Current Events: A Storm of Snow

A Storm of Snow has come and gone, leaving several feet of powdery, drifting snow behind.  It seems that since last autumn The Weather Channel started naming winter storms, and they called the most recent one ‘Nemo.’  WFSB Channel 3 (New Haven CT), who apparently was one of the first news stations to  name major winter storms, called it ‘Charlotte’ instead. No matter what they say, it was not the greatest snowfall New Hampshire has seen.

Engraving from The Snow Storm, by Esther M. Bourne, San Francisco, 1857

Engraving from The Snow Storm, by Esther M. Bourne, San Francisco, 1857 states that the storm was the 2nd all time record for Concord NH, the first occurring during “the blizzard of 1888, when 27.5 inches of snow was recorded.” Climate Central states that his blizzard broke snowfall records in many places.  All of these statements are, of course, dependent on fairly recent documents, many of which are newspapers

In the 18th and 19th centuries, the New England colonies had their share of inconsistent winter weather, and I found the following story in Amherst, New Hampshire’s “Farmer’s Cabinet” of February 1827:
“RECOLLECTIONS. The year 1779 was remarkable for mildness. In February, in many places, the earth was ploughed, and the usual agricultural labours of spring commenced. The winter following was memorable; the snow was piled in huge drifts, and on a level was estimated to exceed five feet in depth. During forty days, there was not a drop of water thawed, in the most sunny exposure. The summer was not distinguished by great heat; a temperate autumn succeeded, but before its harvest were gathered, the snow again fell and much corn and fruits were buried.  The winters of 1783-4 and 1784-5 were attended with deep and heavy snows. The last months of 1786 were intensely cold and many lives were lost in the severe storms of December.  During the succeeding period of ten years the winters were mild, and furnished little sleighing.  In 1797 and 98 great snows covered the earth. In 1804, the earliest snow known for many years, fell on the 10th and 11th of October. The storm of the 24th of December 1811, is recollected peculiarly violent and cold; many animals perished, and some men, exposed to the tempest, died. The intermediate winters have been moderate, and the opinion that the deep snows and intense cold of early times were passed by, has prevailed at different periods as much as recently.  Whatever effects the hand of cultivation may produce on the surface, till the vast northern regions shall remain un-reclaimed, it is probable the winds will bring to us clouds, loaded with snows, to be scattered over the New-England country.”  –Farmer’s Cabinet, 2-17-1827; Volume 25; Issue 23; page [2]; Amherst NH

In January of 1765, New Hampshire residents were the recipients of a storm that apparently dumped four feet of snow at one time.  This incident seems to have been forgotten by our current meterologists….  “Last Friday Capt. Jackson failed from hence about 1 o’Clock,  for North Carolina, in a new Schooner, with a N. West Wind, at 8 o’Clock dyed away, and suddenly shifted to the S.E. from thence Easterly, & blew up a Storm of Snow, which obliged them to put back into this harbour: the Weather was so think, they could not discern the Land; and the Wind hawling to the N.E. made it impossible for them to fetch in here–and the Sails being froze, they could not work the Vessel; by which she was unhappily cast ashore on Rye Beach, having first beat over a Ledge of Rocks.  The People with great difficulty saved the Lives in the Boat, being much froze: The Schooner cannot as yet be got off; great part of the Cargo is lost…. The Weather has been extreme Cold with heavy Storms of Snow, that has made the Traveling almost impassable here for a fortnight. The Severity of the Season has made the supply of the Inhabitants of the Town very scant for the Necessaries of Life; but our Surveyors of the High-Ways, have very prudently opened a Communication with the Neighbouring Towns, with a Number of Men last Wednesday–The Snow is supposed to be four Feet upon a Level.” –New-Hampshire Gazette, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, 1-04-1765; Volume IX, Issue 430, Page [3];

In March of 1802, a likely three feet of snow was measured as falling in New Hampshire.  The story refers back to a 1755 storm of which I have not been able to obtain more information.
“The Storm: On Thursday last, the Snow began to come down; on Friday it fell in amazing quantities, and by Saturday morning the streets, roads, &c., were nearly impassable.  The oldest persons in this town, have no recollection of so large a body of snow, at any one period.  It is nearly 3 feet on a level; and the drifts are from 6 to 10 feet depth. The air has felt, ever since, as if impregnated by additional snows.  Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, we have had more or less, and appearances indicate another heavy storm. The wind blew strong at dew East–The swell of the sea was prodigious, and we anticipate melancholy news from the Eastern coasts and elsewhere, of shipwrecks, loss of lives, &c. The winter of 1755, which preceded the great Earthquake, was precisely the same as the present. May the events of Providence make a due impression on serious minds, and prepare us to meet the dispensations of the Sovereign Will of Heaven.” — New-Hampshire Gazette, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, 3-2-1802; Volume XLVII, Issue 10, Page [3]

In 1823, an April gale provided New Hampshire with drifted banks 6 feet tall…“Violent Snow Storm–The month of March was unusually inclement, and closed with one of the most violent snow storms on the sea-board that has been experienced since 1786, when a similar storm occurred on the 1st of April, producing a great destruction. At Boston the wind on Sunday, March 30, blew a gale from the East: in the evening it veered to the N.E. and blew with great violence, drifting the falling snow into banks on an average nearly six feet in height, and blocking up the streets and avenues. On Monday, no mail left Boston, saving that to this place: at seven, A.M. the Concord Stage with eight horses started, proceeded as far as Charlestown, but was obliged to return: after dinner, the mail left Boston in an open sleigh, and arrived here the same evening.  This was the only attempt that day which succeeded in carrying the mail to its point of destination from Boston; and three mails only, viz. from this town, from Salem, and from Providence, arrived at Boston that day…” –New Hampshire Patriot & State Gazette, Concord, April 7, 1823; Vol V, Issue 14, Page [2]

Engraving of snow storm, The Snow Storm, by Esther M. Bourne, San Francisco, 1857

Engraving of snow storm, The Snow Storm, by Esther M. Bourne, San Francisco, 1857

Not everyone complained about the snow, but rather saw it as an opportunity, just as we do today.
“SNOW STORM–An old fashioned snow storm is the best thing in our cold country, to bring to recollection olden time, when our fathers brow-beat larger snow-drifts, than have rested in our quarter of the globe since honesty and leather aprons were in vogue. It is cheering to see the towering bank in a sunny morning, gemmed like the crown of a monarch, with jewels that receive their splendour from the sun’s rays, and reflect them back to ornament the cold white hillock, which the clouds have bestowed upon us to awaken recollections dear, and sensations as cutting as the winter. It tells you of log fires which cheered them in the wilderness, and the pottage which gave them the very hue of health.  In short, a snow-storm like the one upon us now, is a mirror to reflect olden time back, in all its colouring, to the present.–Lit. Cadet. –The Farmer’s Cabinet; Amherst, New Hampshire; 3-14-1829; Volume 27: Issue: 27; Page [2]

Additional Reading

Ode to Winter–A Travelogue of a snow covered New Hampshire hamlet

The Snow Storm, by Esther M. Bourne, San Francisco, 1857

Fun in the Snow: Blog: Abaculi, found digital texts & images, material scans, & occasional snapshots


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One Response to Current Events: A Storm of Snow

  1. Jasia says:

    Interesting how today’s weather forecasters missed those significant snows you’ve mentioned. It makes me wonder how many significant snows haven’t been acknowledged by weather forecasters here in Michigan. Thanks for another great and timely article, Janice!

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