Spring-hungry Marylanders foiled by sudden storm in 1924

Way Back When

Stormy weather: In 1924, March went out like a lamb, but as April Fool's Day arrived, so did a nor'easter that dumped 9.5 inches of snow and sleet on the state, setting a record for April snowfall.

April 01, 2000|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

As April approached in 1924, winter loosened its grip on Maryland. Temperatures rose to the 50s, making people forget a mid-March gale that had lashed the state with 40 mph winds and dumped nearly 2.5 inches of snow and rain.

Thoughts naturally turned to spring, stimulated by blooming crocuses and daffodils, as well as seasonal advertisements in The Sun.

"In six weeks you can have a green, velvety lawn by using the well-known M & S Roland Park Lawn Grass seed sold by the Meyer Seed Co."

Bernheimer-Leader department store promised "1,000 trimmed" cloche hats just in time for Easter, while Bonwit Lennon & Co. offered spring frocks that were "replicas of Paris originals."

On April 1, a fitting date some would say, The Sun celebrated the end of the annual legislative session.

"The noble brains have ceased toiling; the play boys of the Severn have gone home," observed the newspaper.

However, like some meteorological jester, The Sun's April Fool's Day weather forecast failed to take note a snowstorm that was sweeping up from the Gulf Coast, aiming directly for Maryland.

"Forecast for Maryland and District of Columbia -- Partly cloudy and somewhat colder today; fair tomorrow," reported The Sun.

As snow began falling at 4 a.m., the Weather Bureau revised its forecast warning of a "northeast storm reaching gale proportions" with "storm warnings out from the Virginia Capes to Provincetown, Mass."

"It is gentle spring's April fool joke," explained James H. Spencer, chief of the local Weather Bureau, to The Evening Sun.

The April Fool's Day Storm, as it became known, entered the record books as the largest April snowfall for Baltimore. It left 9.5 inches of snow and sleet in the city, 3 to 10 inches in central Maryland, and 10 inches in Westminster, Frederick and Freeland.

"Cleft by vivid flashes of lightning and its quiet fall accompanied by reverberating peals of thunder, the heaviest snow of the year yesterday enveloped the city in a white mantle nine inches deep," reported The Sun.

Streetcar travel was slowed by snow-packed switches while stalled autos sprawled lifeless across trolley tracks.

The situation was complicated by "horses slipping and falling," said the newspaper.

Racing fans were disappointed as the opening program of the Eastern racing season was suspended at Bowie when a heavy blanket of snow and slush covered the track.

In flood-ravaged Western Maryland, Kitzmiller on the Potomac was cut off from the outside world while heavy accumulations in the vicinity of Hagerstown and Frederick left "scores of machines caught in the deep drifts along the roads," reported the newspaper.

On the Eastern Shore, "Scores of homes were unroofed and a garage was blown 200 feet across an open field. Wagons and automobiles were blown about like chips, trees were uprooted and telephone and telegraph wires torn down. In Crisfield, a partly completed house blew away in a 60-mile-an-hour gale," reported The Sun.

"March has the traditional privilege of going out like a lion, but for gentle April to indulge in such rowdyism as that which with she shocked Baltimore yesterday is not within the rulings of the Weather Man's book of etiquette," said an editorial in The Sun.

"As for our suburbanites, who spent last Sunday studying seed catalogues and cleaning out the bird house, we fear that even their long-standing patience with the vagaries of spring was not prepared for this. What the devotees, and even more the promoters, of the genial Bowie race track are thinking one hesitates to imagine."

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