One of this region’s most extreme snowstorms struck 25 years ago on Jan. 6-8, 1996.
The storm was remarkable in that every corner of Virginia saw heavy snow, with a wide swath of 1 to 3 foot totals across the mountains and Piedmont. It left a deep blanket as far south as the Smoky Mountains and as far north as New England. Freezing rain and power outages added to the misery near the coast.
Strong winds blew the snow into 5-to-10 foot drifts in western and northern sections of the state, and drove visibility down to near-blizzard conditions. (It did qualify as a blizzard elsewhere in the Mid-Atlantic, hence the name "Blizzard of '96")
Big Meadows, Madison County, had a snow depth of 47 inches which set a record for Virginia that still stands.
According to the NWS, the overall toll across the Eastern Seaboard: at least 60 fatalities, including 18 in Virginia and 6 in North Carolina, $500 million in insured losses (in 1996 money), collapsed roofs and countless accidents and stranded cars on roads.
Due to an impressive amount of advance notice in the forecast, VDOT was able to start preparing four days before the storm. But the enormous volume of snow caused travel and business to halt for at least a few days, and up to a week in some areas.