Space City Rewind: Houston’s Great Snow of 1895

So Was the 1895 Snow a Blizzard?

To meet the stringent requirements of being classified as a blizzard, a storm must have sustained winds of 35 mph and visibility of ¼ mile or less for 3 consecutive hours. Did the snow of 1895 qualify? We’ll never know for sure, but in places east of Houston and on the coast it sounds like it may have been close.

Snow during the 1895 storm from Kountze, Texas, north of Beaumont. (Larry Harris, Flickr (see link at bottom), original photo taken by William Warcup Barner)

 

Not many specific enough accounts exist from the 1895 storm itself, but we can gain some insight from a Valentine’s Day 1911 retrospective published in the Beaumont Enterprise. They mentioned that initially there was no wind as snow began Wednesday night. By morning, that quickly changed. “With the coming of daylight the wind sprang up,” the Enterprise reported, “and the snow by that time had changed to a dry and fine sort which blew hither and thither and filled corners and banked two, three, four feet high in the drifts. The front doors were barred and the snow was banked so high against the gates that people had to carve a pathway through it before they could get out.” It’s not too revealing that many places saw large snow drifts, because dry snow drifts easily. Using visibility criteria, I have no doubt that blizzard requirements were met in the Golden Triangle and on the coast above Galveston. Beaumont received approximately 28 inches of snow from this storm. Descriptions of the snow were that it came in a “blinding, heavy form which is so common in the north.”

We can’t truly say the great snow of 1895 was a blizzard, but that should not matter. The great snowstorm of 1895 was a weather event that we may never see again in Houston and the Gulf Coast. It will endure one of the most special storms in our city’s history.

Sources/Acknowledgements

A sincere thank you to Timothy Ronk and the staff at the Houston Metropolitan Research Center for helping track down some photos of this storm from Houston and accessing the Houston Post. The staff at the Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center was also extremely helpful in searching for any information they had on the storm and its impacts near Beaumont and Port Arthur. Thanks also to Peggy Dillard and Sean McConnell at the Rosenberg Library in Galveston for pulling photos from the storm at the coast. Also, a thank you to Brian Brettschneider, Scott Doering, Larry Harris, Tim Humphrey, and Tom Malmay for providing links, pictures, and information to help direct my research. Thanks to Pati Threatt at the Frazar Memorial Library of McNeese State University for allowing us to share an image of Lake Charles.

“2004 Christmas Snow – A Look Back.” National Weather Service, Houston/Galveston, retrieved from Web 1/9/2017.

Beaumont Enterprise, 14 Feb. 1911, courtesy of the Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center.

Brenham Daily Banner, 15 Feb. 1895, available online from University of North Texas Portal to Texas History.

Brownsville Daily Herald, 15 Feb. 1895, available online from University of North Texas Portal to Texas History.

Chapman, Betty Trapp. Historic Photos of Houston. Nashville: Turner Publishing Company, 2007. Print.

Cooperative observer weather data retrieved for various locations at NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center.

Fort Worth Gazette, 15 & 17 Feb. 1895, available online from University of North Texas Portal to Texas History.
February 15 and February 17

Galveston Daily News, 15-18 Feb. 1895, available online from University of North Texas Portal to Texas History.
February 15February 16February 17, and February 18

Galveston Photographs, [#2-11] (Sealy Residence) [#3-13] (The Strand). Rosenberg Library, Galveston, Texas.

Houston Metropolitan Research Center, Items MSS 169.020, MSS 169.021, MSS 248-155, MSS 248-1052, RG D 006N. 1969.4557, 20th century deep water editon by Wentworth, p. 63 & 81.

Houston Post, 14-17 Feb. 1895, accessed on microfilm at the Houston Metropolitan Research Center at the Houston Public Library.

“Illustrated 20th Century deep water edition of Houston, Texas: the progressive city of the empire state,” by Wentworth via Houston Metropolitan Research Center at the Houston Public Library.

Larry Harris shared his grandfather’s photos of the storm from Kountze. You can see more on his Flickr page.

Linsley, Judy. “Southeast Texas Has Rough Winters Too! (January 2013).” Center for Regional Heritage Research. Stephen F. Austin State University, 1 Jan. 2013. Web. 16 Jan. 2017.

“Louisiana Weather Journal and Agriculturist,” published by Louisiana Weather Service, March 10, 1895

Maude Reid Scrapbooks, under indefinite loan from the Calcasieu Parish Public Library to the McNeese State University Department of Archives & Special Collections, Frazar Memorial Library.

New Orleans Picayune, 10 Feb. 1895 and 14-18 Feb. 1895, accessed via Gale through Houston Public Library.

Opelousas Courier, 16 Feb. 1895, accessed via Library of Congress.

Portal to Texas History (used for newspapers and photographs as credited above).

University of Houston Digital Archives/NWS Houston photo of Main Street in Houston. 

U.S. Daily Weather Maps. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Central Library, retrieved from Web 1/9/2017.

15 thoughts on “Space City Rewind: Houston’s Great Snow of 1895

  1. Milt

    BRAVO!!! What a great, well researched piece and all the stories within the story…loved the old pictures…sure wish we still had some of those beautiful old buildings…a number of chuckles, especially reading about state legislators in Austin dodging snowballs trying to exit the capitol…guess citizens back then shared differences with politicians…imagine that!

    1. Matt

      Thanks, Milt! Stories like this definitely make you appreciate the good parts of the past. I just can’t imagine seeing how beautiful Houston must have looked on Valentine’s Day morning that year.

  2. Justin

    History can be so fascinating. And snow is so magical to us native Houstonians.

    I loved the way this was put together, Matt. I always look forward to these forays in the past. Thanks so much for your effort.

  3. John

    What a fun read and the research needed to put this together must have taken weeks. The other take away is the prose contained in the newspaper reports. Just amazing.

  4. Joe Bastardi

    fantastic article. Must have been strong upper feature following on front. dwarfs the 4 inches I say in College Station Jan 1964.

    1. Matt

      Thank you, Joe. Yes, I think a front followed by some wild upper level system digging out of the Southwest set off a fuse in the Gulf. Would be absolutely incredible to witness today.

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