Recent wild weather pales by comparison

Last updated: January 12. 2014 11:44PM - 3050 Views
By - tkellar@civitasmedia.com

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Severe winter weather has been the trend as of late.

A winter storm a few weeks ago blanketed the area with snow. A cold snap a few days later plunged temperatures well below zero.

But how did that all compare to the blizzard in March 1993?

“That was a wild month,” said Tom Clark, a meteorologist for WNEP, when referring to the event coming up on its 21st anniversary. “It became know as the storm of the century.”

The storm hit the Wyoming Valley from March 13 to March 15. Clark said the storm originated in the Gulf Coast and swept up the East Coast, eventually becoming a “massive nor’easter.”

Many people in these parts remember it well.

It was the beginning of the end of spring break for then Syracuse University junior Brad Williams. A native of Shickshinny, the 41-year-old, now living in Hillsborough, N.C., said he would usually go back to school on Sunday to soak up as much time off at home as he possibly could. With the threat of severe weather, however, Williams decided to leave on Friday to avoid the storm.

It was also a trying time for Amy Sadvary, 56, of Plains Township. Her daughter, Rachel, was born on New Years Eve 1992, and had to stay in the hospital due to heart complications. The family spent a lot of time at the hospital in Hershey, and Sadvary stayed with her cousins.

“I wasn’t sure if they were going to release her or not,” Sadvary said.

As the storm drew near, so did the chance for her daughter to be released from the hospital. Sadvary said she initially decided to hunker down in the hospital to wait out the storm. But late in the morning on March 12, the hospital decided that Rachel was well enough to go home.

Sadvary said she grabbed her daughter and sped home to beat the storm. And at not a moment too soon.

The storm’s wrath

The Times Leader reported on the incoming blizzard on March 13, 1993. A winter storm warning had been issued by the National Weather Service the day before. Along with the snowfall, 40-mph winds were also expected. The threat of high winds forced St. Patrick’s Day parades in Wilkes-Barre and Scranton to be postponed.

“The probability is 100 percent. We don’t get much higher than that,” said a meteorologist at the time of the incoming storm.

The storm was expected to rival the impact of the one that happened in 1888. That storm, which also struck in March, had winds that averaged 25 mph for four days, with gusts reaching more than 75 at times. At least 40 inches of snow fell, with more in Southeastern New York state and Northeastern Pennsylvania. In New York City, 200 people died.

The 1993 storm was not too far behind. The Times Leader reported that the area had been blanketed with 1 to 2 feet of snow by 8 p.m. March 3. On March 14, The Associated Press reported 32 deaths in the country due to the storm.

That number increased to 101 by the next day. Then-Gov. Bob Casey sent the 109th Field Artillery of the National Guard to armories in Nanticoke to provide assistance.

Williams made it to Syracuse before the worst of it hit. He stopped at a Wegmans, picked up some beer and videos and prepared to spend the weekend stuck inside.

“Sure enough, I was,” Williams said. When he looked out of his window the next morning, all he could see was the antenna of his car sticking up out of the snow. “I got out of Pennsylvania before it hit exactly for that reason.”

Sadvary said she couldn’t recall much about the storm. What she could remember, however, was being afraid that the electricity would go out. Daughter Rachel still required oxygen due to her medical conditions, but Sadvary said she a local fire department offered to provide a generator in case of an emergency.

Clark said a total of about 20 inches fell in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton area. Winds peaked at 52 miles per hour, and the heavy snowfall reduced visibility to a quarter of a mile. Those two elements of the storm classified it as a blizzard.

Clark also said the storm produced 4-foot drifts, record-tying low temperatures at about 11 degrees and a record cold spell that came into the area afterward. Thunder and lightning also were reported during the storm.

Although it has been almost 21 years since the storm, nothing that has come along has quite matched its affect.

“There hasn’t been anything quite like it in the last 100 years,” Clark said.

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