The Great Snowfall of 1973
The Great Snowfall of 1973
The day was Friday, February 9, 1973 - thirty seven years ago. It was supposed to rain - a cold rain. After all, it had rained the Friday before - an all time official record of five and one - half inches. Eight East Laurens High School classrooms had been soaked. The weatherman said "lows in the mid thirties and highs approaching fifty." He was wrong. Boy, was he wrong!
The day started out like any other February Friday. It was a little chilly, but not too cold. My father told us that it was going to snow that day. We responded "Daddy, you're crazy! It's not cold enough." You see, it was his naval flight training that told him so - cold fronts, wet air masses, and stuff like that.
Around noon it began to rain. In some places sleet was enfilading the trees. Claps of thunder boomed throughout the county. Then, in a moment of day dreaming, I glanced out of the narrow window of Mrs. Frances Powell's English classroom. There were flakes in that rain - one then another. Soon the rain vanished. Large snow flakes began pommeling the rapidly freezing ground.
"It won't stick" many said. Before it was over, it stuck alright. More snow than anyone had ever seen in Laurens County - that we know of, of course. County School Superintendent William P. Johnson sent students home just after noon. The city school students were right behind them. The 2-AA West Basketball tournament , Dublin versus West Laurens playing was postponed.
It snowed and it snowed - all night and into the next day. Statewide papers said six to eight inches. Mr. W.P. Nalley, the local weatherman, measured fourteen inches. The "Black's Seed Store" yardstick plunged down thirteen inches in the snow in our front yard. Many reported drifts which accumulated sixteen to eighteen inches. Central Georgia bore the brunt of the storm, which blanketed the southeast from Mississippi to South Carolina.
Macon and Augusta had seven inches. Columbus topped out at nine inches.
Ironically, the Dublin Police Department had just undergone training for an event like this. They were ready for some snow, but never had they planned for this much. Marguerite Faulk, director of the Laurens County Civil Defense Department, set the wheels in motion to protect County citizens. The Sheriff's office helped too. Law enforcement officers began ferrying needed medical personnel to hospitals. The weekend training for the Army Reserve was canceled. However, the National Guard stepped in to help out.
Everything shut down. Most streets were impassable. Interstate Highway 16 was closed. Only during the "Great Flood of 1994" has that highway been closed. Alderman Bob Walker and City Manager John Crane oversaw the scraping of downtown streets and sidewalks. Snowbanks were several feet high along West Jackson Street. Yankee transplants with snow chains and four-wheel drive truck owners could get around with a little difficulty. Everyone else was stuck.
Necessary stores began to open. Convenience stores, grocery stores, and drug stores were opened as soon as possible. There was a lot of walk-in customers that day. Many kids got up early that Saturday morning. The anticipation of playing in the snow was too much. An army of snow men were stationed all over the county. Many yards had three or four Frostys. Few people had snow sleds, again except for the Yankee transplants. We had to improvise. An old Coca Cola sign made a great sled. Garbage can lids were pretty good, too. Boy did all of us kids have a blast! Then a lot of us kids found the way to the ultimate downhill run - the Shamrock Bowl. There must have been two dozen kids there that afternoon. Several of us went over to the dumpsters behind the Big Apple Grocery Store and fished out several chicken boxes - the waxed ones that don't get very wet. They worked remarkably well.
However, everything wasn't fun and games. Several of Louis and D.I. Parker's cows were trapped in a barn. Its roof collapsed under the weight of the snow. Some power and utility lines were down, but Southern Bell, Georgia Power, and E.M.C. crews repaired them in short order. Thankfully, there were only a few auto accidents.
To make matters worse, temperatures didn't get above freezing for very long. The temperature plummeted to thirteen degrees on Sunday morning. The powdery snow was turning to ice. There was some melting that afternoon. By Monday most paved roads and streets were passable. County dirt roads were still a nightmare. Much to the dismay of several thousand school kids, we had to go back to school on Tuesday, Valentine's Day. By the way, that was the day that Laurens County voters narrowly turned down a bond issue to build a Junior College in Dublin.
We had snowfalls before. The "Great Snow of February, 1914" was remembered by the old timers as the biggest snow storm of all. It was only four inches. Nearly two more decades passed before a good amount of snow fell again. A legendary snow fall occurred in the early hours of Thanksgiving in 1912. Nearly three inches of snow fell, but quickly melted during a mid morning rain. Another more legendary snow occurred in July of 1902. Dr. George Franklin Green and other reliable witnesses reported that they saw a few snow flakes following a hail storm.
In this part of the state, there are snowfalls in excess of one inch about every five years or so. We get flurries almost every year. We are due for another measurable snowfall. One occurred on December 23, 1993. It gave us the only touch of a "White Christmas" we have ever known. Alas, it was gone in a few hours. Another came in January 2001. Most of the big ones have occurred in mid-February. Nothing compares to that weekend, thirty seven years ago, when we all, at least the kids, enjoyed one of the most memorable times of our lives.