The 30th anniversary of one of the most intense snow events ever observed in the Eastern U.S. is upon us. Also known as The Great Blizzard, the Storm of the Century and The Superstorm, it all began on March 12, 1993. Around these parts, just mention “The Blizzard” and anyone who was alive at the time will instantly know what you’re referencing.
This was, of course, before the age of the Internet and before widespread use of cell phones. But we did have radio and television, and – just like now – we had meteorologists on television newscasts. By March 8 that year, the National Weather Service, using predictions from computer models, had recognized the threat of a significant snowstorm. The problem was that there had been similar predictions from computer models earlier that winter that fizzled out – this one, however...THIS ONE – “they” insisted – was different. This was going to be the Big Daddy of Blizzards, the snowstorm to end all snowstorms and those of us in Alabama? We. Were. Not. Prepared.
Like a lot of other people at the time, I didn’t believe. In my mind, winter was ending. Spring was already springing – buttercups were blooming, trees were blossoming. Snow? Ludicrous.
Also, at that time in my life, most all the snowfall I had experienced in northeast Alabama could be measured in inches, not feet. These lunatics on television were talking about a massive amount of snowfall and high winds resulting in snowdrifts. As a young man, living in Alabama, someone might as well have been speaking Greek. Snowdrift? What the heck was a snowdrift?
I remember closing the front door to the house early on the evening of March 12. It was a Friday. I scanned the sky. There may have been a little bit of snow falling by then. I looked at my car, a gold, two-door, 5-speed Toyota Celica, parked in the usual spot in the front yard, under a tall oak. “It’s not going to do anything,” I said. I locked up, turned in, and didn’t bother to look outside again until opening up that same front door the next morning to prove to myself that it had (in fact) “not done anything.” My Celica was gone. Oh, it hadn’t been stolen or anything. It was still there; I just couldn’t see it anymore because it was literally buried underneath the snow. Everywhere I looked, snow, snow, and more snow. Easily the most snow I have ever seen in northeast Alabama, either before or since. And those snowdrifts? Those were higher than my head. Way higher.
Many neighbors lost power. Thankfully, somehow, we did not. The television news told tales of how 12-18 inches of snow had fallen across central Alabama in the span of a single night. One of the highest snowfall totals was relatively nearby: 21 inches in Walnut Grove in Etowah County. Snowdrifts up to six feet tall in some areas. If such an event happened today, there would be countless pictures taken with cellphone cameras popping up all over social media. But in 1993, we were still beholden to traditional, film cameras. And most people were too busy just trying to survive to think about snapping pics. There are still plenty of photos out there, but I’m not sure they really do justice to the Blizzard of ’93. Widespread power outages, roads shutdown for over a week in some areas, more than a dozen deaths from exposure, at least $100 million in property damage – it was no joke. As one might expect from Alabama weather, however, temperatures climbed into the 60s just a few days later. As I write this, it is a few days prior to March 12. The weather has been sunny and unusually warm – early blooming trees and flowers are showing out. But today, there was a sudden dip in temperature and clouds began rolling in. Could history repeat itself? Never say never. But, as I also recall saying back in ’93: if I never laid eyes on snow again, it would still be too soon.
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