Snow can pile up several feet in a day's time when conditions are ripe in many U.S. states.
In fact, 48 of 50 states have received more than a foot of snow during a single 24-hour period, according to data from NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI). Of those 50 states, 32 of them – mostly in the West, Midwest and Northeast – have had snowfalls of 30 inches or more in 24 hours.
During those extreme situations, snowfall rates are often an inch or more per hour. Thundersnow also sometimes occurs, an indication of unstable air and strong upward motion in the atmosphere, resulting in heavy snow.
States With Greatest 24-Hour Snowfall Records
If you were 6 feet tall and standing outside for 24 hours in Silver Lake, Colorado, April 14-15, 1921, you would've been buried by snow from head to toe. That location saw 6.3 feet (75.8 inches) of snow high in the Rockies at an elevation of 10,220 feet.
One location in Alaska, however, takes the crown for all 50 states.
Tucked away in the mountains northeast of Valdez, Alaska, is Mile 47 Camp, which was buried by 78 inches of snow in the 24 hours ending Feb. 9, 1963. Here, winter storms in the Gulf of Alaska send moisture from the Pacific into the mountainous terrain, making it an ideal spot for incredible snowfall totals.
Three other states have had 24-hour snowfalls exceeding 50 inches, and much like the top two locations, mountainous terrain also played a role in squeezing out those extreme totals.
Those states are California (67 inches in the Sierra Nevada), Washington (65 inches in the Cascades) and South Dakota (52 inches in the Black Hills).
Recent 24-Hour Snowfall Records Broken
Five U.S. states have set new 24-hour snowfall records during the past 10 years.
Connecticut is the most recent state to rewrite the record books when a location near Ansonia saw 36 inches Feb. 8-9, 2013. That new benchmark for the state was set during Winter Storm Nemo, which also hammered several other New England states with more than a foot of snow.
About two years earlier, Oklahoma set a new 24-hour snowfall record when 27 inches piled up in Spavinaw Feb. 9-10, 2011.
A single spring blizzard in March 2009 propelled two states to new 24-hour records. Pratt, Kansas, and Follett, Texas, made state history with 30 inches and 25 inches of snow, respectively, in the 24 hours ending March 28, 2009.
(MORE: Snowiest Spot in Each State)
The fifth state to set a new record in the last decade is Nebraska, where 27 inches was measured near Dalton in the 24-hours ending Dec. 21, 2006.
More on 24-Hour Snowfall State Records
Here are some other notables on 24-hour snowfall records in the U.S.
Oldest records: The two records that have stood the longest are 36 inches in Astoria, Illinois, during the 24 hours ending Feb. 28, 1900, and 49 inches at Watertown, New York, Nov. 14-15, 1900.
Two states with less than a foot in 24 hours: Florida and Hawaii are the only two states with record 24-hour snowfall totals of less than one foot. No official records exist, but Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa on Hawaii's Big Island may have seen a foot or more of snow in 24 hours. Florida's record 24-hour snow was 4 inches near Milton, which oddly occurred in early March 1954.
Unofficial higher totals in some states: A few states have unofficial higher snowfall totals not recognized by NOAA. This includes a 55.5 inch total at Alta Guard Station in Utah Jan. 5-6, 1991 and a 54-inch total in New York's Tug Hill plateau in January 1976. Finally, Louisiana's 24-hour total may be higher than the 13 inches NOAA has for the state. Winter storms in February 1898 and December 1929 may have beaten it out, but data from those storms is not reliable.