Late snow storm hit Raleigh 90 years ago

With snow in the forecast, we look back 90 years to an unusually late March snow storm that hit Raleigh during the night of March 1, 1927, reaching record depths and crippling the city.

The heaviest accumulation was reported in Wilson, which saw between 30 and 40 inches, but nearly 18 inches fell in Raleigh. The storm spanned the state and extended as far west as Kentucky and as far south as Alabama. It was the biggest storm since the blizzard of 1899. Here's how The N&O described it on March 3, 1927.

Raleigh yesterday struggled beneath the heaviest single day's snowfall in the history of the city. Twenty hours of continuous snowfall, which ceased yesterday afternoon at 3 o'clock, brought the total depth to 17.8 inches, one-tenth of an inch more than the previous record of 17.7 inches recorded February 12-13, 1899. ...

Yesterday's record snow played havoc with traffic and business in general. The General Assembly was practically the only organization to function on all cylinders. Streetcar traffic was at a standstill; bus lines and taxicab companies kept their vehicles in the garages; trains in and out of Raleigh ran several hours behind schedule; city and county schools observed the day as a holiday; no session of Wake Superior or Raleigh city court were held; state departments declared a holiday, and in offices and stores throughout the city only partial forces were at work as many of the officials and employees were snowbound. ...

While the snowfall was but 17.8 inches, it was accompanied by a 30-mile wind which resulted in drifts on streets of the city in some instances waist high and at the corners of tall buildings in the business section of even higher proportions. Pedestrian traffic was the order as few automobilists ventured forth in their vehicles. Pedestrians found safe traveling on the slippery tracts or in the knee-deep drifts extremely difficult, and to maintain safe footings proved a feat.…

The famous snow storm of April 1915, which started on Good Friday evening, and piled up a depth in snow of around 10 inches, was by far more destructive than the present storm. The 1915 snow started falling after the ground had been soaked by a torrential rain and with the temperature high enough to cause the flakes to stick together, with disastrous results to telephone and telegraph wires, trolley lines and trees. The fall continued from Friday evening, around 8 o'clock, until Saturday afternoon.

The scene that greeted Raleigh citizens (that) Saturday morning was one of devastation on all sides; fallen trees and telegraph and telephone poles littered the streets, adding to the obstacles of resuming street car service; broken wires made laborious walking dangerous; and the usual Easter Sunday fashion parade as well as church programs were postponed for a week. The paralysis of the wire systems kept the city without lights and power for two or three days.

Raleigh was cut off from outside communication for an entire week, the first wire to be re-established by the Western Union being used to handle Associated Press reports and urgent commercial business. The "Old Reliable" was forced to get its news by train, receiving carbon copies of the Associated Press report at Greensboro a day late. - The N&O, March 3, 1927

Read more stories from local and state history and send us your own stories on the blog Past Times, newsobserver.com/past-times.

Leonard: 919-829-4866 or tleonard@newsobserver.com