|My home - March, 1958|
What we also didn't know was that an unexpected snow storm was about to hit. The morning weather forecast made no mention of snow, except for the Lancaster Intelligencer Journal which did call for a few snow flurries. But by late afternoon a light rain began to change into big wet snowflakes. I don't recall these huge flakes, but one report said that some of them were two inches in diameter. And the snow fell for over 28 hours and had a huge impact on the region. While only 13" of heavy wet snow accumulated in Lancaster city, 2 to 3 feet of snow fell across the higher terrain of northern and eastern Lancaster county, including Lititz. About 30" fell in the Ephrata/Adamstown area and an astounding 50" was measured at the Morgantown exchange of the PA Turnpike.
In Harrisburg we first stopped for a brief visit with our choir director's mother and then we headed for the concert. When the concert ended we were surprised to find that several inches of snow had fallen and we began our trip home to Lititz through heavy snow. I don't remember how long that trip took, but it was memorable. Numerous times we had to push our car as well as cars that were stuck on the highway blocking our way. At times the highway was impossible to see. But thankfully some how we finally got home. It was a scary trip that I will never forget. Later, after becoming a teacher myself, I began to realize what a difficult experience it must have been for our director to transport two of his students through that dangerous experience that night. I hope that I thanked him.
But that wasn't the end of the experience. Under the weight of the wet snow, it didn't take long for trees to start snapping. Wide spread power outages took many days to restore and even the PA Turnpike was closed for a number of days. Drivers were stranded on the Turnpike. Even the trains of the Pennsylvania Railroad capitulated that last full day of winter. There was no service at all between New York and Washington after a power failure at Havre de Grace. Six passenger trains were stranded there.
By March 20, the newspaper was calling it a "sneak storm" that left 75,000 homes without electricity, with "no estimate of restoration." Meteorologists now suspect that this storm was a powerful "nor'easter" that blew up the Atlantic coast. Milder temperatures at the shoreline meant that larger accumulations came inland. Philadelphia and New York City each got 11 inches.
The storm cut off all access to Lititz for over a week. Huge drifts closed the Lititz Pike (Route 501) and all the smaller roads into town. There were pictures of drifts as high as the telephone poles near the Lititz Airport. Half of Lititz lost electricity. Fortunately our half of town retained power. My friend actually stayed at our house for several days because his parents had no power or heat at their home. Shrinking supplies of necessities also created a problem for borough residents. Several days later, a train was finally able to get through the drifts to deliver bread, eggs and milk to the residents.
As I recall this experience, I can't help but be thankful for the Lord's protection, especially on that dangerous trip home.
But I also recall how times have changed things. Today we have instant weather updates available on television, radio, smartphones and the internet. None of that existed in 1958. And today we have huge modern plows and blowers to open the highways and we have workers trained to deal with these situations. But, unfortunately, drifting and loss of electricity are still dangers to deal with.
And so when people think winter is over when we hit March, my wife and I often reply, "We remember 1958", and we do!
As I was doing some research for this blog I came upon an interesting video of the "Storm of 1958". Here is a link in case you are interested. 1958.