Dayhoff: Arrival of spring for more predictable than Carroll County weather

"Palm Sunday Snowstorm" of March 29-30, 1942: Main Street Westminster MD after a heavy and historic 32-inch snowfall March 29-30, 1942. The photo has been attributed to renowned Westminster photographer Charles Magee.
"Palm Sunday Snowstorm" of March 29-30, 1942: Main Street Westminster MD after a heavy and historic 32-inch snowfall March 29-30, 1942. The photo has been attributed to renowned Westminster photographer Charles Magee. (Courtesy Kevin Dayhoff)

Although Palm Sunday can appear anywhere on the calendar from March 15 to April 18; this year it comes early, just as many of us cannot wait for spring. Many Christians celebrate Palm Sunday as “Passion Sunday,” the day when Jesus entered Jerusalem on a path covered with palm branches. The crowds that greeted him also waved palm branches. It marks the beginning of Holy Week which culminates a week later on Easter Sunday. You can read all about it in Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:28-44; and John 12:12-19.

The arrival of spring, the spring equinox, is a bit more predictable than the weather. It occurs every year on either March 20 or 21. According to some old notes on file, the word “equinox comes from Latin words which literally means ‘equal night,’ aequus – equal, and nox – night.” This is the time of the year when the length of the day and the night are the same all over the world. For those who recall Westminster High School teachers in the years before 1971, when the school was located on Longwell Avenue in Westminster, my notes on equinox may have come from my Latin classes with Mrs. Cornelia Kroh.


This year, the spring equinox arrived at 12:15 p.m. on Tuesday, March 20, but someone forgot to send that memo to Old Man Winter. For those who have lamented that the snow and cold of a neverending and annoying winter have not left the calendar yet, cheer up, things could be worse — if that were possible.

According to research and an article I wrote 10 years ago; on March 29, 1942 folks awakened to one of the worst blizzards in Carroll County history. Historians do not seem to easily agree on how many feet of snow fell in the Palm Sunday Blizzard of March 29 and 30, 1942. It is sort of like the stories our parents told us of walking uphill both ways to school through miles of snow piled high about 6-feet deep. The National Weather Service reports that the 1942 snowstorm was 22-inches deep.

In an interview with historian Joe Getty on February 14, 2010, he reported, “An unusual storm known as the ‘Palm Sunday Snowstorm’ hit Carroll County on March 29-30, 1942. In Westminster, this storm delivered one of largest one-day accumulations (in history,) 22 inches in 24 hours, and a total of 32 inches. This was a localized storm that primarily affected only Maryland instead of the broader mid-Atlantic region. As a late season storm, the wet, heavy snow fell on trees and plants that had already blossomed and caused damage to crops and fruit trees, fallen limbs and branches and downed power lines throughout this region.”

According to research for the Historical Society of Carroll County by Jay Graybeal, and by historian Don Warner, a Carroll County Times article at the time reported: “Thirty Inch Snow Fall Here Over Week-End. We have often heard and read of deep snows that have fallen in some sections of the country, but to be blanketed under a thirty inch fall was something new to this vicinity. Snow began falling Saturday night and continued throughout Sunday…

“Our municipal authorities, for the first time, saw fit to clear the greater portion of Main Street, and some of the important cross streets. Whatever the cost, we would say it certainly was an important step, one that the merchants have requested for years, and one that the trading public appreciates. The work was done by Thomas, Bennett, and Hunter, road contractors, using their large road graders. The removal was rapid and proved to be a most successful method…

“Due to the wet and clinging nature of the snow very little drifting was reported. Traffic on all roads was tied up and the State Roads Department had difficulty in opening the main arteries of travel. Throughout Westminster and the county, hundreds of cars were abandoned, many completely covered…

“The C&P Telephone Company reports only slight damage to their system. Although many lines were out, all were restored by Tuesday. They report damage principally from falling tree limbs. The Gas and Electric Company also report slight damage to their lines. Passenger buses and (railroad) freight lines were stalled for many hours.”

One challenge Carroll County did not have in 1942 was debt. A January 2, 1942 article in The Baltimore Sun touted that the Carroll County Board of Commissioners “paid off $25,000 to make Carroll County debt-free. Carroll County was probably the only county in Maryland in 1942 that could claim such a distinction. With a tax rate of 90 cents on $100, Carroll had the lowest tax in the state with the exception of Queen Anne's County. Two-thirds of tax money collected from county residents went to fund schools.”