Snowpocalypse 1772!

Posted in: Research, A Summary View, Thomas Jefferson

We are having some calamitous (for Virginia) weather lately - an astonishingly brutal winter altogether so far, in fact.  I'm told the kids are calling it "Snowpocalypse," or "Snowtorious B.I.G."   So I thought it would be nice to shamelessly mooch off some splendid research done by one of my colleagues and bring you a snow-themed post in honor of this snowy weekend; something to do for about 3 minutes while you're snowed in, or, if you are not snowed in, something to feel real good about. Some days ago, the local paper discussed our completely-uncalled-for recent snowfalls in the context of a historic snowfall, supposedly of 36", mentioned by Our Man Jefferson.  Someone we know (rightly) became curious about this reference, and asked me about it.  I blithely passed it on to a colleague because, if there's anything said colleague loves more than a reference question, it's a reference question about weather.  Here's the scoop*:

Unfortunately, TJ didn’t start keeping formal weather records with daily temperature records and observations until 1776.  However, he did note it in his Garden Book: “Jan. 26.  the deepest snow we have ever seen. in Albemarle it was about 3. f. deep.” In his endnote connected to that entry in his Garden Book, Edwin Morris Betts notes that “[t]his snow . . . was often referred to by Jefferson” (p. 36). This is the same snow storm that Thomas and Martha slogged through to get to Monticello on their return after getting married on New Year’s Day (as daughter Martha reported). ...George Washington recorded the daily development of a storm that dumped three feet at Mount Vernon from January 26-27-28.  He describes the snow as starting the night of the 26th-27th and already accumulating six inches by the morning of the 27th, with more snow on the 28th totaling three feet (after a gap, more snow would fly the night of the 29th).  A diary entry from Sally Cary Fairfax...also records the snow as falling on the 27th (“On Monday, the 27th of Jan. there fell an amazing snow, two feet & a half deep”).  So...my guess is that it started on the 26th at Monticello but ended a day or two later.

Gadzooks, this is giving me bad flashbacks to, like, yesterday! Well.  At least those olden people didn't have to worry about the power going out. *Pun.

Comments

says

Well, alrighty then.

says

Nope.

says

Interesting that back-to-back years saw record-breaking weather events in Virginia. 1771 was the year of the "Great Fresh" that wiped out much of that year's tobacco crop (wreaking havoc with overseas markets) and structures along the James (the modern monument to it in Scottsville and the contemporary one at Turkey Island are rather interesting), which was attributed to a major snowfall in the mountains. But I haven't come across any reports of there being problem flooding in 1772, have you?

says

One can only hope!

says

Does this mean we won't have to worry about another snow this bad for another 230-some years? Please?

Add comment

Login to post comments