Friday, March 15, 2013

Blizzard of 1934

The 1934 Blizzard, although stranding many in town for a week or more, made for some interesting experiences as people passed the time and adapted to the situation.  Supply and demand ruled.  Snowshoes and skis were greatly desired articles.  Stanley Bevin and Wayne Denman walked to work on snowshoes and Ed Barton and Avery West made good use of skis, carting bread to the First Nation Store at the Four Corners from the Sanitary Bakery in the Village Center.  Down at the Pocotopaug Pharmacy, which many knew at Thatcher Drug Store, the clerks engaged all comers at setback.  “All comers” were few and far between however, with seldom enough customers to play four-handed. And the electric company fared no better.  Several breaks in the 4600 volt power lines supplying Haddam, Haddam Neck and Higganum on a “ring feed” circuit were caused by the heavy snow, which bent tree branches over the wires (sound familiar to the hurricane and early snow in 2011).  As soon as the breaks were reported, Charles Beyer, Albert Anderson and Stanley Nichols (the father of school bus contractor Charles Nichols), local trouble-shooters, were sent out a 2 am on Feb 21st.  Proceeding by auto, it took them 12 hours to reach Haddam by way of Moodus and East Haddam.  Haddam had power restored by 5 pm but Haddam Neck remained powerless for a couple more days.  That morning another work gang, headed by Charles Jones, started for Leesville on the Skinnerville Road with a horse and sleigh and a pair of horses and bobsled.  Neither could get father than Skinnerville Four Corners (intersection of Rt. 16 and 196), the drifts averaging four feet in depth.  The horses just floundered about, so efforts were curtailed.

Some things never change.  President Obama talked about tackling the issue of global warming and climate change in his inaugural address Monday.  Severe weather and storms are hardly a recent phenomena. On February 20, 1934, the northeast was struck by a storm that rivaled the famous Blizzard of 1888.  Headlines "Blizzard Buries Community, Highways Blocked By Snow" written three days later report of our town whose roads were still unploughed and the community isolated as multiple plow trucks broke down becoming stuck.  Whipped by wind gales in excess of 35 mph, drifts up to six feet formed effectively blocking all highways and cutting the town off from all but telephone and radio communications with the outside world  as temperatures hovered at 10 degrees above zero . With roads blocked, buses, trains and private cars were all useless.  The State Highway Department began plowing at 10 P. M. Monday.  By 6 o'clock the following morning, both plows got stuck at the south end of Lake Pocotopaug. Heavy wind, blowing snow soon froze the engines.  The men, Timothy and Joseph Wall and workers Frank Pelletti and Charles Anderson finally abandoned the trucks and fought their way through deep snows to their homes.  A relief plow was sent from Portland and it too became stuck in the deep drifts and required a tow truck to extricate it from its predicament.  The second Portland truck reached the EH Four Corners at 10:30 Wednesday having left Portland at 3 P. M. Tuesday.  Some of our citizens made due with the situation.  "Fred" Fitch, "Bub" Wall and Ed "Wynn" Barton enjoyed a new sport on the snow -covered ice of Lake Pocotopaug. Fred drove his car round the lake with the others being towed behind on ski’s.

Certainly, we experienced a significant storm with blizzard Charlotte. The advancement of media coverage and instantaneous on-the-scene news enables us to glimpse first hand conditions from around the state (unless of course you were without electricity), and, based on these experiences, many viewed this storm historic, yielding the most snow from one storm in their lives. From my recollection, the 1978 blizzard equalled this present storm and from what I read, none come even close to the great blizzard of 1888; but regardless of which has bragging rights, I'm ready for summer sun, 90 degree temperatures and even some humidity. Accounts I've studied of the 1934 blizzard noted one significant difference from today. In spite of the inconvenience and adversities, people seemed to enjoy the situation. Sure, roads were not passable nor cleared for nearly a week. Food was scarce, mail service curtailed and travel limited, but people did not take themselves quite so seriously or were not so demanding as I observed in several situation after the recent storm. It seems the "now generation" requires "instant gratification." If parking lots or walkways were not cleared immediately, demands to know why were voiced. "Why" was quite obvious. But in 1934, our citizens seemed to do what needed to be done. For instance, "Jacob Day of (Old) Marlborough Road, on his way to Day and Hansen's Garage (now the home of Jack & Janis Solomon)
found his path blocked in front of the garage by a six-foot drift. Walking proved ineffectual, but Mr. Day declined to be stumped by such an obstacle, while so near his destination. The solution! He laid down in the snow and rolled to the garage door! Just one of the unusual incidents of an unusual storm..."