Friday, February 22, 2013

Question the Queen City: Let it snow in the CLT

Posted By on Fri, Feb 22, 2013 at 1:54 PM

Editor's note: In this series, local author David Aaron Moore answers reader-submitted questions about unusual, noteworthy or historic people, places and things in Charlotte. Submit inquires to

How many times has Charlotte been slam-dunked with snow? - Richard Cauthren, Charlotte

The rapid fire snow-dousing Charlotte got Saturday, Feb. 16, was unique in that it blew in fast and hard, leaving some parts of the city with as much as four inches of snow. But it pales in comparison to snow storms of the past.

This photo, taken Feb. 16, shows the Richard Wearn House, which has withstood every major snowfall in recorded Charlotte history (as have the massive oaks surrounding it).
  • David Aaron Moore
  • This photo, taken Feb. 16, shows the Richard Wearn House, which has withstood every major snowfall in recorded Charlotte history (as have the massive oaks surrounding it).

The last time Charlotte got hit by as much snow was the winter of 2010-11, when storms dumped the white stuff on the city Dec. 25-26 and then again Jan. 10, leaving behind about six inches.

Looking back further into the past there are a number of occurrences that confirm, despite our relative temperate climate, we're not immune to some of the Frankenstorm Snowtastrophies that are fairly common in parts of the North and Midwest.

The biggest snow storm to ever hit Charlotte occurred Feb. 15, 1902 when 16.5 inches left the city buried alive.

Records from the office of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration date to the late 1800s and indicate 15 inches fell in December 1880, almost 12 inches in December 1882, 11.7 in a late March 1885 storm, and 14.5 in February 1895.

During the 20th century, snow wreaked havoc in Charlotte on a regular basis, with the city's other worst winter snowfall seasons occurring in 1935-36 (22 inches) and again in 1968-69 (19 inches).

Local newspapers are replete with stories of other not-so-epic (but still devastating) snowfalls that brought Charlotte to a standstill.

March 1960 is legendary among longtime Charlotteans, who remember that it snowed three consecutive Wednesday evenings in a row. Charlotte News headlines were ominous: "Snowbound City Digs Out."

Shirley Marie Smith, a Pineville resident, recalled the wintery weather in a recent Facebook post.

"It snowed every Wednesday in March," she wrote. "Go to school Monday and Tuesday then out until the next Monday." She went on to write that Pineville recorded up to 36 inches. "Loved it! Maybe [Charlotte] didn't get as much as Pineville. We [were] out in the country." Charlotte had a tad under 20 inches that month.

On Feb. 17, 1969, another major blizzard hit the city, leaving 12.3 inches. It was the largest single-day snowfall since the big one in 1902.

Other big snowfalls reportedly occurred in 1972, 1973, 1979 and 1980. From 1988 to 2002, NOAA indicates an unusually long period of scant snowfall. The following two years saw annual cumulative totals of 10.1 and 14.5.

Winter isn't quite over, and if history is any indicator, there's a chance we might get more snow before the season's end.

"I love it when it snows in Charlotte," says native and former resident Steven Richardson, who now lives in New York City. "It's a time when you grab a camera, go outside and take pictures. It's a time when memories are made.

Moore is the author of "Charlotte: Murder, Mystery and Mayhem." His writings have appeared in numerous publications throughout the U.S. and Canada.

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