The worst blizzard in recorded history took place in 1972. And it happened in a place you might not even think possible – Iran.

The Worst Blizzard

Entire villages were buried in snow, crushing cars and causing buildings to collapse. Despite being stupidly hot in the summer southern Iran is usually cold and snowy in winter. But January of 1972 was unusual. After a series of storms a large blizzard had gathered in Azerbaijan and was making it’s way towards Iran. In it’s path the blizzard left more than 26 feet of snow. That’s roughly 2 and a half stories of snowfall. And when it reached Iran it became a crisis. Almost all of western Iran was covered in snow – something the country has never seen on that scale.

Two hundred villages were destroyed, often with no survivors. Those who did escape immediate death then had to face minus 25 degree temperatures. In Fahrenheit that’s minus 13! With the blizzard still raging, any attempt to rescue survivors was put on hold. On finally reaching the rural villages affected by the storm it took days to dig through the snow. Quite a lot all they found were frozen bodies. And not only that, YouTube was also down too!

Before the true scope of destruction could be revealed rescuers had to wait for the snow to melt. But with Iran being a brutal dictatorship at the time very little information about the disaster is available. What we do know is at least 4000 people died, far more than any other blizzard on record.

The Second Worst Blizzard

Of the ten deadliest blizzards, seven of them were in North America. But even their combined death toll is less than the 1972 blizzard. The only other blizzard that comes close is remembered more as a military disaster. It was 1719 and Sweden was at war with Russia. At the time Sweden ruled over a vast empire. But after 18 years of fighting had grown weak and divided. With the war against Russia going badly they panicked and invaded Norway. A force of 10 thousand Swedes marched into Norway, but they were under supplied and battered by a cold winter.

Then the Swedish king died and the surviving 6 thousand were ordered to retreat to Sweden. Starving and desperate, they decided to take the shortest route available – a precarious mountain pass. Then just as things could not get any worse a blizzard hit. You’d think Scandinavians would be unaffected by a blizzard But even they are technically human, and suffered greatly during the storm. Being high in the mountains there was nowhere to hide from the blizzard.

A Carolean Disaster

On the first night alone 200 people died from the cold. Then with the storm still raging the next day the army scattered. While many continued on towards Sweden, around 3 thousand chose to stay on the mountain. As you’d expect the ones who stayed all froze to death, which honestly was the only logical outcome. But it wasn’t much better for the men who left. During the night they had burned almost everything possible. This included the wood from their sleds and rifle butts.

The horses died and most of their equipment had to be abandoned on the way. So as they walked on a trail of frozen bodies was left behind. By the end another 7 hundred had died, bringing the total to 3,700. Of the survivors hundreds were wounded by frostbite and left unfit for military service.

Now remembered as the Carolean death march, it actually began on Christmas eve. So this Christmas when you’re surrounded by annoying relatives, remember it could be worse. You could be dead… and Swedish.

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