The Blizzard of 1973: 45 Years Later
The Blizzard of 1973 is the earliest weather event I distinctly remember, even though I was just three years old at the time it happened.
This week, people across the southeast, but particularly in South Carolina, marked the 45th anniversary of the Blizzard of 1973.
The snowstorm dumped close to two feet of snow in areas where more than a light dusting is rare.
There are two weather events from my childhood I remember distinctly.
The second one was a tornado that struck in downtown Columbia in about 1975. I remember it primarily because my parents and I drove through an area of Columbia called Five Points and passed by stores to look at all of the damage.
There were windows shattered and mannequins from window displays scattered on the sidewalks. At first, I thought they were bodies of real people, and it took me a while to realize that it wasn’t really what it looked like.
That was the second big weather event I remember from my earliest childhood.
But the first was the Blizzard of 1973. The National Weather Service calls it The Great Southeastern Snowstorm, which struck from February 9-11 of that year. It dropped anywhere from one to two feet of snow “across a region that typically sees only an inch or two of snow per year,” the service said on its website.
A satellite shot from February 11, 1973, actually shows the snow on the ground.
I was just three years old, but I remember walking outside the front door of my parents’ home and just seeing white everywhere. It was a beautiful sight, but one I’d never seen before.
I remember my dad making “snow ice cream,” a concoction made with snow, cream and vanilla flavoring. (There are probably other ingredients as well, but it’s been 45 years, so I can’t be sure.) These days, of course, eating snow probably isn’t the best idea thanks to air pollution; it wasn’t that we didn’t have air pollution in 1973, but we didn’t seem to worry about it quite as much as we do all these years later.
South Carolina is the kind of place where snow is so seldom experienced that even the threat of it is enough to close schools and prompt irrational runs on bread and milk at grocery stores.
Obviously, at 3 years of age, I wasn’t in school, yet, but I imagine schools were shut down for at least a week with that kind of snowfall. It might even have been longer.
Here’s a clip from a special broadcast by SCETV, the PBS network of stations in the state, that shows the extent of the snow:
This January, we had another snowstorm in South Carolina. It ranked as the third-largest snowfall in a single day, behind the Christmas snowfall of 1989 (which is in first place), and that 1973 blizzard, which remains, 45 years later, in second place.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realize that snow is absolutely beautiful while it’s falling and even as it has accumulated into a winter wonderland. But once that freshly-fallen snow turns to hard ice and roads become dangerously slick as temperatures continue to drop, it’s just not fun anymore.