Paul is a full-time fifth-grade teacher at an elementary school in Fairfield ... Paul is an Emmy award winner, five-time Emmy nominee, and four-time winner of the Connecticut Associated Press Broadcasters' Association award for 'Best Weathercast' ... The local weather journal is a two-time winner of the Communicator Award of Distinction ... Paul was inducted into the Housatonic Community College Hall of Fame and received the Distinguished Alumni Award in 2012 ... Follow Paul on Twitter @PaulPiorek ...

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Surprise Snowstorm Paralyzed Region 56 Years Ago Today

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"They sure don't make 'em like they used to." How many times have you heard somebody say that? It applies to just about everything these days, especially our weather. Did you know that 56 years ago today a snowstorm virtually paralyzed southwestern Connecticut? Just about a half-foot of snow fell across the region, catching most everybody, including commuters and holiday shoppers, by surprise.

Officially, 5.1 inches of snow fell in Bridgeport on Wednesday, December 4, 1957, causing one of the greatest traffic jams in that city, according to The Bridgeport Post. The front-page article said that "Downtown streets were clogged with stalled traffic. The bumper-to-bumper situation persisted for five hours, delaying thousands of homeward-bound workers."

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Many people were stranded temporarily when rides failed to show or scheduled buses ran well behind schedule. Bus lines and taxis reported many extra customers, but the traffic jam prevented them from reaching their destinations promptly. The New Haven Railroad reported that commuter trains were jammed all evening, but there were no train delays blamed on the storm.

Slowed to a snail's pace by the blinding snow, it took motorists an hour to an hour-and-a-half to travel from downtown Bridgeport to North Avenue. The greatest difficulty was crossing intersections clogged by autos inching along bumper-to-bumper. Cars standing in traffic for a prolonged period of time ran out of gas, adding to the confusion. Police noted numerous instances of car batteries and lights failing as cars stalled at intersections.

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The weather bureau said a combination of unusual conditions caused the storm to pause at midday and strengthen a few hours later. The storm's intensification caught many people off guard and unprepared. The rapidly-falling snow created skidding hazards and all but erased the effects of the Department of Public Works' sanding operations earlier in the day.

The snowfall was the greatest in Bridgeport since a two-day storm in March of 1956 delivered 19.4 inches. Consider that the normal average snowfall for the entire month of December is 3.6 inches. Strong winds, especially during the evening and nighttime hours, caused considerable drifting of the snow 55 years ago today. Winds gusted over 35 to 40 miles an hour.

I wonder how many people remember that storm? If you do, I'd like to hear from you. I can only imagine what it must have been like for stranded motorists. They sure don't make 'em like they used to!

Paul