Archive for Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Older Lawrence residents recall severe snow storms from years past

February 1, 2011


Winter records in Lawrence

Record snowfalls for Lawrence

• 20 inches March 23, 1912

• 15 inches Feb. 27, 1900

• 12 inches Jan. 9, 1930

• 11 inches Dec. 5 1942

• 10.3 inches March 4, 1915

In the past 20 years

• 7 inches Dec. 8, 2005, Oct. 22, 1996, Feb. 25, 1993

• 6.2 inches Dec. 25, 2009

• 5.6 inches Dec. 13, 2000

Record cold temperatures

-25 degrees Feb. 12, 1899

-21 degrees Dec. 22, 1989 and Jan 12, 1912

-20 degrees Dec. 23, 1989 and Feb. 15, 1905

Source: National Weather Service

For the entire month of January, Thelma Dillon waded through towering snow drifts as she walked up a long, winding lane to her home.

It was the winter of 1979. On Jan. 13 of that year, 9.6 inches of snow fell. It’s a total that hasn’t been surpassed in any January since.

For Dillon, the mounting snow drifts made the lane impassable even in her brand new pickup truck. So to get from her farm house in Pleasant Grove to her job at Kansas University, she trudged up and down the quarter-mile lane by foot.

“I doubt if I missed a day (of work),” Dillon said. “But the snow drifts were up to my waist.”

It was one of the worst winters the 89-year-old Douglas County resident can recall.

As a blizzard swirled around Lawrence Tuesday morning, the National Weather Service was calling for snow accumulation to potentially break into the top five all-time daily snow falls.

The highest daily snow fall on record occurred on March 23, 1912, when 20 inches fell.

In the past 20 years, the biggest snowfalls in Lawrence have occurred on Dec. 8, 2005; Oct. 22, 1996; and Feb. 25, 1993. Seven inches fell on each of those days.

Kansas State Climatologist Mary Knapp said snow comes in cycles. The snowstorms that have wreaked havoc throughout much of the country this year can largely be attributed to La Nina. The weather phenomenon, caused by cooler water temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean, displaces the jet stream farther north.

But Knapp said Lawrence also is right on the cusp of a climate pattern know as the North Atlantic oscillation, which brings Arctic air over the Atlantic seaboard and Midwest.

“It can go in waves,” Knapp said of snowfall.

Roy Cropp, an 85 year-old Lawrence resident who taught at Lawrence High School for 36 years, said the recent winters remind him of his childhood.

“We are having harder winters this year and last year that compare to some of the winters we had growing up in the 1930s and 1940s,” Cropp said.

As a school teacher in Burlingame, Cropp remembers driving a school bus through 4-foot drifts in the early 1950s. When he got stuck, local farmers would help dig him out.

Dillon has other snow storm memories. During the 1940s, her children couldn’t get home from school after one particularly harsh storm and they had to spend several nights at a nearby friend’s house. In her childhood in the 1920s, Dillon recalls one blizzard in her hometown of Williamsburg that nearly buried the bungalow her father had recently built.

This year Dillon is spending her winter in a retirement home at Drury Place, but she plans to return to the farmhouse with the winding lane come spring.

“I’m glad I’m not there during this snowstorm,” she said.

Interactive Timeline

Coldest, snowiest days in Lawrence history


kuhusker 7 years, 3 months ago

Where are you getting your information about past events? We got more around 7 inches of snow in the storm just two weeks ago:

And 8-10 inches in the storm early January:

We're up to 9.4 so far with this one:

ChristineMetz 7 years, 3 months ago

Hi kuhusker,

The information came from the National Weather Service in Topeka. They gave us the records for daily snow fall totals. Those daily numbers would be different than the totals for storm events, which could cover multiple days. So, I think that explains the discrepancy in the totals you have posted above.

Hope that helps, Christine Metz

Mark Zwahl 7 years, 3 months ago

Thanks. But why is it so hard to learn how much snow we've gotten and/or how much others in the area got? Same goes with rain - LJW doesn't offer any easy map of precipitation coverage. Would be a great service, just in terms of connecting more to the natural world. And, frankly, would be helpful for traveling as well.

Practicality 7 years, 3 months ago

Ms. Metz,

Do those totals start over at midnight? Just curious as to how they come up with it. So, if it starts snowing at 6pm and snows until 8am, do they keep two seperate totals for the same storm?

ChristineMetz 7 years, 3 months ago

According to the National Weather Service, snow fall and other weather data are recorded starting at 6 a.m. The weather service also tracks total storm accumulation. For instance 8 inches fell over a two-day period in Feb 25 and 26 of 1993.

Practicality 7 years, 3 months ago

Ms. Metz,

Do those totals start over at midnight? Just curious as to how they come up with it. So, if it starts snowing at 6pm and snows until 8am, do they keep two seperate totals for the same storm?

irvan moore 7 years, 3 months ago

my worst one was 1984, i had a farm west of Lawrence back then and ran out of wood and didn't have any propane, i had to wade through drifted snow to get to the fence and cut the hedgepost centers out for wood for my stove. i sold the farm and moved to town in 85.

