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.
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.
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.
Beaumont Enterprise, 14 Feb. 1911, courtesy of the Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center.
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.
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.
“Louisiana Weather Journal and Agriculturist,” published by Louisiana Weather Service, March 10, 1895
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).