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Twenty years ago, we faced 'the storm of the century'

  • RON GOWER/FILE PHOTO View on North Second Street in Lehighton during the Blizzard of '93, which ravaged the East Coast, including the local area.
    RON GOWER/FILE PHOTO View on North Second Street in Lehighton during the Blizzard of '93, which ravaged the East Coast, including the local area.
Published March 13. 2013 05:02PM

Twenty years ago, on Saturday, March 13, 1993, Carbon County celebrated its 150th anniversary.

But that celebration was overshadowed by a major weather story. Taking shape that day was what meteorologists called "The Storm of the Century," and "The Great Blizzard of 1993."

The storm not only buried the region in more than two feet of snow, but was accompanied by 70 miles per hour winds. Tobyhanna had 42 inches of snow.

One spokesman for the National Weather Service said it was the first true blizzard to occur since the Blizzard of 1888, which, coincidentally occurred on March 13, 1888 meaning this is the 125th anniversary of that spectacular storm.

The Blizzard of '93 was a large cyclonic storm that formed over the Gulf of Mexico on March 12.

During March 11 and 12, temperatures over much of the eastern United States began to fall quickly thanks to an arctic high pressure system.

Barometric pressures in the storm dropped to as low as 960 millibars in New England, a reading generally seen in Category 2 hurricanes.

The size of the storm was worth noting. It affected 26 states and Eastern Canada. Thunderstorms were recorded from Texas to Pennsylvania.

Fifteen deaths were recorded during the blizzard, including 8-year-old Austin Rex of Kunkletown R. 1 who was killed while playing in a tunnel of snow that collapsed.

Summit Hill had more than two feet of snow, and drifts measuring over 10 feet. Lansford Ambulance had to wade through waist-high snow more than a block to carry a patient with a back injury to the waiting ambulance.

In Lehighton, the borough's fire department was able to respond to two calls thanks to cooperation from the borough workforce in keeping the streets open for them. The first was an electrical fire at a Second Street residence. The second was a call to a local factory when someone reported seeing flames. It turned out the flames were reflections from a furnace on the snow.

The storm shut down most businesses in the area on that Saturday and Sunday, but the area quickly recovered. By Monday, garbage collection resumed in most local towns, mail delivery was back on schedule, and streets were open.

Despite the severity of the storm, there were very few electric, telephone, or TV cable outages reported.

Although it rivaled the Blizzard of 1888, the storm 125 years ago had more devastating effects.

During that blizzard, passenger trains were blocked, some for at least two or three days.

The storm left 15 foot drifts and paralyzed the region for a full week.

A week from today, spring officially arrives. And although temperatures have been mild the past few days, don't discount the possibility of a snowstorm.


• March 17, 1956 Seven inches of snow fell on most of the area, accompanied by a thunderstorm.

• March 19, 1958 A snowstorm buried Lansford with 21 inches. The southeastern part of the state got as much as 36 inches.

• April 5, 1982 A foot of snow fell on parts of the area during what was called a "freak snowstorm" by meteorologists.

• Would you believe that in May 1930, a snowstorm destroyed many crops.

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