Historically, January in Carroll County is the coldest month of the year. This year January has scored especially high on the despair index.
According to Baltimore Sun writer Scott Dance, “The frigid first week of January was actually Baltimore’s coldest start to any year in at least 146 years, according to the National Weather Service. The average temperature at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, the region’s point of record, was just 15.2 degrees from Jan. 1 through 7. That was more than 3 degrees colder than the previous record, 18.4 degrees in the first seven days of 1918. It was part of one of Baltimore’s longest streaks of sub-freezing temperatures in decades. Temperatures did not rise above freezing at BWI for eight straight days, until the airport reached 35 degrees Jan. 8.”
I don’t like winter. I think that “cold,” and “snow” are four-letter words.
Winter is psychologically violent and the very mention of the word snow has me searching for a safe room. I often write about it for therapy, that is why previous versions of this column have appeared in this space before.
Of course, like all true Carroll countians, just mention the word snow and I go to defense readiness condition “French Toast,” — “DEFCON French Toast: Code Red,” and search for the ingredients to make French toast.
“Operation Maryland Snowmageddon Snowpocalypse French Toast” involves rushing to my truck and driving in haste to the local grocery store to stock up on milk, bread, eggs, and toilet paper (although my wife relies on steamed shrimp; not French toast).
Carroll has one of the highest concentrations of first responders in the mid-Atlantic region. That is, police officers, firefighters, and EMS providers that live in the county. So it should come as no surprise that Carroll has a history and tradition of taking care of our neighbors and responding to fires, medical emergencies, and natural disasters well.
Which is a good thing because oral tradition and folklore in Carroll County recall tales of horrific snowstorms and natural disasters in the past that threatened lives and caused widespread misery.
In Carroll County’s history, there have been a number of snow and winter events that have tested us as a community. On Feb. 15-18, 2003, 28.2 inches of snow fell on Westminster in what is known as “the President’s Day Snowstorm.” A total of 34.6 inches of snow fell in February 2003.
The Oct. 3, 1896 edition of the Democratic Advocate carried the following headline about the blizzard of Sept. 29, 1896: “Great Storm in Carroll. School Houses, Churches, Dwellings, Barns and Outbuildings Wrecked and Damaged. All Property More Or Less Injured. Horses And Cattle Killed. Loss Will Reach A Large Sum.”
An old and faded photograph of Main Street and the railroad tracks in Westminster, from Feb. 14, 1899, in family papers corresponds with the stories of the blizzard of 1899. In the picture, a horse and rider struggle against huge snowdrifts in the middle of Westminster at the railroad tracks.
Many families still remember the Knickerbocker blizzard of Jan. 27-29, 1922, when 26.5 inches of snow fell and the roof of the Knickerbocker Theater in Washington, D.C., collapsed and 98 were killed.
It has only been in our lifetime that Carroll County has had a “bare roads” policy. In the past, folks walked to work or simply stayed home. Separating businesses and places of employment from the residential communities is a relatively recent phenomenon.
In the past, we did not require government to address the challenges of the weather. Neighbor helped neighbor, and agricultural contraptions were creatively rigged-up to help clear essential roads.
Another storied snowstorm in Carroll County history occurred on February 20, 1947. A lengthy February 28th newspaper account reported “8 to 14 inches” of snow rendered “All Roads Leading to (Westminster) closed Until Monday… On Sunday afternoon 65 citizens living along or those using the Bethel Road, worked from Bethel, Carrollton, and Patapsco, and shoveled the road open.”
Nevertheless, in recent years as Carroll County has increasingly looked to government to take care of such things and local government has responded with equipment operated by many hard-working professionals who put in long hours to do the dangerous work of snow removal. To those folks we owe a big thank you.
Meanwhile, our household has memorized the emergency routes to the local grocery store and at the hint of snow, we are settled in, fully prepared for the end of days as snowflakes conspire to descent upon Maryland. May God save us — and God Save the Queen.