Chuck Williams: Remembering the blizzard of 1973

chwilliams@ledger-enquirer.comJanuary 27, 2014 

Just mention the word “snow” and most of us raised in Alabama and Georgia immediately sprint for the grocery store.

Milk and bread. Throw in water and batteries for good measure. That is just how we were raised, folks. It is a distinct action/reaction in this part of the country.

Our Northern friends mock us — but if you notice, they give us plenty of room on slippery roads in the rare case when snow or ice becomes a reality.

Consider this Facebook post from my friend, Fred Fussell:

“Every time Deep Southerners over-react to winter weather conditions, outsiders from other parts of the country have a big ho-ho laugh,” Fussell wrote. “However, we always manage to get a day or two off school and/or work as a result. Who are the smart ones?”

Which brings us to Tuesday.

You better get some milk, bread and batteries — just in case. And you better grab ’em early because the bad weather is predicted to hit about lunchtime. The thrust of the forecast for Columbus and this area is the possibility of a few inches of snow Tuesday and Wednesday. As we know, that is subject to change rapidly.

There were plenty of jokes about the possible over-reaction Monday.

But when you don’t prepare, that is when you get hammered.

Like most of us who have lived in these parts for 50 or more years, we have seen the worst of it. We survived the great blizzard of 1973. Throughout this region places that got little-to-no snow were buried in a foot or more of the white stuff.

Remember that one?

A lot of us do. I asked some of my Facebook friends what year the big storm hit. I always get confused thinking it might have been 1972.

What that Facebook post did was trigger an avalanche of memories.

Roger Mitchell was an Auburn football player back then. He remembers what it was like.

“I had an 8 a.m. final exam at AU,” he said. “I walked out and there was almost a foot on ground. Afternoon tests were cancelled. We had a blast.”

Jean Morris worked in production at the Columbus newspapers when the storm struck back on Feb. 9, 1973. She remembers it well, and even has a small glass tray that was given to each newspaper employee showing the front page titled “Winter wonderland buries area; 14-inch snow cripples Columbus.” She even remembers the newspaper sending out supervisors to bring in employees to produce the Ledger and Enquirer.

“We really worked hard but had lot of fun that day,” she said.

Fussell remembers the day after the big event.

“The day following the big snow in ’73 was cold, bright and sunny,” Fussell wrote. “I managed to get down to Westville, which was beautiful blanketed in a thick covering of snow, and then out to Providence Canyon which was equally beautiful. The colors of the clay walls out there seemed even more vivid that usual in contrast with the white snow.”

I, too, remember it.

As a sixth grader in Eufaula, I was preparing for the snow and remember an early release from school.

Then it started snowing — and seemed to snow for hours.

By the time it was over, Eufaula was buried in more than 8 inches of snow. Talk about a kid’s prayer being answered. I also remember the ugly side of it — pine trees and power poles snapping. I was outside playing and could hear the tree limbs giving under the weight of the snow.

Power lines were down all over Eufaula and the region. I remember it took days to get the power back on. I have always told myself that was a once-in-a-lifetime event. And for the last 41 years, there has never been one to top it.

You can put me in the I-will-believe-it-when-I-see-it crowd. But I saw it in 1973. And so did many of you.

Chuck Williams, senior editor for content, chwilliams@ledger-enquirer.com

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