“Lilacs bloomed beneath a coating of snow this morning in the Canton area, and birds fretted because their nest-building materials were covered with the chilly blanket of white,” Repository reporter Mary Peebles wrote on May 1, 1963.
People who scoffed at individuals who insisted that measurable snow has fallen in Stark County during May would do well to hear the words that Repository weather reporter Mary Peebles wrote 50 years ago.
“Lilacs bloomed beneath a coating of snow this morning in the Canton area, and birds fretted because their nest-building materials were covered with the chilly blanket of white,” Peebles wrote on May 1, 1963.
“While the lilac bushes sagged and the nesting birds nagged, the U.S. Weather Bureau at Akron-Canton Airport announced the snow accumulation on the ground measured an inch at the airport,” she continued. “Other parts in the Canton area had amounts varying from 1 to 2 inches.”
Another report put the total in some areas of Stark County at 3 inches. Despite it being spring, the snow stuck for a time. A chilly morning temperature saw to that, keeping the snow “thick and crispy” on windshields, according to a newspaper report.
“It wasn’t enough that the elements sent a snowfall for May Day,” wrote Peebles. “A cold air mass sent the mercury plunging down to a low of 30 degrees this morning to break the all-time record for May 1.”
The previous low had been 31 degrees in 1903.
The storm that led to the headline “Nature Goofs, Tosses Snow at Floral Beauty,” began as strong wind.
“Wild, wild winds Tuesday afternoon heralded the coming of the unseasonable snowfall,” said a caption to a photograph showing downtown pedestrians bracing themselves against the wind. “Gusts with velocities up to 40 m.p.h. were clocked by the U.S. Weather Bureau at Akron-Canton Airport.”
This wind, apparently, blew storm clouds over the Canton area.
“Windy, sleety, rainy or snow conditions were general throughout northern Ohio ... early today and were responsible for at least two deaths,” Peebles reported. “This morning’s freezing and near-freezing temperatures following the snowstorm created hazardous driving conditions in several counties.”
One motorist was killed when his car crashed into a median strip guardrail near Medina, reported Peebles, while another driver lost her life when her small car collided with a semi-tractor-trailer rig in Jefferson County.
“The U.S. Weather Bureau at Cleveland Hopkins Airport said there were unofficial reports of drifts one to three inches deep in Cleveland’s eastern suburbs,” wrote Peebles.
NOT A BLIZZARD
Admittedly, this is not deep by snow-belt standards. But this was May 1. In the years just before 1963, the normal daily high was 65 in early May and the low was 43. A meteorologist was not expecting to even use the word “drifts” at that time of year.
Ironically, the last in a series of stories Peebles wrote about the weather was appearing in The Repository on the same day as her report on the snow storm. The weather featured in that final article in the series was a warmer one. It was about the “40-day period during July and August each year known as ‘Dog Days.’ ”
Page 2 of 2 - Summer was on the way, the article seemed to say, and of this occurrence we also have evidence.
“A return to warmer weather is in prospect for the five-day period beginning Thursday, according to the weather bureau at the airport,” wrote Peebles. “Temperatures will average 3 to 8 degrees above the normal average of 54.”
What was the high in Thursday May 2, just one day after this unlikely snowstorm? It was sunny and 60. The way historians probably would chronicle this event is “welcome to Ohio in the springtime.”
Reach Gary at 330-580-8303 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter: @gbrownREP