WELCOME TO THE FREEZE-TERN SHORE – PART 2 The Modern Era

The Eastern Shore was battered with three separate snowstorms over the Winter of 1960-61. First there was the surprise storm of December 11th and 12th which dumped a foot and a half of snow on the ground. On January 19th, a second storm rolled through. By the time the worst winds and harshest colds of February 3rd through the 5th landed, ice was already locked to the shores of the Chesapeake in unbreakable sheets up to three feet thick. Oyster tongers pushed skiffs out across vast white and blue horizons to chop out a hole and catch a few. A coast guard patrol was set up around the Bay Bridge to monitor ice thrusting against the supports. Nervous drivers reported feeling the bridge vibrate while driving across. Marine Helicopters delivered corn to starving waterfowl at Blackwater Wildlife Refuge. Row upon row of rural telephone lines snapped. Total cleanup costs for five Eastern Shore counties? A whopping $73,689.

The Bicentennial Winter of 1976-1977 was the coldest since the founding of the republic. It snowed in Miami that January. Average Maryland temperatures for the same month hovered in the low twenties. The Chester River, Knapps Narrows, and Cambridge Harbor were solid blocks of ice. Locals raced pickup trucks on Eastern Bay. Iceboating became a ‘hot’ sport and a four day regatta was held at St. Michaels. On February 4th, temps climbed into the forties and water appeared on top of the ice and the region breathed a collective sigh of relief. Without warning, the wind changed direction and turned into an angry nor’easter. The ice pancaked into layers that were dangerously hard on top but soft underneath. Falling through was easy and could kill a person in minutes. That winter had a devastating effect on a polluted bay. It was estimated that 50% of bottom crabs, 20% oysters, and 90% of barnacles, an important link in the environmental food chain, died in the bitter cold.

1994 started with a storm on January 2nd, lingered for a couple days, and piled up to two feet of snow in spots. Ten days later, a little more fell. A lot more came down from the 19th to the 21st, along with some sleet and freezing rain for good measure. Conditions started to really get intense on February 10th with an ice storm that coated everything in its path. Talbot and Queen Anne’s County were among the hardest hit. Trees, power lines, and telephone poles fell by the thousands. Highways became demolition derby tracks and back roads were littered with wrecks. Almost 18,000 Delmarva Power customers lost power, some for days. Thawing and melting brought more devastation. Huge chunks of ice fell from above with no warning, landing on people and property, including onto cars people happened to be driving across the Bay Bridge at the time.

A serious early season storm in November 1995 gave us our snowiest Thanksgiving ever. Little did we know the nastiness was just starting. 1996 brought four snowstorms in five weeks. When all was said and done, Delmarva got more snow that season than ever before recorded. The official figure is sixty two and a half inches. Intermittent thaws were scant relief, as they brought torrential rain and flooding.

The President’s Day snowstorm of February 2003 buried our region under snow, shut down the D.C. – Baltimore metropolitan area, and by totaling all the snowfall on cities across the northeast, is one of the largest storms on record . That was also the snowiest February on record in Baltimore, with accumulations that totaled 40.5 inches.

The Winter of 2009-2010 started in November with a snowstorm so serious I cancelled a party (a blasphemy and a first) and ended late in February with a little Category 3 party along the way called Snowmageddon, the second of four nor’easters that season, and the second of three major Mid-Atlantic snowstorms that occurred over a 12-day period. 2009-2010 was the snowiest winter on record for much of the Mid-Atlantic region, and at our house, we had enough frozen sausage balls to last a year.

So now here we are, back where we started. Hopefully our little trip has brought us to a place where we can remember the premise we began with.

Things could always be worse.

Now take off that funny looking hat with the ear flaps.

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