We have a couple more chilly days and then a very spring-like air mass will move in starting Thursday. We dropped to 27 degrees here at TAP last night, and I think we’ll be just a couple or so degrees colder than that tonight. We have a weak front moving through later tonight and that will drop our temps a bit. We could even see a flurry or two with that front. By Friday, the warmer air will have brought up enough moisture that we may start seeing some showers around. It’s a bit too early to nail down specifics, but Saturday may be a wet one, with scattered showers and thunderstorms around. The good news is that severe weather is not expected for Saturday. I’ll continue to fine-tune that forecast as the weekend approaches. FYI, if you have travel plans that take you west to Arkansas on Friday, there could be some rather potent storms out that way that day. That will stay well west of us.
You may have noticed some little snow granules on your car this morning. I noticed a few dozen on mine this morning. I think I’m making the biggest understatement of my life when I say we were waking up to more than a just few snow granules 25 years ago this morning. We were waking up to what we would forever refer to as the Blizzard of ’93, also referred to as the Storm of the Century.
The winter of 1992-93 had been quite mild, with no measurable snowfall all the way up to the end of February. Around the middle of February a strong cold front moved through, spawning numerous tornadoes across the South, including a few strong tornadoes across East TN. It remains one of the worst tornado outbreaks East TN has ever seen. We even had one tornado parallel the interstate through Crab Orchard with that outbreak. That system set the stage for a big pattern change that would lead to a very wintry pattern for us.
By the end of February, we finally had some measurable snowfall, thought it was still quite light. We had yet another round come the first week of March, before a temporary warming trend set in ahead of the next frontal system. By Thursday the 11th, we were 60 degrees in Crossville and had an absolutely beautiful day. It was quite literally the calm before the superstorm.
I remember the 7-day outlook that Marti Scold (remember her?) showed on the channel 10 news on the Monday before the blizzard. This was when Tod Howell was the weekend meteorologist for channel 10 (he’s been there a while! ha). It showed rain on Saturday and a high of 60 degrees. That would be the most reasonable forecast, as we were nearing the middle of March, after all. By Tuesday, the forecast was changing dramatically and the word “snow” was beginning to be tossed around. By Wednesday, it was well known that a significant winter storm was possible for the weekend.
By Thursday, it was hard to believe snow was coming. I remember the sunset that evening was absolutely beautiful, as the high-level cirrus clouds were streaming in, just as the sun was setting. By Friday morning, it was cloudy and we went on to school. By mid-morning a cold front had swept through and the temp was dropping fast. It began to snow around lunchtime and the decision was made to let us out of school early. By the time I got dropped off by the bus, things were getting white. I remember folks saying the grocery stores were madhouses!
The snow continued to lightly fall but, boy, did it pick up in intensity by dark! It was absolutely pouring down by the time the 10:00 Knoxville news came on that night. I ventured out and measured exactly 6 inches on our deck railing. I’ll never forget going back inside and hearing Marti Scold say that the storm was just now moving through the Gulf of Mexico, and I will NEVER forget thinking to myself, “We sure do have a lot of snow for the storm to still be so far away.” Accumulations were adjusted upward to put us getting close to 8 inches.
I’ll always regret going to bed that night. I could have seen snow fall at a rate I’ve yet to see snow fall. The snow fell so heavily that Crossville reported thundersnow several times.
Meanwhile, I was in bed asleep. Lesson learned.
The next morning, I remember being the first out of bed. It was a Saturday. I walked into the kitchen, still very sleepy-eyed, looked outside the sliding glass door to our deck and about had a heart attack. Then, it occurred to me that there was two feet of snow on the deck because it must have blown off the roof of the house and collected on the deck. But, as I walked on closer to the door and looked out across the landscape, there was a foot to two feet of snow EVERYWHERE! Need less to say, I got everyone else out of bed!
This is one winter storm that will always be on the record books. And people will forever refer to this storm as the standard by which all of our big snows will be measured by. And it certainly earned that spot in weather history!
Interestingly, when the storm came through the Gulf it behaved much like a hurricane. In fact, the central pressure rivaled that of not only a hurricane, but a category 3 hurricane, which is a very strong hurricane. It brought up to 12 feet of storm surge to the west coast of Florida, as well as spawning several tornadoes across the peninsula. The storm continued up the eastern seaboard, smashing snow records from Mobile, Alabama to Maine. Mt. LeConte, in the Smokies, measured 5 feet of snow. Five feet!
I could go on and on about this storm and all the incredible records it smashed. Those of us who experienced it will never forget it.
It really was the Storm of the Century.