For our latest snow post click here: Let it snow…
This picture is identified as having been taken by A.H. Bahnson in 1899. Since there were no other major snows that year, it is almost certainly from the aftermath of the “Great Blizzard of ’99”. Main Hall in Salem is at the right and Home Moravian Church at the left.
 

As December 25 approached last week, we began to hear rumors of snow. You could almost hear Bing Crosby, or Sinatra or Elvis dreaming of a white Christmas “just like the ones I used to know”.

At first it was maybe, then yes, then no, then back to maybe, but probably not much. And the local media gave us a confusing array of dates as to when the last white Christmas had been, first 1947, then 1969, then, no, 1961, even 1981, which, it turns out, after a snow shower around dawn, was cold rainy day in Winston-Salem.

On Christmas Day, when it finally became obvious that we were actually going to get a significant accumulation, a couple of my friends suggested that I look into the history and come up with THE answer.

Easy, I thought. The Weather Underground website lets you search for the weather at most locations in the US on any day going back to the 1940s. But I quickly encountered problems. The website said that Winston-Salem had snow on such and such a day, but when I went to the local newspaper microfilm, there was no snow.

Then I got lucky. I remembered that when I was a kid it snowed several Wednesdays in March and that we were out of school for almost a month. I thought I would use that to compare the Weather Underground info with what really happened so that I would know what to look for on the website.

When I pulled up the microfilm for Thursday, March 3, 1960 the headline said “Heavy Snowstorm Paralyzes Northwest North Carolina”. Ah, this is more like it. Then I noticed a little article near the center of the front page. It mentioned that exactly 33 years before, on March 2, 1927, there had been what was thought to be the largest single day accumulation of snow in local history. I thought it said that Winston-Salem had gotten 18 inches, but the microfilm is a little blurry and I thought that that sounded like way too much. At any rate, I lost interest in the Christmas Day business and went looking for the all-time single day record.

So I went to the Journal microfilm for March 2, 1927. Remember that the newspaper is actually written and edited the night before, so most of the information was already produced before midnight on the 1st. The weather box at the top of the page said that the 2nd would be chilly, with a chance of rain or maybe even snow. There was even a paragraph, somewhere inside, that said that snow flurries had begun before midnight. Obviously nothing to worry about.

Cut to the headlines for March 3. “Deepest Snow in Years”…”Wilson Reports 30-40 Inches”…”Overloaded Roofs Collapse”… Well, this was a surprise, wasn’t it? Probably because the snow reversed its usual pattern and came down heaviest from east to west. Asheville only got 7 inches. Fayetteville had over 2 feet. Greensboro had 20 inches, and, yes, Winston-Salem came in at 18 inches.

Was that the biggest snow ever here? It certainly sounds like a contender. But there are other possibilities. The 1927 articles mention the “Great Blizzard of 1899”. Unfortunately, when the Journal microfilm was done, 1899 was missing. The locally published weekly “The Union Republican” was more interested in politics than in local events. They do mention the blizzard, which affected the entire eastern half of the US. They do not mention local snow accumulation, which was apparently no more than 7 or 8 inches (see picture). They do note that temperatures were well below zero and that the streetcars were unable to run from Sunday until around noon on Tuesday and that there was a widespread shortage of fuel.

Almost certainly there is more information buried (beneath snow?) somewhere in the Moravian records. I am hoping that there is someone out there who likes to focus on weather extremes. If your research has been in that area, please let us know.

The F.J. Liipfert house at 512 West Fifth Street. This picture was taken on January 10, 1927. On that day, the Twin City got 7 inches of snow. Just a few weeks later, on March 2, 18 inches, probably the local record, fell in a single day. Of course, 1927 was a momentous year in other ways as well, because Lucky Lindy flew the Atlantic and Babe Ruth set a major league baseball record with 60 home runs.
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