Archive for the ‘Events’ Category

Originally from January 1979 The Tennessean Magazine.winter51-0205


By Walter Carter

“Weather experts say it won’t compare with some of Nash­ville’ s more infamous winters. Why, back in 1796 it was so cold … “

No matter how cold it gets in Nash­ville, or how hard it snows, some­ body is bound to say, “This is summer­time next to The Blizzard of ’51.”

And according to weather forecasters Helen Lane, Tom Siler and P .J. New, that statement should hold true through the winter of ’79. In fact, by virtue of a split decision (two yesses and one yes­-and-no) this winter may be even milder than the last.

“Mild” is relative, of course. No one has forgotten that Nashville schools were closed 18 days last winter due to “umpteen” snowstorms (the count given in a Tennessean article), or that on three different nights last January the tem­perature fell to 7° F.

But 7° is like summertime compared to the -13° temperature recorded on Feb. 2, 1951. For ten days then, Nashville stood frozen in the worst ice and snow storm in the city’s history.

The -13° thermometer reading tied an all-time low set in 1899 (without the accompanying conditions). And in terms of disruption of people’s lives, the ’51 blizzard was far more severe than even The Great Cold of 1796, during which officers of the Tellico blockhouse built a fire on the frozen Cumberland River, barbequed two quarters of bear and invited their ladies to a Christmas feast on the ice.

Midway through dinner, one of the ladies probably remarked, “I knew this winter would be a hard one when I saw how black the wooly worms were last fall.”

Wooly worms this year have more brown in their coloring, according to Helen Lane, the weather woman of Crab Orchard, Tn. Mrs. Lane has been keeping track of weather indicators just for fun all her life, but people started taking her seriously back in 1959.

“I was a correspondent for the Cross­ville Chronicle,” she recalled. “I said, ‘You better fill the coalhouse full this winter. I saw twelve fogs in August.’ That was the year it snowed six feet on the mountain.”

Mrs. Lane only counted five morning fogs in August of 1978, so she predicts that many snows for this winter. “But I don’t believe anybody’d get mad at me if it didn’t snow at all this winter,” she said.

Some good and some bad weather is in store, she believes, because hornets have built nests both high (a sign of good weather) and low to the ground (a sign of bad).

“The corn shucks are fairly thick,” she added, “but not as thick as last year. And the leaf foliage is thick. But we could see the skyline through the trees in our yard, and we couldn’t last year.”

Mrs. Lane was a little concerned that perhaps the good weather in her forecast had already been used up by the long fall season, pointing out that the geese she saw flying south on the second weekend of December were more than a month behind their usual schedule.

She also noted that the Farmer’s Al­manac, which claims 80% accuracy, says that bad weather will not hit until the middle of January.

At the U.S. Weather Station in Nash­ville, P.J. New agreed with the cornsnow-on-roof

shucks, although his source is the U.S. Weather Bureau in Washington, D.C.

“The odds are about three to two that this winter will be warmer than nor­mal,” said New. “There should be a little more precipitation than normal, and if it’s warmer, maybe more rain than snow.

“The last two winters the U.S. Weather Bureau said it would be colder than normal and it doesn’t take any crystal ball to know they hit it.”

One man who has been known to consult a crystal ball for a forecast is WNGE-TV’s “Weather Wizard” Tom Siler. However, in predicting this winter’s weather, Siler relied upon in­formation from the General Electric Weather Center in Denver, Colorado.

“The forecast we made back in August was that this winter should be colder and wetter than normal,” Siler said. “It should be somewhere between ’77, when we had an abrupt cold snap, and ’78 when it was cold longer but not so severe.”

Siler’s long range forecasts are based on solar maximums, or flair activity on the sun-sunspots. ” A big flair means more energy, and weather is directly related to energy,” he explained, adding that scientists are still divided in their opinions of the accuracy of that method of forecasting.

Tied in with the sunspot theory are weather cycles-11 years of good fol­lowed by 11 years of bad. We are near the end of a cycle, Siler said, and after 1980 a new warm cycle should improve the winter weather.

