By Mary O’KEEFE
As Southern Californians spend a sunny Thanksgiving today, it is important for us to remember those who cannot easily go “over the river and through the woods” as the snow has barricaded many of them in their own homes and travel restrictions have been posted. As of Sunday, western New York and Ohio residents were dealing with a snowstorm that had brought over six feet to some areas. On Saturday the National Weather Service (NWS) issued a “special weather statement” that included a warning of a two-hour burst of heavy snow.
“A band of heavy snow accompanied by winds of up to 30 mph [is expected], which can rapidly reduce visibility to less than a quarter of a mile. This band of heavy snow is producing extremely heavy snow at the rate of two-to-three inches per hour,” according to the NWS statement.
This type of weather is foreign to many who were born, raised and lived in Southern California all their lives. Going to the mountains to see snow may bring some a little closer to that snowbound feeling but they can always leave and go back to the beach. That is not what it is like in the midwest and east as these storms bring snow, wind and ice.
My family spent one Thanksgiving in Arizona when I was younger. It seemed nice, but a little strange. I was used to cold and sometimes snow in Iowa for the Thanksgiving holiday but in Phoenix, Arizona that year was really hot. We went from the pool to the airport then, when we landed in Des Moines, Iowa we faced a cold reality – literally. There was so much snow the only way to get home was to follow a snowplow. It took us over six hours to drive 60 miles. The worst part was Mom loved the sun and reminded us how “wonderful” the heat was that we had just left. We had to keep an eye on Dad who wanted to stop to make snowmen and have a snowball fight. These snowy days are exciting at first but then it sinks in that you’re not moving; that blanket of snow is sometimes more smothering than refreshing.
I wondered what the history of Thanksgiving weather has been over the years and found a fascinating article at AccuWeather.com titled, “Snow was so deep, city called in the National Guard.”
Below are some of the Thanksgivings holiday weather highlights found in the article:
The title of the article dealt with a snowstorm over the Thanksgiving holiday in 1950 that created so much snow in Cleveland, Ohio that members of the state’s National Guard shoveled streets to relieve snowbound residents and businesses.
In 1898 a storm formed off the Cape Cod coast that covered the New England coast. The storm lasted over 30 hours and coastal winds gusts were up to 100 mph. There were many people killed at sea with more than 140 ships lost. Boston Harbor was filled with shipwrecks when the storm was over. It brought New England to a standstill, with more than two feet of snow burying parts of Connecticut. The storm was named Portland, after a deadly shipwreck. The ship had capsized off Orleans on Nov. 26, 1898 killing about 200 passengers and crewmembers.
In 1921 New England residents faced one of the worst ice storms in history with more than three inches of ice piled up and about 100,000 trees uprooted or ruined.
Thanksgiving weather has always been interesting like in 1926 when a swarm of Thanksgiving Day tornadoes touched down in Arkansas. The storms killed 53 people in Portland, Arkansas and 11 in Morehouse Parish, Louisiana. More were injured, and the storm caused over $600,000 in damages, which would be equivalent to more than $9 million today.
Winds again were not welcomed weather in 1945 Boston. Deadly “nor’easter” winds that averaged 40.5 mph swept through Boston for over 24 hours. What began as rain turned to snow and 16 inches fell in parts of New England.
And then there was the Great Appalachian Storm in 1950. That was a large cyclone that brought the eastern U.S. to a standstill. Winds, heavy rains, blizzard conditions and hurricane-force winds killed 353 and injured 160 people. The cyclone impacted 22 states and disrupted power to one million customers.
There were more storms, including Hurricane Iwa in 1982 that hit the western Hawaiian Islands on Thanksgiving with peak winds of 86 mph and gusts up to 105 mph.
There were more tornados throughout the years that hit North Carolina and the Deep South. Not to be left out, California has had its moment in the history books of Thanksgiving Day weather events. In 2019, a “bomb cyclone” storm system approached the West Coast on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. It came ashore over southern Oregon and northern California. By Wednesday the storm system had intensified into a bomb cyclone striking Seattle with hurricane force winds of 74 mph. The storm caused travel issues and would eventually stretch down to Southern California bringing rain of 0.2 to 0.4 inches in Ventura and Los Angeles counties. Mt. Baldy reported 10 inches of snow; then the storm moved on to Nevada and Arizona.
This year, though, for the CV, Glendale and Burbank areas the NWS predicts, as Randy Newman would sing, “just another perfect day” with warm sunny weather. So, as we all enjoy a day of Thanksgiving, let’s take a moment to be grateful for the great weather and send warm thoughts to those living in areas like Buffalo, New York who are expected to get even more snow today.