Sunday, January 22, 2012

TIME MACHINE ... The Weather Outside Was Frightful!

(Reader-friendly viewing of newspaper archives material)


January, 1893

(The Daily News- Frederick, Md.)

The condition of affairs in the lower peninsula, growing out of the protracted freeze, is growing worse. On Smith's Island the people are cutting down the few trees for fuel and killing the cattle for food. At Crisfield there is great destitution at the sailors' boarding-houses. Parties of men have ventured to walk across Tangier Sound to Smith's Island. Throughout the state yesterday morning was about the coldest of the winter. In Worcester County a temperature of 14 below zero is reported. Sinepuxent and Chincoteague Bays are frozen and communication with the island is cut off. Food and fuel there are scarce and the situation is becoming alarming. 


February, 1895

The state of Maryland was snowbound with 16 inches reported in Pocomoke City. Waterways were icebound. The New York Times reported "The eastern shore of Maryland is almost entirely cut off from the outside world."  


February, 1899

A two-day blizzard, preceded by days of frigid temperatures, buried the Eastern Shore, leaving it virtually paralyzed. Worcester County snow amounts were reported up to 22-inches. Leading up to the storm temperatures were reported at below zero during the night and only near zero during the day.


Circa 1900

(The Democratic Messenger- Snow Hill)

(1969 One Hundredth Anniversary Edition)


Around the turn of the century the temperatures were lower in winter than during the last few decades. Consequently, there was more and thicker ice on the river. Skating was a great sport. The young people would have skating parties with huge wood fires on the river bank and skate far into the night. Several people have been known to skate to Pocomoke City, a distance of sixteen miles. Snow Hill and Pocomoke City harvested river ice each winter and stored it in houses built for the purpose. The ice was packed in sawdust providing a supply to last all summer. 

Special thanks to a PPE reader who shared old copies of the Democratic Messenger and Worcester Democrat.


December, 1917

In a 1967 "Scratch Pad" column Salisbury Times Editor Dick Moore related a letter received from Mrs. George E. Bonaville of Accomac who recalled a stormy Christmas Eve trip by boat to visit relatives in Chincoteague in 1917. "We went three days and stayed three weeks." The freight and mail boats at Franklin City were frozen in, and finally some people walked over the ice to the mainland. The column also mentioned a note from Scott Brewington who remembered driving his Model T on the frozen Wicomico River, the date not recalled. 


February, 1934

(The Frederick Post- Frederick, Md.)


Startled residents of Maryland took a look at their thermometers and wondered if they hadn't strayed to an arctic region overnight. -- ...the near 2 below in Salisbury was the coldest since 1899. -- Salisbury experienced a milk famine temporarily as a result of the cold. Bottles delivered as usual soon burst and the subsequent calls for replacement soon exhausted the available reserve. -- The grease in the Associated Press printers of The Salisbury Times froze and service to the paper was delayed 40 minutes in starting. 


February, 1935

(The Denton Journal)


For the first time since 1888 the upper Chincoteague Bay which laps tidewater Worcester County between South Point, near Ocean City, and the Maryland-Virginia boundary, is a solid field of ice. Approximately 90 square miles of the bay is frozen with ice ranging from 6 to 10 inches in thickness, which extends between the mainland and the beach peninsula. Last week several Stockton and Girdletree fishermen walked seven miles across the ice to the beach, chatted with Coast Guards isolated at the Green Run station, and returned without mishap. Ice skaters at Public Landing ventured miles out across the ice covered bay. Older residents, recalling the freeze on the bay in 1888, tell tales of horse-drawn vehicles being driven over the ice from Chincoteague, Va., north to Ocean City, Md., a distance of 40 miles.


January, 1957

The front page headline in the Salisbury Times read "SUB-ZERO TEMPERATURES CHILL SHORE". While the official low temperature at Salisbury was reported at 4 1/2 degrees below zero. Maryland State police said outside of town the thermometer dipped to minus 13. 


December, 1958

A cold wave continued its grip on the eastern United States with 5 below zero reported in Salisbury, 1 above at Richmond, and 7 degrees at Raleigh, N.C.


Do you have a local memory to share with PPE readers.. such as a big snow storm, a favorite school teacher, a local happening, something of interest your parents or grandparents told you about? It can be just a line or two or more if you wish. Your name won't be used unless you ask that it be. Send to and watch for it on a future TIME MACHINE posting!


Anonymous said...

Not so long ago, in the winter of 1976-77 the Chesapeake Bay froze over. I remember the Coast Guard using ice breakers in attempts to keep oil shipments flowing into Salisbury. The ice breaking helped but several distributors resorted to bringing shipments of heating oil from Norfolk and Baltimore by truck, a mush more expensive proposition.

Your friend,

jmmb said...

That's working on 36 yrs. ago, Slim. I had a daughter born in Oct. of that year and I thought my husband and daughter and myself would freeze to death! I believe that was the coldest winter in something like 100 yrs.

It's probably the last time anyone around the area has been ice skating.

Very cold for too long!!

Anonymous said...

I know what you mean. I had a daughter conceived that winter. Probably had something to do with the temperature outside!

Your friend,

Rob said...

Freeze happened again in 77-78 and 78-79, three of the coldest years in a row. I work outside and those were my first years on the shore and brutally cold. We also had a blizzard on President's Day in 79,something over 20". Everything was shut down and ice was forming in the ocean piling up on the beach.

jmmb said...

You're right, Rob! In '79 I had gone to spend the weekend with a good friend about 75 mi. N of Pocomoke. My parents called me to tell me a snow storm was headed from the south and to start for home only to call me an hour later, before I could get packed, and told me to stay put.

I didn't get home until 3 days later. Riding home south on route 13 Trailways busses, police cars were all stuck in snow drifts. It looked like the end of the world. I haven't liked snow since.

Rob said...

We were returning from a trip across the bay and 1 lane was only partially open on Rt. 50. A Trailways bus opened the way for us with both front corners of the bus pushing snow out of the way. Quite an interesting trip. BTW, we also had a daughter in Oct. of 79.

Anonymous said...


And a very fine daughter she was and still is! She was one teenager who had her head screwed on right. And her brothers are just as nice.

Your friend,

Rob said...

Thank you, Slim!

tk for PPE said...

Another very big snow storm was in late January, 1987. I remember that one because I had just gotten a camcorder a week before and the snow gave me lots of video opportunities to capture on tape, which I still have (now saved on DVD). The storm began on Super Bowl Sunday and continued overnight. With continued cold weather and some addtional snow during February, most of the ground remained snow-covered throughout the month!

Anonymous said...

Ha ha! I was in Disney World for that one and made sure I took my time returning home!

Your friend,