Presidents Day Storms, Then and Now!

Presidents Day Weekend at it Again! 

One look at the calendar unveils a piece of the notorious; namely, the Presidents weekend has a history of great snowstorms here in Appalachia and the Northeast USA. And this weekend may just add to that lore. More on storms of yester-year later. But for now let’s talk about what we can expect this weekend.

A moisture laden southern storm will send a shield of snow our way on Sunday. Though the precipitation may start out as rain, the mother load of this storm will fall as wet, sticking snow. Enough snow may fall across the Coalfields to produce power outs. If you live south of I-64 especially, you should have enough batteries and/or a back up power source in the event the lights go out. I also recommend you shop for a few more provisions Friday or Saturday. No sense waiting for the storm to hit. 

The farther north you live, the less chance of an impacting snow…emphasis on LESS CHANCE not NO CHANCE, the farther south, the better chance of this event nailing you. Details will be ironed out in the next 24-48 hours. After all, we are still almost 2 days away from the first flake flying.

I will leave the early call to Brandon on the air this morning and Chris on his blog, but let’s just say this has the early feel of the “storm of the winter”. 

As for historical events, the most recent Presidents weekend storm occurred 9 years ago in 2003 when a great snow, ice and rain storm paralyzed our region. Talk to folks in southern Ohio and Northern Kentucky and you will hear tales of bearing the winter cold for two weeks without power after a crippling ice storm.


Towns like Portsmouth and Pomeroy, Olive Hill and Vanceburg were turned into ghost towns when the power went out under the weight of one solid inch of ice. I still remember Doug Korstange bringing back pictures of an ice caked Bandstand at City Park in Gallipolis. The ice laden trees crackled in the wind making for a surreal setting. 

In Central West Virginia, sleet accumulated several inches from Chapmanville to Charleston and from Winfield to Spencer and Ripley. Kids found out quickly how neat and fast it was to sled on ice!

Just to the north, a great snowstorm buried towns like Waverly and Athens Ohio and Parkersburg and Clarksburg WV under 20” of snow! It was the deepest snow since the Blizzard of 1996 and is still the deepest of the 21 century by far in our region.

Meanwhile, the Southern Coalfields stayed stubbornly above freezing that weekend as a heavy, cold and driving rain fell hour after waterlogged hour. Flooding along the Coal and Tug Rivers sent a surge of muddy water down toward the mighty Ohio River. Many  small streams flooded in Martin, Floyd and Pike Kentucky and Mingo, Logan and Boone WV.

On the Kanawha River, a rise to flood stage (the first in my tenure here at WSAZ) saw the water crest at 30 feet at the South Side Bridge as water gobbled up Magic Island and the Haddad staging and seating area. The South Charleston Rec Center became one with the Davis Creek. 

Oddly Huntington and Ashland were cities cut in two. Downtowns stayed mainly wet while the hills iced up. The high ground near the Museum of Art endured ice storm conditions just a mile drive from Pullman Square while Radio Park Hill in Catlettsburg had the same icy fate.

The other Presidents Day snowstorm of note helped inspired me to be a meteorologist. Back in 1979, a snowstorm buried much of the Northeast including Philadelphia, my hometown, under a 1 to 2 foot snowstorm. The snow fell horizontally that Monday morning with accumulations during the heart of the snow of 3 to 5 inches per hour!

 Last time I recall snow like that locally you ask? December 2009 during the famous WV turnpike snow and again in February of 1998. Folks in Beckley, Oak Hill and Richwood don’t want to see another like that, trust me!


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