By Jack HughesSnow has a lot in common with religion. It comes from heaven, changes everything and creates an alternative reality that brings on irrational behavior in humans. I have always loved snow; the more, the better in my opinion. In fact, I was told my first spoken word was snow. I would look out the window and stare at the falling flakes with awe. Later, I learned that with each snowfall, trillions of flakes would fall and no two are ever alike. I also grew to like the quiet and serenity that can be found in the woods during a falling snow.
The “Big Snow” of 1950 is still in the record books as it dumped 30 to 40 inches across Southwestern Pennsylvania when the forecast called for just some snow flurries. By 1974, forecasts were much better and a big one was forecast. It was the Sunday after Thanksgiving and all day our area experienced a mix of snow, sleet, rain and wind. Just as night fell, heavy snow with thunder and lightning begin and lasted for hours. By morning, trees and power lines were down everywhere and not much was moving. In the mountains, almost every tree had damage and many were blown over.
The lights would remain out for over a week and the National Guard had to be activated. The Uniontown Mall closed. We measured 24 inches of heavy wet snow at Chalk Hill and over a foot in town. The snow was so heavy and full of water that it appeared blue in color. Most homes had no heat, lights or water and there was a tremendous out-pouring of neighbors helping out. Our home was 11 days without power and it sure causes one to think about what is important and how we take things for granted.
January of 1977 was cold and snowy across Southwestern Pennsylvania, probably one of the coldest periods in our weather history. We had 25 days of snow and nearly 20 inches of snow covered the ground all of January and February through the first days of March. At the Chalk Hill weather station, we had 14 days below zero and on January 13 the high was just 1 degree below zero. The low for the month was 21 degrees below zero. Rivers froze, fuel was hard to come by and schools were closed for weeks.
By 1993, weather forecasts had improved to the point that the Blizzard of ‘93 was actually forecast a week in advance. Heavy snow fell from mobile Alabama on the gulf Coast all the way to Northern Maine. Places in the Carolina Mountains had 55 inches of snow. Interstates were closed over much of the South, Middle Atlantic and Northeast as blizzard conditions blasted throughout the region. Just about everything in our area was affected.
Normal snowfall in Uniontown is 40 inches per season. In the mountains, we average 88 inches, but Somerset and Garrett County mountains are more likely to see an average of 120 inches. Lake effect snow can bring large amounts of snow and Montague, New York holds the 24 hour snowfall record of 77 inches. Tamarack, Ca., holds the month record of 424 inches and Mount Baker, Wa., has the all-time season record of 1,140 inches.