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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Today Marks 41st Anniversary of Easter Sunday Snowstorm

The month of March is arguably the most unpredictable as far as weather is concerned in southwestern Connecticut. Daily temperatures have been well below normal each of the last six days and eight of the last nine. However, just over a week ago, the mercury climbed to 76 degrees, establishing a new record for March 18. Today, however, will be cooler-than-normal once again with a high in the mid 40s under sunny skies.

Today marks the 41st anniversary of the unforgettable Easter Sunday snowstorm of 1970. Remember, a snowstorm this late in the season in southwestern Connecticut is extremely rare. The normal high temperature is almost 20 degrees above the freezing point, while the normal low temperature is 35 degrees. In addition, the higher angle of the Sun, its stronger rays, and more than 12 hours of daylight all contribute to a Springtime feel of the air.

That's why the March 29, 1970, snowstorm is so memorable. Adding to its uniqueness was the fact that it happened on Easter Sunday, a day on which many people travel to church services and to see relatives. Below are copies of the front pages from The Bridgeport Telegram and The Bridgeport Post from Monday, March 30, 1970, courtesy of Sarah Greenberg of the Bridgeport Public Library's Historical Collections Department.


Over a half-foot of snow fell in the Greater Bridgeport area and, to make matters worse, the mercury plummeted to 16 degrees the following morning at Sikorsky Memorial Airport in Stratford and 14 degrees in Norwalk.


According to The Hour newspaper of Norwalk, eight inches of snow fell in the city. The front page of the Norwalk newspaper (below) from the following morning, March 30, is courtesy of Judy Rivas of the Norwalk Public Library.

"The weatherman pulled a somewhat premature April Fool's Day gag on Norwalkers Sunday and in the bargain, turned the Easter Parade into a trek more fitting for Siberian slopes than West Avenue," the article stated. "The snowfall, which came shortly after the traditional Easter Sunrise Service at Calf Pasture Beach, caught many a midmorning churchgoer unawares."


Although Easter occurred quite early that year, an Easter Sunday snowfall hadn't been recorded in southern Connecticut since 1915, when eight inches of snow fell April 3 and 4. The 1970 snowstorm began at about 8:30 a.m. and persisted throughout the day until early evening, accompanied by wind gusts up to 30 miles an hour. Remember, the date on which Easter falls fluctuates each year. It is observed on the first Sunday following the first Full Moon after the Vernal Equinox.

"The state highway department began plowing roads Sunday, though reports indicated much of its snow-fighting equipment was stored away to begin Spring cleanup of sand and road trash instead of snow," according to The Hour. "State police, in a statewide survey of conditions, reported most roads were snow or ice-covered, with extremely slippery conditions."

The following day, Monday, March 30, was an unscheduled holiday for many area schoolchildren due to the snow, wind, and brutally cold temperatures. Only New Canaan and Darien opened their schools, "as most towns, faced with slippery roads and unplowed school yards, cancelled classes."

Although I was only 11 years old and in sixth-grade at the time, the memory of that snowstorm is as vivid today as it was 41 years ago. As a young child, I was excited that we didn't have to go to church or drive to grandma's house for dinner. Instead, our family spent the day at home, enjoying the snow and the holiday together. Oddly, four years later, 7.6" of snow fell at Sikorsky Airport on the same date.

Special thanks are extended to Judy Rivas of the Norwalk Public Library and Sarah Greenberg of the Bridgeport Public Library for helping me research the snowstorm. I appreciate their time and thoughtfulness.


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