The killer blizzard of ’22 (1922 that is!): This massive snowstorm is still the largest on record for Washington DC

Killer blizzard of 1922 - Knickerbocker Storm - Snow in Washington DC

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Even as far south as Virginia, a nor’easter-style blizzard might blow in from time to time. Such was the case in Washington DC on January 27-29 in 1922. 

This snowstorm — which actually developed in South Carolina before moving north up the Eastern Seaboard — is known as the Knickerbocker Storm.

To this day, it holds the record for the District of Columbia’s largest snowfall — at least 28 inches were recorded in Washington, and as much as 33 inches in the surrounding areas.

1922 Car covered in snow

A tragic result

This wasn’t the coldest nor windiest winter storm DC has known (there have certainly been some doozies in the area since). We also don’t know if it’s the deadliest, nor even the most dangerous — but unfortunately, there were casualties.

The extremely heavy snowfall from this storm caused the roof of the Knickerbocker Theater to collapse, and — unfortunately — there were people inside, 100 of whom were killed.

January 29 Extra newspaper edition - The Sunday Star Washington DC - Knickerbocker Theater headline

Destroyed Knickerbocker Theatre in Washington DC - 1922 Blizzard

Sledding and snowmen

There are snow days and there are snow days. And this was the kind of storm that no one ever forgets. As you can see from the photos, Washingtonians couldn’t even wait until the white stuff stopped falling to get out of the house and frolic in the snow!

Since cars and trolleys were fully blanketed in deep snow cover, the nation’s capital was largely at a standstill until they could shovel out.

Lucky for our nostalgia habit, however, a local photographer was on the beat and captured some amazing shots of our nation’s freezing capital even as the snow was still coming down. We highly recommend a mug of hot chocolate to accompany your scroll through this super wintry collection.

Women out in the snow after the Knickerbocker Storm (1922)

January 1922: Big blizzard cuts off Washington and South

DC buried under worst snow since 1899

The states comprising the Middle Atlantic section were today buried, and were being further buried under the heaviest snowfall since the long-remembered blizzard of February 1899.

Old 20s snowstorm in Washington DC 1922 (1)

The storm, which began with almost unprecedented falls of snow in the Carolinas and Virginia Thursday, was creeping up the coast, leaving buried cities, stalled trains, disturbed trolley service and a general suspension of business and social activities in its wake.

The blanket of snow was the heaviest today in the District of Columbia, with the fall recorded at 10 o’clock as an even two feet. At that time, it was still snowing and the Weather Bureau prediction was for a continuation of the fall through the day and into the night.

Washington DC 1922 snow blizzard storm (1)

Starting shortly before dusk yesterday evening, the snow fell continuously through the night, and by midnight, railroads and trolley lines began to surrender. From midnight until 9 o’clock this morning, no trains left the capital, and only three from New York and one from the West arrived.

Thoroughfares were strewn with abandoned automobiles. The flakes fell so thick and fast that numerous accidents were reported, and the police received several calls for aid to find persons believe to have lost their way in finding their homes.

One boy had gone astray in the blinding storm; many automobile crashes were reported, and eleven persons were injured in accidents.

Old 20s snowstorm in Washington DC 1922 (6)

Snowy DC street scenes from January 28, 1922

Two cars from the 1920s buried in the snow

Washington DC 1922 snow blizzard storm (10)


Trolley cars in Washington DC at a standstill

This snow-covered intersection is 14th Street at New York Avenue.

Washington DC 1922 snow blizzard storm (3)


A police officer stands on a mound of snow to direct traffic downtown

Washington DC 1922 snow blizzard storm police officer -Colorized


People gathering downtown in the snowy city

Washington DC 1922 snow blizzard storm (4)


The Treasury Building mired in snow

Old 20s snowstorm in Washington DC 1922 (8)


A busy downtown street scene

Old 20s snowstorm in Washington DC 1922 (2)


People walking to work after the blizzard of 1922

People walking to work after the blizzard of 1922 - Washington DC
Colorized photo

People in DC walking to work after blizzard (January 1922)

Old 20s snowstorm in Washington DC 1922 (4)


While it was still snowing, this boy had his sled ready

Washington DC 1922 snow blizzard storm (7)


This guy is pulling his mom or grandma on his little snow sled

Washington DC 1922 snow blizzard storm (8)


District of Columbia trolley car covered with ice and snow

Washington DC 1922 snow blizzard storm (9)


Two vintage pickup trucks and train trolley cars on a major street

Washington DC 1922 snow blizzard storm (5)


Another car covered by the blizzard

Washington DC 1922 snow blizzard storm (11)

ALSO SEE: Classic Cars Coloring Book: Vintage Automobiles (1920-1929)


Chatting while standing hip-deep in the snow

Old 20s snowstorm in Washington DC 1922 (7)


Two girls sitting in a snow bank

Two girls sitting in a snow bank after the snow storm of 1922


Work doesn’t stop for the postal service!

Postal worker - Mailman collecting the mail in Washington DC (January 1922)

ALSO SEE
See how they had to remove snow 100 years ago

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