Local Weather Forecast Was Way Off

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Illustration By dred2010
A winter landscape oil painting on canvas of trees and a stream.

Back in 1974, I lived in Augusta, Georgia — a place where it never snowed. As a child of 13, I remember that winter was extremely harsh for us in the South. On our way home from school one particular day, the bus was abuzz with the “s” word — yep, the local weather forecast said had a whopping 20 percent chance of snow!

Once home, we were so excited that we drove our mother crazy with what all we were going to do if it really snowed.

Then, it really snowed. It began that evening with beautiful, tiny flakes we attempted to gobble up before they hit the ground. We danced in the yard amidst the falling snow that continued for some time. As night fell, so did the snow — heavier and heavier. Our mother did all she could to get our supper ready before the snow did all it could to wreck our dreams of enjoying our “dream come true,” but we expected it with comfort and warmth.

Around midnight, however, the overburdened pine tree limbs began to snap, as did the power lines beneath. We huddled together as the house got colder and colder. Snow fell in a way we could never imagine, and in the morning when we woke, we had 14 inches of snow covering anything and everything. Shock and surprise were the order of the day, along with cold. Regardless of the biting cold, wet toes, fingers that were almost blue, and protests from our mother, we went outside and just stared in amazement at the snow that none of our family had ever seen before. What a beautiful winter scene. It took the power company days to restore power, and then the snow that was our dream come true soon became a bad memory. Here in the South, we don’t get to see snow like that, especially when we only had a 20 percent chance of flurries!

Many years later, I found myself with that same anxious feeling when I lived in Birmingham, Alabama, and was taking my two children to daycare one late March morning. The weather announcer interrupted the program to say that a winter storm was headed through, and we had a 20 percent chance of flurries. Upon arriving at work, my employer stopped all of us employees and said we were shutting down for the day. It had started to snow — just lightly — but the temperature had dropped to almost freezing. I headed back to the daycare to get the children, and we went home to see what this chance of flurries would bring.

As it snowed throughout the evening, we decided to go out to eat and enjoy driving in the snow before it stopped and life went back to normal. I should have learned my lesson, but I was caught up in the moment. We ate as quickly as we could and got back home. The temperature had dropped to around 18 degrees before the snow covered the roadways. I reminded my husband that we should have gotten another load of wood to burn in our Buck stove, but he said it would be spring in a few weeks and thought it was silly of me to even mention it. He regretted that for many years.

That night, the wind picked up and the snow fell harder than ever. The power went out around 1 a.m., and that sick feeling swept over me again. We woke around 6 the next morning, freezing — even the body heat from all of us snuggling together in one bed wasn’t enough for comfort. We found a battery-operated radio and learned that we had received more than 18 inches of snow, with a wind chill of 36 degrees below zero. We had experienced an actual blizzard — in Birmingham, Alabama, and again with only a 20 percent chance of flurries. We were without power for 10 days. We broke up our old wooden patio furniture when we ran out of wood (there was no need to say anything to the hubby at this point), and we didn’t dream of going outside.

Today when I hear snow is headed for the South, I wait to hear how much. The chance of a couple feet doesn’t bother me, but when I hear them call for 20 percent chance of flurries, I kick it into high gear and get prepared for the worst.

Little Mountain, South Carolina

Read more winter weather stories inStories of Snow Accumulation.