The word 'blizzard' has evolved over the years

The term was used as early as the 1820s to describe a violent blow or series of blows in a boxing match.

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The word blizzard is believed to originate from the German word “blitz,” meaning lightning or fast. The term was used as early as the 1820s to describe a violent blow or series of blows in a boxing match. As European settlers moved to the American Great Plains, the word was gradually changed to describe a severe blow struck by a snowstorm. The earliest known use by the media was in 1870 when a particularly nasty snowstorm struck Iowa and Minnesota. A newspaper in Estherville, Iowa, described that storm as a blizzard, and the term became widely used within a few years.

Before modern communications and weather forecasting techniques, a blizzard could take a region without warning and strand hundreds of people out in the open without adequate protection. Many people today refer to any heavy snow as a blizzard, but the actual definition requires very strong wind with falling and/or blowing snow reducing visibility to near zero.

John Wheeler is Chief Meteorologist for WDAY, a position he has had since May of 1985. Wheeler grew up in the South, in Louisiana and Alabama, and cites his family's move to the Midwest as important to developing his fascination with weather and climate. Wheeler lived in Wisconsin and Iowa as a teenager. He attended Iowa State University and achieved a B.S. degree in Meteorology in 1984. Wheeler worked about a year at WOI-TV in central Iowa before moving to Fargo and WDAY..
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