Practicality 7 years, 3 months ago

I remember the storms in '79 and '84. I had to walk through the snow drifts on foot too. Except I did it "Barefoot".

Cait McKnelly 7 years, 3 months ago

December ...8th? I think it was, 2000. I worked at Colonial Manor (which became Lakeview Manor and in turn became Lakeview Rehab) on 31st street. I worked graveyard shift, 10 PM to 6:30 AM. I left for work early in my car, a small 1998 Dodge Neon. It had been snowing all day and crews still hadn't cleared Iowa. My car high centered going down Iowa from 6th. I had a bit of consternation when I got to work because Lakeview sits down in that little bowl, the driveway is long and no one had cleared it. I couldn't really tell where the driveway was at. But I made it. They worked plowing the streets overnight and downtown there were piles of snow well over 6 feet high left from the plows. Don't know what the total snowfall was in inches. Back in the early '60's, I have pictures of a drift that came up against our house and blocked both doors two thirds of the way up. My dad climbed out of a bedroom window and took the photos before he dug out the doors so we could get out of the house.

sailor 7 years, 3 months ago

Just couldn't help posting something here.

1974 - Waked to South Jr. High in knee high snow from 23rd and Kasold, Found out that school was closed. 1978 - In college, barrowed my roommates car to drive from JRP to drop off computer cards at the data center. Another foot of snow. KU closed. 1983 - Still having fun, rolling down the hill in a inner tube, -10 below. KU closed 1985 - More fun in the snow.

Damn. it just doesn't get any better!

Sail on.

beaujackson 7 years, 3 months ago

I believe we had around 40" over a couple of weeks in late Feb. & March, 1961. Several country roads had to be cleared with high loaders because road graders couldn't handle the job. Most side streets were impassable for several days at a time. Piles of snow in parking lots were 2 stories high & didn't melt till the middle of April.

grandnanny 7 years, 3 months ago

Finally someone who remembers that late winter of 1961. We held an auction on Feb. 20 to sell farm equipment and cattle as we were moving to town. It started snowing in the afternoon and most people left before the cattle sold. We moved into town and didn't leave the house for a week. My dad did go downtown and buy a TV as we had nothing to do. It continued to snow every 2 or 3 days until late in March. I have pictures of at least 2 feet of snow on the ground - not from drifting. The only way you could drive around was by putting chains on your tires. We lived on a hill so no one could get up our street, but it was great for sledding. The good old days!

Bob Forer 7 years, 3 months ago

What about the storm on New Years eve in the eighties. I am embarrassed to say I went to a party where only six or so people showed up. Anyone remember the year?

TopJayhawk 7 years, 3 months ago

Sure do. I stayed home that night as I did not trust my roomates driving....Glad I did. He ended up in a ditch and spent the night in his car.

blackfox1945 7 years, 3 months ago

I sure do stored our beer outside and the party was on.

rtwngr 7 years, 3 months ago

New Year's eve 1983. Never forget it.

blackfox1945 7 years, 3 months ago

I sure do stored our beer outside and the party was on.

Laura Wilson 7 years, 3 months ago

Yep, couldn't get home so stayed at friends' house in the "flatter" part of town. I don't know what the heck we were doing driving at two a.m. 20 years old and thinking we were immortal or something!

Doug Fisher 7 years, 3 months ago

There was actually another snow event on Saturday, January 9th, 1993 in which 12-15 inches occurred over a good portion of NE Kansas that wasn't mentioned here. This was far worse than the Feb event of that same year.

Bill Lee 7 years, 3 months ago

Most of my snowfall memories are good ones, it's the ice storms that I'd rather forget.

Pamela Shanks 7 years, 3 months ago

I remember the snow in '79 as 1/14 was my 18th birthday. I lived in the county south of Topeka and my father and I spent the day digging out. Road graders gave up and they brought in high loaders to dig out our e/w road. One pick up got stuck in a drift in front of our land. They buried it and it was there until the thaw!

rtwngr 7 years, 3 months ago

I'd like to get an opinion from Al Gore on these last two winters.

Ken Lassman 7 years, 3 months ago

Are you really interested in why severe winters can be compatible with climate change?

If so, check out:

Viper1962 7 years, 3 months ago

Moved to Florida in December after 43 years in Kansas.

Drove to work this morning with the top down on my convertible.

I love the snow but thinking I'm good without it.

hedshrinker 7 years, 3 months ago

NY 's Eve 1984,,,couldn't get to work evening shift at hospital in Topeka with my car pool, so walked to parties in east Lawrence...some people arrived on cross country least a foot of snow

hedshrinker 7 years, 3 months ago

and of course the ice storm in Feb about 10 years ago or so....started the nite of the Willie Nelson concert at the Lied....which was totally packed with intrepid, loyal rockin out friend covered the vehicle in the parking lot completely with a idea how we negotiated the streets or hill....when I got home I sat on the porch bundled up and watched trees covered in ice shimmer and glow as transformers and electric lines was one of the most beautiful and scarey scenes....didnt have electricity for 4 days

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