The Great Blizzard of 1960

Published on 7 October 2022 at 08:00

Natural disasters have been on the news lately and with the reminents of Hurrican Ian coming through our Carolina mountains with heavy rains and winds last week, it gave me pause as I thought about the natural disasters some of my ancestors have lived through. 


We can almost always mark an ancestors life on our family tree(s) by some form of natural disaster or historical event. Whether its the great Earthquake of 1906 in California, or the Great Flood of 1889 there is no escaping Mother Nature.


Such was the case in 1960 here in northwestern North Carolina. This particular natural disaster was a storm that my maternal grandparents lived through, and filmed, and that many still talk about whenever the first snowflakes arrive for the winter.


Some of the best memories I have were as a child growing up and it snowing. The blizzards of  '94 and '96 here kept us from school for weeks at a time. At eleven years old I can recall my father digging a tunnel around our house to the backyard and walking through it, the snow above both mine and my brothers heads. However, these snows were nothing compared to that my grandparents witnessed that winter in 1960. 


Snow began to fall on Febraury 12, 1960 and by the end of the weekend 16 inches covered the ground. Tempertaures never rose above freezing and schools were closed for the following Monday. Neighboring Ashe County, NC received 43 inches  in the month of March 1960 per reports.  


In March residents from multiple counties received aid from the U.S. National Guard as they dropped supplies from the air to farmers and rural areas whose residents had no way to access the roads. One article I read years ago in our local archive stated that there were 400 families stranded in Avery, NC, 700 in Ashe, NC, and 600 scattered in the other surrounding counties (Alleghan, Wilkes, Watauga). My grandparents resided in Alleghany, NC. 


In total, 83 inches of snow were dropped on the mountains of North Carolian in 43 days. The blizzard of 1960 lasted 6 weeks from February 12th to March 26th.


To this day individuals here talk about it, children who are now adults tell stories about it, and on our grandfathers old 8mm camera we were able to see it. What natural disasters have your ancestors lived through? Did they leave any footage, a photo, or perhaps a journal entry to detail the event? Share with us on social media or drop a comment below. 

Photo by Stacy N. Hawks (c) 2022

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