The Blizzard of ’51 fits in with that theory, having come near the middle of an 11-year bad cycle. Through the ten days of snow and ice, the weather in Nashville was nothing short of unbeliev­able-at least in the opinions of those who were caught in it.

3Martha Ann Isaacs’ contest photo offered proof that getting out of the house was only half the problem of getting around town during the blizzard. 2Nashville Electric Service hod the only vehicles on the rood for the first few days of February, 1951, but off the rood was another story. Here, in a photo by William Schmeltzer, NES repairmen helped a Hamilton, Ohio family who would rather hove been somewhere else. 1A permanent move to a tropical climate was a common thought during The Blizzard of ’51. Evelyn McDonald submitted this photo for The Tennessean’s blizzard photo contest.

A story in The Tennessean summarizing “The Great Blizzard” suggested that the account be “clipped out and saved as a future reference, both for those who don’t believe and those who can prove that it happened in Nashville, Tenn., during the first week of February, 1951.” ‘

The problems started on the night of Jan. 31, when a rainstorm turned into sleet, freezing on roads and power lines and literally turning the city into a block of ice. Sleet and snow fell through the next day as the temperature dropped to -1°. Sixteen thousand homes were without power as the sleet turned to snow.

By the third day, when the tempera­ture hit -13° (-22° in Clarksville, -20° in Bell Buckle), fallen tree limbs blocked many roads, live power lines crackled on the ground and electric transformers exploded all around. Road scrapers cleared snow off the streets, only to find a 6-inch layer of solid ice underneath.

The police department reported no violent crimes, no arrests for drunken or reckless driving (since all traffic was on foot), and only one drunk.

The Tennessean was published for two days on an “emergency basis,” without any advertisements. The paper also sponsored a photo contest, awarding cash prizes for the best blizzard shots, and the U.S. Postal Service delivered the entries daily with no interruption of ser­vice.

On Feb. 4, the fifth day of the blizzard, the temperature rose above freezing for the first time. 5,000 homes were still without power, and emergency phone lines were run along the ground where they would stay for two weeks.

The ice began to thaw the next day as the temperature never fell below 27°. Taxis and busses resumed service, and automobiles just freed from snowbanks were soon trapped again, this time in downtown traffic jams.

Rain fell on Feb. 6 and the thaw continued for one more day. Then on Feb.8 the freeze returned, icing the roads so that they resembled sheets of glass and compounding all the problems of the previous week.

Days later, when the ice finally melt­ed, someone said, with noticeable hesi­tation, “This warn’t nothin’ next to The Winter of ’99.”

Thanks Nathan Eubankz for the loan of the Tennessean Magazine!

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Banner July 21, 1969


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Grandeur that was never to return

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Frozen Cumberland

Frozen Cumberland

It’s been a while since this has happened!
My Dad remembers driving a car across this!

Photo from Nashvillle Memories by University Of Tennessee Press

“shall never forget. .I had been uptown with my buddy going to the Krystal and having 2 hamburgers and a RC cola (15 cents) then a cowboy movie at the Rex (10 cents). . . Somebody had a model T on the ice as I walked over the Shelby St Bridge going to my Fatherland St. home. .I could’t resist so I walked on the ice. My father asked me if I had done such a foolish thing and of course I said no.The NASHVILLE BANNER the next afternoon had a picture of people walking on the ice. .guess who was in the foreground. . .I still feel that spanking! “-Jim Sloan from nashlinks.com

Here is a photo shared by David Lewis. Featured are brother and sister Charles
and Thelma Lewis in 1940. You can see the power plant and the Train Trestle in the background.
Apparently they spent some time playing in the snow and ice in Shelby Park.

