A mid-March snowstorm is unusual, but it is not unprecedented. Back when I was researching Great Storms of the Chesapeake, I came across accounts of the March 19, 1958 storm that buried much of the upper Chesapeake Bay region. Damage, and even deaths, resulted from the heavy, wet snow.
It was an incredible snowfall, with measurements of 42 inches coming in from residents near the Susquehanna River in Maryland. The town of Elkton at the very top of the Chesapeake Bay was buried under 37.1 inches of wet, crushing snow. That measurement was taken by H. Wirt Bouchelle, who had been a postal carrier since 1908 and an official National Weather Service observer since 1927. Bouchelle had recorded 76 inches of snow that winter—though half the total had come from that single March storm.
The massive storm left communities in the upper Chesapeake Bay region without power for twelve hours. Power companies from neighboring states sent men to help, so that a crew of 186 linemen was working around the clock to restore electricity. It was noted that not even Hurricane Hazel four years before had caused so much damage. At Losten’s Dairy in Chesapeake City, the power was out for a week, and the dairy relied on a generator.
The deep snow proved dangerous and, in some cases, deadly. There was a close call at the Chesapeake Boat Co., where the marina owners had just been inspecting a boat shed that measured 95 feet by 136 feet, under which thirty boats were sheltered on the Elk River. Other than some creaking and groaning, there was no sign of any cause for concern. Ten minutes later, the two men were inside their office having coffee when a tremendous crash caused them both to leap to their feet. The entire shed under which they had just been walking had collapsed. Loss of the yachts and shed was estimated at nearly $300,000.
Others weren’t so fortunate. A farmer near the town of Rising Sun who ventured out to check on his barn, flattened by the great snow, died when he stepped back onto his front porch and the roof collapsed.
At Conowingo Dam, a young U.S. Navy WAVE was killed and three other military women were injured when their car careened out of control on the icy road and went through a guardrail. Their car fell ninety feet before landing at the base of the dam. The women had been returning to the Bainbridge Naval Training Center the night of the storm.
Finally, I wanted to share this photo of a sheriff’s patrol car, dwarfed by the plowed snow.