Iran Blizzard

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Iran Blizzard

This snowy scene at the resort of Shemshak, Iran, on Feb. 15, 2011, is very different from what faced Iran during its infamous 1972 blizzard.

Kaveh Kazemi/Getty Images

In "Hamlet," shortly after Polonius' death, King Claudius remarks, "When sorrows come, they come not single spies/But in battalions." Terrible weather events too often illustrate this grim adage, piling one sorrow upon another; storms can lead to floods, which can lead to disease and pestilence, and so on.

After four years of drought, Iran must have been desperate for water in any form -- any, that is, but the weeklong February 1972 blizzard in which it arrived. The storm dumped 10-26 feet (3-8 meters) of snow in outlying areas of northwestern, central and southern Iran, cutting off roads, cables and telephone lines, and trapping 4,000 villagers beneath its freezing blanket [sources: NOAA News; Raein]. Elsewhere, two massive avalanches buried an estimated 8,000 people.

Temperatures dropped to minus 13 F (minus 25 C) in some areas, freezing pipes and worsening the water shortage [sources: Raein]. In isolated, snowbound valleys, flu spread with a vengeance, and in some areas approached a 100 percent infection rate [sources: Raein].

Initial fatality estimates approached 6,000, but later revisions reduced the count to an estimated 4,000 [sources: NOAA News; Raein; St. Petersburg Times].

Tragic as the blizzard was, the death toll in the next disaster, which nearly washed an entire town out to sea, was higher still.

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