In our distant past, newspaper reports of substantial snow falls were relatively uncommon. The accounts and consequences of those ancient snowstorms are few and far in between. Because of our geographical location and prevailing meteorological conditions, snow falls of more than a couple of inches are somewhat rare. In order for us to have snow, we have to the right combination of warm moist air and cold air converging at the same time. It is only in the last fifteen years that more measurable snowfalls have been on the rise.
This is the story of the snowstorm of February 25, 1914, said to be the greatest of the 20th Century. And so it was until February 9, 1973, when all of the requisite weather conditions came together at the critical time leaving Laurens County under 14 or more inches of snow.
The greatest snowfall of the 19th Century in Laurens County came on February 13, 1899. It was perhaps the coldest day ever recorded in the history of the county when temperatures fell to at least five degrees below zero. Thirty mile per hour winds blew across four inches of snow and caused the wind chill temperature to drop to thirty-three degrees below zero.
The 1899 storm had no negative effect on Valentine’s Day activities. In point of fact, the day was transformed into a sentimental journey into the past like the country’s northern regions when the day was once celebrated with sleigh riding and snow ball throwing. Instead of following the ancient custom of drawing a name of girl and pinning a badge on their shoulders, the young men of Dublin took to the streets to celebrate and play.
Few people had snow sleds. The ingenious and clever boys went to work, improvising by attaching a cracker box to barrel staves for a sled. Others took wheels from their buggies, ran the axle through wood and had sleighs pulled by horses. Ben Hooks had the most fun. He constructed a sleigh drawn by four horses with a wagon body filled with hay. All day long, the kids rode up and down the streets throughout the winter wonderland. Boys were boys as sporadic and random snowball skirmishes broke out in all parts of the city.
On a cold Tuesday evening on February 24, 19145, snow began to fall north of town in Milledgeville, which would receive 9 inches in all. All during the night and throughout the day snow flakes covered the ground. As the snow slowed, temperatures plummeted down to 20 degrees.
Not a hint of snow was in the short term forecast from weather experts in Washington, D.C.. In fact, fair weather was predicted for Dublin and Laurens County. When it began to sleet right around midnight, no one had a thought of any dumping of a white blanket of snow. The previous snowfall on Thanksgiving Day in 1912 was primarily remarkable and puzzling, but all too fleeting.
Bands of snow extended from New Orleans, which hadn’t seen snow since 1901 to Charleston. Millions of people living in the northern half of the nation were shivering and suffering in the grips of yet another severe snowy storm.
Dublin’s total snow fall by the time the Courier-Herald was published stood at three inches. By the end of the day, that depth would double to six inches and climbing at 6:00 p.m. - a record which stood for nearly sixty years until the Great Snow of 1973. The snow fall that day, 100 years ago, still stands as the second greatest recorded snowfall in the 200 years of Laurens County’s history.
Not used to such heavy snow, nearly all businesses ceased operation. Students were excused from classes. There were few, if any traffic jams. In 1914, traffic jams in Dublin were almost as rare as snow falls. Most people walked everywhere in town during those days.
Snow fall totals seemed to heaviest from the southwestern part of Central Georgia northeast to Augusta. Sandersville’s paper boasted a state high of ten inches, while neighboring Tennille’s yardsticks dipped only 8 inches from the ground to the top of the snow.
Baxley to our southeast reported a single inch, while Americus and Fitzgerald each reported a half foot of the white, wet stuff. Macon’s measurers came up with roughly the same half foot levels.
It was a day when any kid who was allowed to spent the day frolicking in the snow. Over the next century, we have had some snowfalls of 1-3 inches, usually no more than two or three of them in each decade.
February 25, 1914 was an exception. It was the greatest, well almost the greatest, snowfall of the 20th Century.