The National Weather Service is forecasting more snow and cold for Clarke beginning Thursday night into Friday. Winds behind the storm will shift to a gusty 30+ mph from the northwest driving temperatures into the low teens. Sound familiar? While there are no forecasts (as of yet anyway) for another major snowstorm residents of Clarke County know that it doesn’t take much snow to snarl traffic and disrupt work and school schedules. With that in mind the Clarke Daily News Staff thought that our readers might enjoy a look back at some other memorable Virginia winters. Throw another log on the fire as you consider “big blows” from days past:
Washington and Jefferson Snow Storm, Jan. 28, 1772: Recorded in both George Washington’s and Thomas Jefferson’s diaries, the storm left 30 to 36 inches of snow from Charlottesville to Winchester to Washington, D.C., and remains the unofficial record. The deep snow pack prevented travel for up to two weeks, and postal service was stopped for five weeks.
Great Arctic Outbreak of ’99 and the Great Eastern Blizzard of ’99, February 1899: Extreme cold settled into the state with Quantico recording a record low of -20 °F and Washington, D.C. recording -15 °F on the 11th. The temperature fell to -21 °F in Fredericksburg, -9 ° in Warrenton, -12 ° in Greene County, -17 ° in Winchester, -23 °F at Woodstock, -22 ° at Harrisonburg and -29 ° at Monterey in Highland County. The blizzard struck on Valentine’s Day, dropping 16 inches of snow in Richmond and giving Washington, D.C. a snow depth of 34 inches. The city recorded its greatest monthly total with 35.2 inches and its greatest seasonal snowfall total with 54.4 inches. For the month, Harrisonburg recorded 47 inches, Winchester 39 inches and Fredericksburg 35 inches. Warrenton recorded the state monthly snowfall record with 54 inches. The 1898-1899 winter was so cold over a large part of the United States that ice flowed from the Mississippi River into the Gulf of Mexico.
February 18-19, 1979: “The Presidents Day Storm” was considered the worst storm in 57 years to strike Northern Virginia. Snow depths from the storm ranged from 6 to 8 inches southwest and southeast, 8 to 14 inches in the piedmont from south-central Virginia through central Virginia (Richmond reported 11 inches), and up to 20 inches over Northern Virginia. At times, snow was falling 2 to 3 inches per hour and temperatures were in the single digits to teens. Huge tractors and other farm machinery had been driven to the Mall in Washington, D.C. to protest for higher agricultural pricing. When the storm hit, the farmers used their equipment to help locals dig out of nearly two feet. Four deaths were attributed to heart attacks from stress due to overexertion during and after the storm, and 18 injuries occurred from falls on ice. Temperatures across the state were very cold (single digits in the north) when the snow began making the storm similar to the February 1899 storm. Even Norfolk got 7 inches before changing to rain and recorded nearly 13 inches of snow for the month.
January-February, 1994: These two months saw an unusual assault of ice storms on the Commonwealth. It began in mid January with an arctic blast that sent temperatures below zero over northern and western Virginia for a couple mornings. Winchester recorded -18 °F on the 16th, Harrisonburg reached -13 °F, Woodstock was -17 °F and western Loudoun County reached -15 °F. Between then and mid February, about a dozen storms hit dropping snow, sleet, and freezing rain over all but the southeast. The most devastating storm struck February 10-11. A swath of Virginia was coated with one to three inches of solid ice from freezing rain and sleet! The hardest hit was an area from Danville and Lynchburg northeast through Fredericksburg. Some counties lost 10 to 20 percent of their trees from the heavy ice. Roads were blocked and impassable. Electric and phone lines were down with as much as 90 percent of the county’s people without power. Even with the help of electric companies from other states, many people were without power for a week. A presidential disaster declaration was given and damages were estimated at $61 million. There were numerous injuries from automobile accidents and people falling on ice. Unfortunately, the National Weather Service does not keep records on ice amounts.
January 6-13, 1996: The “Blizzard of ’96” or the “Great Furlough Storm” began late on Saturday, January 6. Just one day earlier, an impasse between a republican congress and a democratic president over the 1996 Federal Budget had finally come to an end. Many federal employees had been on furlough with government offices shut down for almost a month. Employees would finally return to work on Monday, January 8. However, Mother Nature did not cooperate. By Monday morning, much of Virginia and the Washington area were buried under 2 feet of snow. As much as 30 to 36 inches of snow fell over the western mountains and the Shenandoah Valley. Roanoke set a new 24-hour snow record with 22.2 inches and Lynchburg set a new record with 20 inches. High winds on the 8th swept the snow into 10-foot drifts in the mountains. Around Richmond and throughout central Virginia 1 to 2 feet of snow fell with 11 to 14 inches in the immediate metro area. Even the Tidewater area saw 5 to 8 inches of snow.
Winter of 1995-1996: Much of Virginia, north and west of Richmond, had either a record seasonal snow total or it was in the top three for this century. Lynchburg set a new record with 57 inches of snow and Dulles with 62 inches. Blacksburg had 76 inches. Bluemont recorded 87 inches. Fredericksburg and the Northern Neck saw nearly 60 inches of snow. Roanoke recorded its third snowiest season with 53.4 inches. Burkes Garden recorded 97 inches of snow (over 5 feet). Bland and Glasgow had 62 inches and Buckingham saw 67 inches for the season. Some schools lost as many as 15 days. It was difficult to make up the time and compensate for the disrupted school year. Some schools added hours to their days, others added Saturdays or teacher conference days and some schools stayed in session through most of June.
February 28, 2004: A snowstorm affected much of central and western Virginia…with 6 to 12 inches of snow reported in the Blue Ridge Mountains of southwest Virginia. The heaviest amounts, in the 10 to 12 inch range, fell in Roanoke city/county, and in Franklin county.
December 26, 2004: A coastal storm system produced a narrow band of heavy snow across northeast North Carolina and southeast Virginia, including the Virginia Eastern Shore. some of the more significant snowfall totals were at Tabb and Quinby Virginia, where 14 inches fell, while between 12 and 13 of snow was reported at Eastville Virginia and Newport News Virginia. The snowfall fell in a band so narrow that nary a flake fell in the Richmond and Tri-Cities areas.
February 11-12, 2006: A major winter storm dumped significant snow across much of northern and central Virginia. Up to 15 inches of snow fell in the northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C. Snowfall totals of 5 to 8 inches were common as far south as Charlottesville, Fredericksburg and areas north of Richmond. Nearly 300,000 customers in northern Virginia were without power as a result of the storm due to downed trees and power lines.
Source: VAEmergency.com, Virginia Department of Emergency Management