January 1940 photo by Cecil Pearl Weems

January 1940 photo by Cecil Pearl Weems

January 1940 photo by Cecil Pearl Weems

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Flood of 1932

Eighth avenue north and Jo Johnson

White’s Creek Pike

Rising Cumberland Drives Hundreds From Homes ; Aid Pushed

North First Street

North First Street

Davidson street residents on their way to find new and unflooded homes

Davidson street residents on their way to find new and unflooded homes


Eighth avenue north and Jackson residents moving their belongings before water reaches the house.

Eighth avenue north and Jackson residents moving their belongings before water reaches the house.

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East Nashville Fire

6th & Russel streets

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St. Patrick’s Day Snowstorm of 1892

Mark A. Rose
National Weather Service
Old Hickory, Tennessee

The winter of 1891-92 was almost one with no snowfall. Through March 14, a mere 0.3 inches of snowfall had been measured in Nashville, and it appeared that winter was over.1,2 There had been several days early in March with temperatures in the 60’s, and the thermometer had climbed to 70 degrees on the 4th.2 Sometime on March 13, a strong cold front swept through the region, dunking Nashville’s high temperature from 65 degrees on the 13th to 40 degrees the next day.2 Then, on the 15th, Nashville received a 4.2-inch snowfall — the largest by far of the season thus far.2 Much of this snow likely melted the next day, as the temperature rose to 39 degrees, and it appeared that a warming trend was underway.2 But this was not to be the case.

On St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, Nashville received the largest snowfall in its history — 17 inches — a record which still stands today. The snow began around 6:00 p.m. the previous evening.3 Very little accumulated until after midnight.2 The snow continued into the afternoon.3

Said a Nashville Banner article, which appeared on page eight on the day of the snowstorm, There has been much complaining, but there is consolation in the fact that the same snow that makes walking disagreeable, is enriching the wheat, fertilizing the land, and holding back the fruit until danger of frost is past. Over these things the farmers rejoice.

Nashville’s street cars had been “snowed under,” and did not run.3 Suburban workers had to walk to town.3 Morning trains were delayed.3 And the “arteries of trade” were clogged.3 Mailmen didn’t leave the post office on their rounds until 10:00 a.m.3 Many letters weren’t delivered until late afternoon.4 A freight train from Chattanooga ran upon a freight engine, derailing two cars, at the Winton community (near Murfreesboro), and did not get in until noon.3 A passenger train from Memphis due at 7:00 a.m. did not arrived until 2:00 p.m.3 And members of the Ancient Order of Hibernians in America canceled their annual parade.4

The Nashville Banner that day contained the following anecdotes: In the city the snow seems to be taken good-naturedly. A real estate dealer on Union street has “For Sale” on a huge pile of snow in front of his door, and all about town the snowdrifts along the sidewalks are labeled with such legends as, “Keep Off the Grass,” “Don’t Pluck the Roses,” “The Sunny South,” “Beautiful Spring,” “Come Into the Garden, Maud,” “Mosquito Bars Made Cheap,” “Linen Dusters at Half Cost,” “In Memory of Dixie That is Froze,” and “Where Are the Violets You Promised?”

In addition, the following conversation took place over the Associated Press wire:

Memphis Operator – The snow here is four feet deep.
Cincinnati – You mean inches, don’t you?
Memphis – No, it is up to a man’s knee.

So the winter that almost wasn’t concluded with 21.8 inches of snowfall, and with 21.5 inches of that accumulating in a single month, March of 1892 remains the snowiest month in Nashville’s history.1 The record 17-inch snowfall has been challenged only once. On February 20-21, 1929, Nashville accumulated 15 inches of snow during a remarkable 13-hour period spanning two calendar days.5 The next largest snowfall on record is 9.8 inches, which occurred on February 3, 1886.5


1 National Weather Service. Nashville Monthly Snowfall Table.

2 National Weather Service. Monthly Climate Summary for Nashville, Tennessee for March, 1892.

3 The Beautiful Snow. Nashville Banner. March 17, 1892.

4 O’Donnell, Red. Nashvillians made light of 16-inch snow in ’92. Nashville Banner. March 16, 1982.

5 National Weather Service. One-Day Snowfall Totals of at Least 6″ at Nashville.

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