Nobody knows when or how the American word “blizzard” originated. Its earliest occurrence in print was in 1829, but it may have been well known in frontier speech long before that.
According to the collection, Americanisms, published by Schele de Vere in 1871, the usual western meaning was a stunning blow, as by the fist.
But in 1870, as recorded after extensive research by Allen Walker Read, in the February, 1928, issue of American Speech, an obscure editor of an obscure newspaper in Iowa, in telling his readers some of the effects of an unusually severe snowstorm, accompanied with high wind and intense cold, mentioned it each time as a blizzard.
The storm had occurred on March 14, 1870, and was of such severity that it was long known locally as “the great blizzard.”
The editor of that small paper continued to use blizzard in referring to similar storms in subsequent years; other newspapers in the state began to adopt it, and when much of the country experienced a succession of heavy snowstorms and gales in the winter of 1880-81, blizzard had become so widely known as to be employed, not only in mid-West papers, but also in those of New York and Canada.