It feels really strange talking about major winter storms in April, but here we are.

Over the next few days, much of Maine will see in excess of a foot of snow.  In addition to the snow, we can expect freezing rain and high winds.

It is going to be a mess!

Some meteorologists are suggesting that, because of the snow and wind, we could be facing blizzard conditions.

What exactly does that mean?

sametomorrow / Unsplash
sametomorrow / Unsplash

What is a blizzard?

According to an article on the National Weather Service website, a winter storm is considered a blizzard when the winds are high enough to blow the fluffy snow around, lowering visibility.

The National Weather Service officially describes a blizzard as:

as a storm which contains large amounts of snow OR blowing snow, with winds in excess of 35 mph and visibilities of less than 1/4 mile for an extended period of time (at least 3 hours)


What makes a blizzard dangerous?

The biggest danger with a blizzard is the low visibility that is created when the snow is blown around.  In many cases, it can lead to complete whiteout conditions.  This can make driving, and even walking, impossible.

The other major concern with a blizzard is the temperature.  The high winds of a blizzard can easily create a wind chill that is in the negative numbers.  It is common for blizzards on the plains to cause a wind chill factor of -60 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cristofer Maximilian / Unsplash
Cristofer Maximilian / Unsplash

Where did the term 'blizzard' come from?

According to, the term 'blizzard' was originally used to describe a volley of cannon or musket fire.

In the 1870s, someone in the Midwest used the term to describe a snowstorm.  By the 1880s, the term was being used across the United States and in England to describe a bad winter storm.

The specifics about the reduced visibility came later.

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