Thursday, January 2, 2014

Winter in Nashville

by Debie Oeser Cox

Blizzard of '51, Nashville, photo from

Whenever a few snow flakes fly in Nashville, many of us start thinking about winter weather from years past, both from our own memories and the tales we have heard or read over the years.  The blizzard of 1951, jumps to the forefront for those of my generation.  Though I was not born until the summer of 1952, I was told many stories about that winter event.  

Blizzard of '51, Nashville, photo from

One of the more memorable winters, for me, was 1976-1977.  We were living on McCarn Street in East Nashville.  Winter came early in 1976.  From October 26 to November 18, temperatures were continuously lower than average. The first snowfall of the winter was on November 12 and temperatures in November fell below the freezing mark on 20 out of 30 days.  It got worse.  December was the coldest month of 1976.  To add to the bad weather, near the end of the December, we got a couple of inches of snow.  The coldest day of 1976  was on the New Year's Eve, with a low temperature of 4°F.   January 1, 1977, remains the coldest New Year's Day on record in Nashville, with a low temp of 0°F.  Because it was so cold, the December snow was hanging around, when  on January 3rd, 3.6 inches fell.  It would snow several more times in January for an official total of 21.5 inches for the winter. 

In our older neighborhood, with towering trees that cast long shadows, along with the colder than normal temperatures, I can't recall a day in January when there was not snow on the ground. In the third week of January after many nights of single digit temps, including a couple of sub-zero nights, our water froze. We were totally puzzled at first. We left the water dripping at night.  Our basement, where the old gas furnace was located, was toasty warm.  The problem, it turned out, was in the pipe between the meter and the house. We never thought that the ground would freeze deeply enough to affect the pipes underground. Several of our neighbors, and friends and family in other areas, were in the same predicament. For some it turned into a huge expense, because the pipes burst as they began to thaw. Plumbers were in our neighbors yard with a backhoe, to dig down to the pipe and replace it.

The first few days of February continued to be brutally cold.  Suddenly, as often happens in Nashville, on February 10, the high temperature climbed into the 60's and the warm air continued for several days.  My Daddy had advised us to leave the faucets open, thinking it would relieve pressure as the water in the pipes thawed and the ice and water started to move.  Don't know if that is what did the trick but after several days of 50 and 60 degree temps, our water thawed and was flowing and all was good.  The worst of that winter was over.  

 The winters of 1977-78 and 1978-79 were also very cold with total winter snowfall of 25.2 inches and 27.5 inches respectively. Nashville has only had more than 20 inches of snow in a winter once since those years.  In 1995-96, there was 23.7 inches of snow.  Do you think 2013-14 might turn into a winter to be remembered?

National Weather Service 


Other Weather Links for the Nashville Area; 
National Weather Service - Weather Records 
The Nashville Ice Storm of 1951 (great photos bottom of page)
Nashville Tornado 1933

Calendar of Significant Weather Events in Middle Tennessee
The weather service changes the url for pages often.  If the link doesn't work use the search feature on the Natinal Weather Service page.