‘Storm of the Century’ blew in 20 years ago
by GREG KAYLOR, Banner Staff Writer
Mar 12, 2013 | 1648 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Blizzard of '93
MIKE BOGGESS of the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office supplied this photo of the March 1993 “Storm of the Century,” which dumped about 21 inches of snow in Bradley County. Boggess also worked for Bradley County Rescue at the time of the storm and kept busy helping residents.
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“The Storm of the Century,” as named by forecasters and weather specialists, struck somewhat unexpectedly.

The storm affected most of the U.S., and Bradley, Polk, Hamilton and many other counties and cities in the Deep South weren’t left out of the loop when it came to the historic snowfall on March 13, 1993.

Unseasonably warm temperatures in the days before and on March 12 didn’t lend much credence to concerns about a major snowstorm.

Bradley Countians enjoyed a warm day … some out suntanning hours before the storm struck.

But overnight, conditions changed as thunderstorms moved across the region. The rains fell, then temperatures dropped in the early morning hours of March 13, producing a reported snowfall of 21 inches in Bradley County as well as surrounding counties.

The record snowfall which occurred on a Saturday, caused business closings, hampered emergency services and even delayed the printing of the Banner, according to historical accounts.

A number of buildings collapsed during the storm.

Coppinger and Affiliates, PermnaColor, Cooke’s Manufacturing and others experienced roof collapses from the weight of snow.

Carl McDonald was a maintenance employee at Coppinger and Affiliates. His wife, Colleen, recalled Carl being called into work when a portion of the roof collapsed at CPQ Colorchrome. CPQ was a company within Coppinger and Affiliates and performed more custom photofinishing work.

“It took him (Carl) over two hours to get there from our home in Delano,” Colleen said.

“Like everyone else, we had no power for several days and used a kerosene heater to cook and heat the house, and kerosene lanterns at night. It was quite an adventure. … Good times!” exclaimed Colleen.

Pam Lane is still an employee of CPQ.

She recalls the color lab’s roof caving in under the massive snowfall. (I was also an employee and customer at the lab during the time and had a number of wedding client orders in production.)

“I remember how panicky you were about all of your orders,” Lane told me. She had gone over a quality control inspection and placed the orders on her desk near where the roof fell within inches of the tile flooring. The area was flooded with melting snow and electricity from lighting was dancing everywhere in the affected part of the building … making it a dangerous situation for a hunting expedition.

“We still live in Birchwood,” Lane said. “We were without power for eight days and I was out of work for over a week.”

“It all seems funny now … but it wasn’t at the time,” she added.

Medical, law enforcement and fire personnel efforts were also hampered. There were widespread utility outages. Life and death went on over the next few days and weeks.

There were stories of babies being born and the deaths of elders, and the slow, methodical pace necessary to reach those in need of medical or other attention.

Some portions of Bradley County were without power for days as utility workers attempted to reach remote areas.

Cars were buried in snowdrifts 4 to 5 feet high.

According to the National Climatic Data Center reports which reviewed the “Storm of the Century,” 270 people died during the storm, 14 of them in Tennessee.

“Thousands of people were isolated by record snowfalls, especially in Georgia, North Carolina and the Virginia Mountains. Over 200 hikers were rescued from the North Carolina and Tennessee Mountains. The National Guard was deployed in many areas to protect lives and property. Generally, all interstate highways from Atlanta northward were closed. For the first time, every major airport on the East Coast was closed at one time or another by the storm,” according to the report.

Snowfall rates were measured at 2-3 inches per hour at the height of the storm.

The storm also produced tornadoes and hurricane force winds in warmer parts of the country such as Florida.

Forty-four people died in Florida. Their deaths were attributed to a number of elements of the storm.

From Canada southward, the “Storm of the Century” caused delay, death and destruction.

Its intensity and widespread effects produced thunder snow and hurricane force winds, according to weather historians.

Millions of people were without power, some for months, as utility crews worked after the blizzard moved out of the U.S.

It affected Cuba and 26 states in the Eastern U.S. before moving north into Eastern Canada.