or blowing snow reducing visibility to 1 / 4 mile or less for 3 hours or longer and sustained winds of 35 mph or greater or frequent gusts to 35 mph or greater.
"Only THREE hours? Pfft!" says Environment Canada, which issues a blizzard warning when winds of 40 km/hr or greater are expected to cause widespread reductions in visibility to 400 metres or less, due to blowing snow, or blowing snow in combination with falling snow, for at least 4 hours. Anything less than that, and Canadians, it is well known, will be out barbecuing.
It is unlikely that the meteorological authorities in either Canada or the US will ever provide a technical definition of "snowzilla", a word which has been with us since early 2000. For more on the -zilla suffix, see this post : http://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/-Zilla
And we must not forget "snowmageddon", which came along in 2005 and is still going strong.
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