The Blizzard of ’93

It was Tuesday March 9, 1993.  I was shooting a news story in Rossville, Georgia, in balmy 70 degree weather.  I called my wife and asked her to dig out the ball gloves, bats, and balls.  Spring had arrived, and I was ready to do a little hitting and catching with our sons when I got home from work.

As I walked into the Channel 3 studio that afternoon, our meteorologist Paul Barys waved me over to his desk. “Come here David, you’ve gotta see this,” he said, with more than a little excitement in his eyes.  He had done this before, and his weather wisdom was usually over my head.

He unraveled a few feet of computer paper with squiggly lines that obviously meant something to him. “You’re not going to believe this,” he said, “but on Saturday, we’ll have about twenty inches of snow.”

I looked around his workspace.  There were no visible signs of liquor or any “wacky tabacky,” as we called it on Sand Mountain.  He was dead serious.  I pointed out to him that despite his collection of gadgets and radar-ish thingies, he did not have a window.  Having just returned from the great outdoors, I assured him that birds were singing and flowers were blooming. He didn’t back down.  I thought it might be wise to confiscate his car keys, but instead I just laughed it off and counted down the days until baseball season.

You know the rest of the story.  Four days later, Saturday came and brought with it “The Blizzard of ’93.”

It started around 11:00 p.m. the night before.  My friend Bill Markham decided to anchor the news on the station’s porch, since everybody was talking about the weather.  Almost on cue, huge snowflakes starting landing in Bill’s thick brown hair.  By 11:30 he looked like Bob Barker after he stopped dying his hair.

I went to bed thinking I had the weekend off, and if it snowed six inches or so, it would be fun throwing snowballs with the kids. Then on Monday, it would all be melted, and I’d be back at work.

Well, it didn’t quite work out that way. Yes, Paul’s promised twenty inches of snow arrived, give or take a couple inches, depending on where you lived.

My phone rang (that’s what phones did in 1993) at about 4:00 a.m. with the boss on the other end.  “Grab your coat and tie, and pack an overnight bag.  We’re going on the air in a couple of hours, and there’s no way you can make it to work in that big ol’ stupid Mercury of yours.  We’ll come and get you in a 4-wheel drive.”

I live only four miles from work, with no hills to speak of on my daily route.  That was the ride of my life.  My co-worker Doug Loveridge was at the wheel, and it was the total white-out I had heard about, but never seen.  Somehow, he guessed right, and kept it between the ditches.  Thankfully, people with good sense were not on the highway, so there was no one for us to run into.

Once on the air, we stayed on for eight hours.  Our news crews put the chains on, and thanks to front-wheel drive, they made it to a few locations around the city.  Basically, they drove around advising people not to drive around.

One brave soul from the Electric Power Board joined us on the set that day, to take phone calls from people who were concerned about power outages.  Our calls began dwindling around lunchtime because, well, folks lost power and could no longer watch us.  One lady who had been taken to a relative’s home with power, called in and asked Mr. Electricity how she could get a generator.  He kindly advised her to seek a gas-powered unit at her nearest hardware store.  She replied angrily, “No, not gas-powered, that’s too much trouble! I need one that will plug into the wall!” We figured that was a good time to stop taking live phone calls.

When I got off the set, I called my wife to check on the status at our house. The power had gone off shortly after I left that morning, and she was dealing with two little boys, ages 6 and 3, trying to keep them from realizing they were cold.

My friend Doug was kind enough to take me home, and a neighbor with a gas log fireplace took in four freezing Carrolls until our power was restored two days later.

Everyone has a Blizzard of ’93 story, and you’ll be hearing many of them soon.  The 25th anniversary of that massive mid-March snowfall is coming up in a few days.  But don’t worry, it can’t happen again.  Can it?

About David Carroll

David Carroll is a longtime Chattanooga radio and TV broadcaster, and has anchored the evening news on WRCB-TV since 1987. He is the author of "Chattanooga Radio & Television" published by Arcadia.

