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The 1950 snowstorm was in a class by itself

February 7, 2009

If someone were to ask the question, "what was the biggest snowstorm to hit Elkins?" most people would say "the blizzard of March 1993". That massive snowstorm blanketed most of eastern United States. Snowshoe recorded 44 inches of snow from this storm.In the snowstorm of November 1950, Pickens reported 57 inches of snow. That was the highest amount of snow from anywhere within the area of this storm. Snow started falling in West Virginia in the early morning the day after Thanksgiving for most of the state. I was only six years old, and my mother would not let me go outside to play in the snow that first morning for disciplinary reasons. I had to go outside in the afternoon when she sent me on an errand. The next day or two, I was out for a few minutes, but I did not enjoy myself because it was just too cold, windy, and the snow was too deep.

A few years later, I read that Charleston got 19 inches of snow within 36 hours from this storm. Measured snow depths from other locations in the state included Fairmont with 46, Elkins with 36, Weston with 36, Morgantown with 31, Buckhannon with 26, and Wheeling with 25.

The 1950 snowstorm was the deepest in Ohio's history. Most communities in the eastern half of that state measured 20-30 inches during this storm.The classic Ohio State-Michigan football game was played in Columbus on Saturday November 25, with the Big Ten Championship on the line. Michigan won the game 9 to 3 on 27 total yards gained and without achieving one first down. Some people called this the "Blizzard Bowl" or the "Snow Bowl".

My mother-in-law, Rose Eakin, has her own adventure to tell."In November, 1950, the "big snow" hit Weston, WV, where my husband and I lived. I called my family and found they had no milk for the 5-month-old baby, whose father was in Alaska.

Weston was closed down. No transportation, no stores were open. A friend offered to open his pharmacy to sell us some formula. To get there we had to hike from Bennett to High, Court, and Center Streets to reach the Main Street pharmacy.

My family lived almost two miles from us and about 1 1/4 miles from the pharmacy. Bob and I dressed in layers of clothes. My boots were secured with rubber bands. Our hike was through the "Narrows", a highway between a mountain and the West Fork River. A wire fence between the sidewalk and the river was the only guideline that we were on the sidewalk. There was almost 5 feet of snow with drifts over my head. Bob led the way, kicking a path for me; I could hear rocks cracking on the mountain.

When you see nothing but white and hear only your own breathing, you tend to grow bored and disoriented. Every step was slow motion. It took us over two hours to hike 1 1/4 miles, and we had to make another trip back home and still had to go to my family's home."

I have talked to other people who are older than I about this storm am. Sam Price said that he could remember that the city of Parkersburg lost all of its snowplows in the drifting snow. The late Ashby Craft, a retired weather forecaster, informed me that this snowstorm is now used as a standard for comparing all other snowstorms in West Virginia. This snowstorm was also responsible for 160 deaths in West Virginia. Don Rice, county historian, told me that this storm was called "The Great Post-Thanksgiving Snowstorm". According to Don, Elkins received 35.7 inches of snow with wind gusts to 50 mph; in a two day period from November 24-25, Elkins received 20.7 inches with single digit temperatures."

Don submitted the above photo of Davis Avenue with snow stacked in the middle of the road making two lanes showing how Elkins handled snow at that time. Thanks to everyone who talked about his or her experiences.



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