On November 25, 1950, the so-called “storm of the century” hit the eastern part of the United States, killing 353 and causing millions of dollars in damages. Also known as the “Appalachian Storm,” it dumped record amounts of snow in parts of the Appalachian Mountains. Record low temperatures were recorded in Tennessee and North Carolina even without the wind chill. In Mount Mitchell, NC, a temperature of 26 degrees below zero was recorded.
The precursor to the storm was the passage of an arctic cold front late on the 23rd into the 24th. The front passed through eastern Kentucky around midnight and the change in airmass was dramatic. Temperatures plunged from the 40s and 50s just ahead of the front to the teens just behind it. A thin but heavy band of snow accompanied the dramatic temperature drop behind the front with as much as 7 inches falling across southeast Kentucky on the morning of the 24th.
Temperatures across eastern Kentucky by the morning of the 25th were in the single digits and teens, and still dropping. Low pressure developed on the arctic front over the Carolinas on the 25th. Once that occurred, the storm quickly moved north, striking western Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio and West Virginia hardest. Many locations in those three states saw snowfall totals greater than 30 inches: 62” in Coburn Creek, WV; 57” in Pickens, WV; Steubenville, OH’s snowfall exceeded 44 inches with snowdrifts up to 25 feet.
Bitter cold also gripped the area with most locations recording temperatures in the single digits to near zero on the 24th and 25th. Middlesboro, KY bottomed out at 3ºF, Williamsburg, KY 1ºF, and Somerset, KY –2ºF. All still stand as record low temperatures for the month of November.
The storm was unique, however, because it featured not only extremely strong winds and heavy snow, but both record low and high temperatures. Buffalo ,NY saw no snow, but experienced 50 mile-per-hour winds and 50-degree temperatures.
Power was out to more than 1 million customers during this storm. It actually affected 22 states, killing 353 people and creating $66.7 million (1950 dollars) in damage. U.S. insurance companies paid more money out to their policyholders for damage from this storm than for any other previous storm.
Many buildings collapsed under the weight of 2 to 3 feet of snow. Roads were closed; trains and buses canceled. People could not leave their homes for days. Milk and bread and other delivery trucks could not get through. School buses were halted, and it was a joyous occasions for all students. Snow clearing was much different in those days also, since they used no salt on the roads.
“Although I was 11 months old, I remember the talk of the 1950 Snowstorm,” says Ray Mulrooney in the Weirton [WV]Area Museum & Cultural Center newsletter (Nov 23, 2009.) “My mother was with child and was worried that she could not get to the hospital in Steubenville. The streets were covered with 36 inches of snow and there were 6 foot drifts. Banfield Ave. was covered.
“Our house was a full block and a half from Rt. 7 which had been cleared by the Ohio National Guard. There was no way we could get to Rt.7 with out help. My father called the neighbors. They got out their coal shovels (not many had snow shovels in 1950) and started to dig. They had to put the snow to the side, so when they were done there were 8 foot walls along the path that my dad’s car would travel. The path went from our house to Rt7.
“My father, mother, and my mother’s mother cooked eggs and anything else that we could find to feed the shovelers. The Wilsons across the street fixed highballs to keep them warm.
“Soon my mother was on her way to Steubenville with her unborn child that I wanted to call ‘Stormy.’ The baby was not ready to enter this cold icy world, so my mother went to her aunt Anna’s house on 3rd Street in Steubenville. My dad got food for us and restocked the Wilson’s stock.
“The roads up the hill to the Ohio Valley Hospital were impassable, a day or two later my mother had to walk a few blocks to Gill Memorial Hospital that was near Aunt Anna’s home to have her beautiful little girl Janice Sharyn on November 29, 1950.”