10 thoughts on “The Blizzard of ’93

  1. Jack

    Love that story David, of course more times than Chattanooga we get that kind of snow in Denver, but the good thing here is there are plenty of snowplows, yes I have a SMALL generator maybe enough to run a heater or two at the house.
    But in Denver last Thursday, 8-12 inches, and less than a week later we can ride our motorcycles!

  2. Linda Abel

    The blizzard was right before our spring break and Mr. Fisher’s trip to DC with our 8th grade students. Our secretaries spent that Friday rearranging the tour busses and hotel reservations for 150 people. The departure was only delayed by a day and they were able to have a wonderful trip. It was so strange to go from short sleeves one day to snow drifts the next day. We watched Channel 3 all day and even recorded some of it, on VHS of course!

  3. Dale

    I remember it well! In fact, that’s the last big snow we’ve had in this part of the country. Can’t hardly believe it’s been 25 years but it has.

  4. Linda Harris

    I remember it well! Not having children , I was amazed at how much two little guys could eat in such a short time! I learned some serious lessons from our shared adventures in my basement. I am never without alternative light sources , or batteries, or a battery TV. Being caught without being prepared was a hard lesson but one I will not forget. After the storm there were a lot of laughs but it was NOT funny at the time.

  5. Lindy Blazek

    We had a gas stove, and we kept two burners going 24/7; one had a pot of water and one had endless chili. My husband, Paul, built a huge snow fort for the kids and sprayed it with water every night. It lasted until mid-April!

  6. MP Hall

    I remember it starting as thunder snow. We lost power for about 8 hours but our lovely neighbor Betty Rice across the street welcomed us into her house because she had a wood burning fire place. She cooked us macaroni and cheese and sausages in the fireplace. We were grateful that we had a place to take our baby and keep him warm. We were fortunate to get our power back on so quickly because many of our neighbors were without power for five days. I was glad it was 1993 and not 1992 when the storm hit otherwise I would have been sliding my very pregnant self off our hill to get to the hospital. My son celebrated his first birthday that Monday.

  7. Claudia taylor

    Oh yes…I lived in soddyDaisy behind the funeral home.All in all we had some good family time.No one could get out or watch a grill and food in the freezer so we started cooking on the deck.neighbors were invited .didnt want the food to go to waste.Got to meet neighbors didnt realize we had lol.But they were rationing kerosene at the store.had to walk to get it and only could get a little.But once again God got us through.

  8. Susan Clark

    I lived (and still do live) southwest of LaFayette, GA, out in “the boonies”, as they say.
    Our power was off for 9 days. We cooked on the grill & over the fire in the fireplace. We took the food out of the refrigerator & put it outside in the snow. Drifts in the driveway kept us from using our 4X4 trucks to get out. We were finally able to drive on Wednesday. We had to abandon ship when school started back up (we were both teachers) and go stay with his mom in Ft. O who had never lost power.
    Going out to the woodpile to fetch more firewood that Saturday, I felt just like a character in “Little House on the Prairie”. The wind was so strong, I fell down. I just lay there, thinking, “This is how people die in snowstorms. It’s so comfortable and soft!”
    The really bad part is that out here we have wells. When the power goes off, so does the water! It takes A LOT of melted snow to fill up a toilet tank!

  9. Sylvia Hall

    I was working for American Red Cross at the time of this storm. They called me that they needed me as soon as I could get to the office on McCallie Avenue. There was no way I could get out of my driveway and up either hill in front of our house. So my boss had a volunteer with a 4 wheel drive to come get me. (leaving our house with no electricity a daughter, her husband and small baby, and husband. but we did have a log fireplace and firewood) I did not know if we would make it, as we slid on ice and snow several times. We did make it, where we help helped a lot of people.

  10. Dean Wilson

    I enjoyed revisiting this historical time here in your blog. It brought back so many memories. I was a Captain with the City of Dayton Fire Department then. We came to work on that day prepared to stay for several days. I remember sitting in the bay window in the early morning house watching it fall. It was so beautiful. I must admit the next day trying to travel in it was no easy task. Fortunately we didn’t have any serious calls and no injuries in our area. Again thanks for sharing!


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