62 years ago, the grand-daddy of all snows

Posted on: 6:43 pm, March 11, 2013, by , updated on: 03:25pm, March 13, 2013

Terry Swails Weather Blog

In March 1951, my parents were newlyweds living in Iowa City when they experienced the worst snowstorm in Iowa’s history.  While the entire state was hard hit, Iowa City was the epicenter of the storm and despite the passage of 62 years, the memories are fresh.  My favorite is good old dad bringing home bags of groceries on a rusty old sled. The roads were closed for days and the only way to get around was to put on the boots and mush.



The big winter storm began on March 10th with freezing rain in southern and western Iowa, which quickly switched over to snow statewide and continued uninterrupted for an incredible 90 hours in some sections and intermittently for more than 100 hours in a few others. Remarkable storm total snowfall accumulations resulted, including 27.2 inches at Iowa City which is the highest storm total snowfall on record anywhere in the state. Of the Iowa City total 21.1 inches fell in just two days on the 11th-12th. The storm brought all travel and transportation to a halt across most of Iowa, closed schools and businesses, and took out communications at times. A state of emergency was declared in some cities including Cedar Rapids where 19.9 inches of snow fell, with 11.1 inches of that total falling on the 12th. At New Hampton 18.0 inches of snow was reported on the 12th alone while Elkader reported 16.0 inches and Osage 13.0 inches.

The Quad Cities also bore the brunt of the storm with a total accumulation of 21.0 inches measured in Davenport.  Some other totals included 21 inches at Marshalltown, 20.0 inches at Oskaloosa, 18.0 inches at Grinnell, 16.5 inches at Fort Dodge, 16.2 inches at Burlington, 16.0 inches at Castana, 15.5 inches at Dubuque, 15.0 inches at Ames, 13.9 inches at Algona, and 13.3 inches at Des Moines. The statewide average snowfall of 14.3 inches from March 10-14 makes this easily the heaviest snow storm on record in Iowa, nearly 4 inches more than the second-heaviest storm which occurred on January 2-4, 1971.

Mom and Dad, thanks for the memories.  Wish I could have been around for that one!