Recalling Another Snowy December In Baltimore

BACk STORY

December 20, 2009|By FREDERICK N. RASMUSSEN

According to our in-house weather expert, Frank Roylance, writing in Friday's paper, the most recent snowy December in Baltimore was in 1966, when four storms combined to dump 20.4 inches on the area and presumably made Santa Claus' job vastly easier.

The first snowstorm of the 1966 season occurred Dec. 13, when 4 inches of wet snow moving up from Southern Maryland blanketed Baltimore, Central and Western Maryland, disrupting automobile traffic and causing one fatal accident.

The storm caused several airlines to cancel flights while what was then called Friendship Airport remained in operation; Laurel Race Course (now Laurel Park) canceled its card; and arriving and departing shipping on the Chesapeake Bay was only "slightly slowed" by the storm, The Baltimore Sun reported.

Maryland residents had a breather until Dec. 20, when another storm hit the area, leaving 4 to 5 inches of snow in its wake as holiday travelers tried to get out of town for the holidays.

"Most concerned about the snow - which began falling in the Baltimore area in the early morning - were merchants and shoppers, just five days before Christmas," reported The Sun. "Most major department stores in Baltimore reported sales down, but telephone orders higher than normal."

One Howard Street department store official told the newspaper that "snow never fails to keep people away."

The Sun reported Dec. 22 that the next day would be "cloudy and cold with a chance of snow." The next day, the forecast was changed to "snow developing tonight and ending tomorrow morning."

"The Weather Bureau came through with a white Christmas prediction today," advised The Evening Sun on Dec. 23. "The snowfall was expected to start tonight and continue through Saturday, ending sometime late Christmas Eve."

While the Weather Bureau made no estimate of snow accumulation, it noted there would be a "blanket of snow on the ground."

Maryland represented the northernmost point of a storm that sprawled over 13 states and extended from northeast Arkansas and northern Georgia across Kentucky and central North Carolina, as holiday travelers took highways, trains and buses.

By Christmas Eve afternoon, 3 inches of snow had fallen in the city and succeeded in emptying downtown of autos and humanity.

"Most harried by the snow were deliverymen trying desperately to get last-minute presents to customers of the city's department stores," reported the newspaper.

On Christmas Day, The Sunday Sun reported snow totals ranging from 2 inches to 10 inches and two snow-related deaths from shoveling.

"The snow caused numerous churches around the city to cancel midnight services, and many even canceled them for early this morning, except for 11 a.m. and noon services," reported the newspaper.

Police reported that the deepest accumulation was in Towson, where 8 inches to 10 inches had piled up on streets and yards. Despite the storm, the Baltimore Transit Co. told the newspaper that all normal routes were operating.

The light powdery snows began swirling about, aided by winds of 10 mph to 20 mph, cutting visibility for motorists willing to brave the storm.

Speeds on the John F. Kennedy Memorial Highway fell to 40 mph while New Jersey state troopers warned travelers that speeds had fallen to 35 mph.

Pennsylvania Railroad passenger trains were operating two to three hours behind schedule, while trains on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad coming from Chicago and St. Louis were an hour late.

Airlines and interstate buses reported delays of several hours, and when visibility dropped to zero at Friendship, the airport shut down.

Oddly enough, Garrett and Allegany counties in Western Maryland, normal targets for the heaviest snow accumulations, experienced only a light snowfall. Gale warnings were posted along the Atlantic Coast, as waves as high as 6 feet slammed ashore at Ocean City.

While temperatures fell to 23 degrees on Christmas Eve, it didn't break the record for the date, when a temperature of 13 degrees was recorded in 1933.

"It was the third and worst snowstorm to hit the state this month, but it could hardly compare with the 'Blizzard of '66,' which literally paralyzed the state Jan. 30. Between 18 and 24 inches of snow fell then and drifting was the worst in years in all parts of Maryland," observed The Sunday Sun.

Snow-weary Marylanders had to have been jarred by the forecast on Dec. 28 that predicted either snow or sleet as they continued to "shovel and plow out from under the Christmas Eve storm," reported The Sun.

Warmer weather made slush of Baltimore's fourth snowstorm, which had dropped a 11/2-inch blanket over the metropolitan area.

But winter wasn't quite finished with the Free State, as light snow was predicted for New Year's Eve and party revelers. But The Evening Sun had some good news.

"Baltimore City bars will be allowed to remain open tonight as late as they wish into Sunday morning," reported the newspaper.

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