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Sunday, March 12, 2023

The Storm of the Century: Thirty years later...

It was this day, March the 12th, thirty years ago.

I was eighteen, taking first year classes at the local community college.  I worked part time at Subway, but I didn’t have to go in that night.  About 4 that Friday afternoon Dad asked if I wanted to ride with him to Ridgeway, across the state line in Virginia.  There was this little convenience store there that EVERYONE in Rockingham County seemed to go to when they played the lottery.  I said sure, I’d come along.  It was a cold and cloudy day for mid March.

Looking back, I now recall the sound of the air around us before we hopped into the truck.  It had a very muffled characteristic.  I hadn’t heard air like that in a long time.  That should have been the first clue, about what had already begun to transpire.

We got back home a little over an hour later.  And as I got out of Dad’s truck I saw it: the first flakes of snow.  Something we had not seen fall in three years.

Well, two nights earlier at Boy Scout leadership training, the scoutmaster of my troop made a halfway-joking reference to the weather for the next few days.  How there may be snow.  I didn’t really take him seriously.

But here it was.  Snow.  And more flakes were starting to come down.

It didn’t stop.  It was only falling harder.  By 6:30 the ground was almost completely covered.  We drove to Short Sugar’s in Reidsville a little while later to pick up my sister, who was working there.  She drove cautiously behind our car.  By that point it was undeniably the harshest snowfall that we had seen in quite some time.  I don’t know how Mom drove through that as she did.  We could barely see the highway at all.  But we got back home, a little after 9.

The snow was still falling when I looked out the kitchen door about midnight.

It hadn’t stopped falling when we woke up.  And it continued on and on throughout the day.  No one was driving on our road.  There was nowhere to go.  I had to call my manager and tell her I couldn’t get to Subway tonight.  Saturday afternoon brought the wind.  It sounded like a hurricane.  And it blew the flakes hard against the side of the house.  There was zero visibility if anyone was so daring as to try to get out in that mess.

The power stayed on at our house.  The same could not be said for several hundred thousands of others throughout the area, including one television station in Greensboro that went off the air.  The ABC station was hardly functioning, which I remember because there was something coming on that night that I had been looking forward to catching and the signal barely penetrated the storm.

It was weather on an almost apocalyptic scale.  I finally fell asleep probably around 2 a.m., the wind still howling and barraging the house with frozen precipitation.

Finally, Sunday morning dawned.  The wind had ceased.  The first real sunlight in two days revealed our home, the fields around it, our cars, the trees… everything covered by a pure unspoiled brilliant
blinding white sheet of snow nearly two feet deep.  I got out of the house for a little while to get some fresh air and behold it all.  Our cocker spaniel puppy, Bridget, went out also.  I don’t know how she kept from sinking into the snow.  She looked like a miniature polar bear, she was walking across it so easily.

That was how I experienced the Storm of the Century.  The 1993 Super Storm.  The Great Blizzard of '93.  Whatever you want to call it.  It was a convergence of several weather systems that produced a meteorological monstrosity.  At its height it stretched all the way from Central America to Canada up and across the Eastern Seaboard.  Roughly half the population of the United States was impacted one way or another by the event.  No storm since then has approached it in size and ferocity.

Things had been brought to a standstill for the next few days.  But the weather turned warmer and by Friday all roads were completely passable.  There was only the barest vestige of the blizzard to be found in shady spots as I drove back from the Boy Scout camp the following Sunday morning, at the conclusion of leadership training.

The Storm of the Century was thirty years ago.  But I still think of it, whenever it snows.  I’ve no doubt that many who are reading this will also remember where they were during those several days in March of 1993, when winter showed us that it wasn’t finished yet.