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.