Holiday storm revisted
It is Thanksgiving 2013, and I am sure we are all giving thanks, having a great feast and visiting with family and friends.
At this time of the year, my mind seems to always drift back to Thanksgiving 1950, when I was nine years old and lived with my big brother and my father and mother in a tiny village called Bridgeburg in the Kittanning area of western Pennsylvania. It was a pleasant Thanksgiving with a great feast. We had no TV at that time, but I do remember a severe weather warning while I was listening to “Dragnet” on the radio.
During the late evening and early morning, snow began to fall. Of course, we didn’t have school on that Friday morning, due to the holiday. My father worked at the local brick yard and was scheduled to start night shift that evening, which meant that we all piled into our 1946 maroon Plymouth and headed to nearby Kittanning for groceries, knowing all along of the snow warnings. My brother and I usually took in a matinee at the movies, but had to cancel due to the snow pelting down. My parents got groceries needed, and we exited Kittanning immediately in fear of road conditions.
As we arrived home safely, the snow kept coming down. My dad walked to work, since the brick yard was a short distance from home. The snow was accumulating rapidly with no end in sight. What weather news we heard from the radio while we were listening to “The Lone Ranger.” On awakening on Saturday, Nov. 25, 1950, we couldn’t believe our eyes! It was still snowing, and snow had blanketed everywhere we looked. My dad returned home from work and measured 23 inches of snow at that time. He was called back to work to shovel the roofs over the brick ware at the brick yard in fear that with all of that snow, they might collapse.
By Sunday, the snow had stopped, but naturally school was canceled on Monday and all of the rest of the week. This was truly the best part of the snowstorm, as everything was shut down. It was a different era back then, as snow removing equipment was in its infancy, and it seemed to take forever to clear the roads alone, plus the schools, businesses and churches.
Since then it has been called the Great Appalachian Storm of 1950, and the 1950 Great Thanksgiving Snowstorm. Nearly 30 inches of snow covered Pittsburgh, and two feet or more blanketed Cleveland. West Virginia, western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio snowfalls totaled more than 30 inches. Power was out to more than one million customers during the storm. It actually affected 22 states, killing 353 people and creating $66.7 million in damage. Those figures were 1950 figures. U.S. insurance companies paid more money out to their policy holders for damage from this storm than for any other previous storm. Steubenville’s snowfall exceeded 44 inches with snow drifts up to 25 feet.
The classic Ohio State-Michigan football game was scheduled on Saturday, Nov. 25, and was luckily played in Columbus where it was not quite as bad, but still is described as “The Blizzard Bowl.” The Big Ten Championship was on the line and a trip to the Rose Bowl. Michigan won 9-3 on 27 yards gained without achieving one first down.
Youngstown accumulated 29 inches of snow. Many buildings collapsed under the weight of 2 to 3 feet of snow. The Ohio National Guard used Jeeps to transport people to hospitals and to deliver food to those in rural areas. Ohio Gov. Frank Lausche declared a state of emergency in Cleveland and the Youngstown-Warren areas as drifts grew to 30 feet. Roads were closed; trains and buses canceled. People could not leave their homes for days. Milk and bread and other delivery trucks could not get through. School buses were halted, and it was a joyous occasion for all students. As said before, snow clearing in those days was different, and they used no salt back then.
So here I sit writing this piece some 63 years later with many memories of the Great Thanksgiving Snowstorm of 1950. Can you remember, too?
Whited is a Tribune Chronicle columnist.