Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The St. Louis "Snow Event" of 1982

The topic for the 64th edition of the Carnival of Genealogy: A Winter Photo Essay. Show us those wintertime photo(s) of your ancestors or family members and tell us the story that goes along with them. Winter is here! Let's record it and celebrate it!

The word 'winter' and 'snow' quickly bring to my mind the year 1982.

On January 30th and 31st 1982, a 1-in-70 year snow event occurred from the eastern Ozarks to central Illinois with the heaviest axis of snow blanketing St. Louis, Missouri. The snow began during the evening of January 30th, a Saturday, and ended during the afternoon of Sunday, January 31st.

The National Weather Service explains, despite what St. Louisans almost universally call it, it wasn't technically a blizzard. But not calling it a blizzard is sort of like not calling Pluto a planet. If you look at the map above, the purple section in the middle is St. Louis, and the key shows that close to two feet of snow fell. I was 13, and remember the weekend well. According to the National Weather Service linked to above:

The storm was not well forecast by the National Weather Service, private meteorologists, local television and radio meteorologists, nor local university meteorologists. The consensus the night before the event was for light snow to occur with a few inches of accumulation.

As you can see, 'not well forecast' is an understatement. Local TV stations were still saying 'a few inches' when residents could look out their window and easily see those few inches had been long surpassed. I remember going outside Sunday morning with a yardstick.

As a 13 year old, I was overjoyed with two feet of snow. I'm sure my parents weren't. [They were also a little concerned about its timing, and this perhaps would have concerned me too, but they were smart enough not to let me know they were concerned.] My parents called around and actually found a restaurant (the Parkmoor) that managed to be open for breakfast on Sunday morning within walking distance, and the family made our way through the fallen snow. (I have no idea how they managed it. Maybe they had enough dedicated employees within walking distance.)

I know this carnival is supposed to be a Photo Essay, but I don't have any personal photographs of the snowstorm to share. However there are some good photographs at the National Weather Service link above.

What I do have is a photograph taken one week later, on February 6th, 1982. Still winter time by all definitions. The photo was taken inside, but it is due to this event that there is no way for me to forget when the snowstorm occurred. It's also what concerned my parents - whether or not the snow would be cleared in time for my Bar Mitzvah, so delivery trucks could make it into St. Louis - trucks carrying the food and table flowers for the event. Apparently, it was close, but the roads opened up by the latter half of the week.

(Me and four grandparents. My paternal grandparents Melvin and Sissie (Feinstein) Newmark on the left, and on the right my maternal grandfather, Martin Deutsch, and his second wife, Marjorie (Shelp Helmkampf) Deutsch.)

The photograph was taken at United Hebrew Congregation. The building was sold in the late 1980s to the Missouri Historical Society, and it now houses their research library which I visited last weekend.

A final religious note: The weekly Torah portion that would have been read the weekend of January 30, 1982, preceding the snowfall, was Exodus 10:1-13:16 which describes the twelve plagues. It's possible one or two people noted this irony at the time.


Anonymous said...

Wow, nice picture. Which one are you?

Anonymous said...

If you squint your eyes, and look at the center of the image, you can see me (along with the rest of St Louis) in the purple circle covered in snow.

Anonymous said...

I remember the big snow storm of 1982 in St. Louis. There was also a thunderstorm one night while it was still snowing, only time I have ever seen that & haven't seen it since. This storm crippled the entire city.