Flooding of January 1996, post blizzard

Warm temperatures, heavy rain led to rapid snow melt and widespread flooding on January 19th, 1996
Published: Jan. 18, 2023 at 9:53 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 18, 2023 at 10:00 PM EST
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - The blizzard of 1996 is still one of the biggest, most impactful snowstorms for the east coast. Between January 6-8, 1996 snow accumulated to 15″ to about 36″ across the area with a few locally higher amounts. Big Meadows at the Shenandoah National Park recorded a new state snowfall record of 49″!

However, because of the heavy snow, many roofs collapsed or partially collapsed. Damage included barns, poultry houses, greenhouses and porches.

A few days after the blizzard another smaller snow storm dropped an additional 3-6″ across the area on the 12th.

What made things worse, ten days after the storm temperatures rose to around 60 degrees leading to a rapid snow melt with heavy rain on the 19th. Per the National Weather Service, the remaining snowpack of about 6-15″ melted away in an astonishing 12 hours. Rainfall across the area was anywhere from 1-4″ of rain on top of melting snow, leading to widespread flooding and flash flooding.

These photos below are of the flooding from Upper Tract in West Virginia.

Not only was it heavy rain on the 19th but thunderstorms as well. The image is an archive radar image showing the heavy rain and January thunderstorms which produced the flooding.

The heavy rain and thunderstorms with melting snow led to widespread flooding and flash...
The heavy rain and thunderstorms with melting snow led to widespread flooding and flash flooding in January 1996.(Iowa State University)


Rainfall ranges from about 1″ to 4″+ across the area on top of the melting snow. Of course the high water and flooding closed numerous roads. In Broadway, Main street had to be evacuated because a fuel oil tank and two propane tanks broke loose and started floating down the street.

Even route 33 in Rockingham county had parts of the road flooded and was closed until the water receded.

In Page county more than 200 people were evacuated in the Skyline Lakes Dam area because it was feared the dam would break.

In Shenandoah County, “Some of the most pronounced damage occurred in Shenandoah Co near the town of Woodstock. One hundred acres of farmland were inundated, a reported 799 homes sustained damage from flood waters, as did a restaurant in Edinburg. There were numerous water rescues, but no fatalities were reported. Numerous local roads were closed, as were several state and federal highways, due to high standing water or creeks raging out of their banks,” from the National Weather Service.

Rainfall amounts from January 19th, 1996
Rainfall amounts from January 19th, 1996(whsv)


According to NWS, damage estimates for Waynesboro topped $3 million. In Rockingham County damage estimates were $2.2 million because of the loss of inventory at Hartz Corporation, an apparel manufacturer.

Damage estimates for Rockbridge County were approximately $1.6 million.

These two major events in January set the stage for the rest of the year. Numerous thunderstorms all summer led to above average rainfall nearly every month. In the fall, a remnant hurricane moved through leading to more widespread flooding.

As always if you have any storm photos we’d love to see them. You can upload photos to:

You can learn more on Hurricane Fran here:

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