Iran Blizzard
Iranian women on ski lift

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.