2014 not Texoma’s only tango with Old Man Winter blues


Sunday I heard someone say “I’ve had a falling out with Mother Nature.” That statement probably is true to many of us living here in North Texas where we usually have only one session with ice and snow during a winter. Here it is March and Sunday and Monday had us shut down again.

Stir craziness has become the norm around here. We get over one spell of it and hopefully look ahead to spring in the near future and whammo, we’re frozen in again. As I write this Tuesday should be the day we are set free and can get out of our driveway onto the frozen street south of our house.

But you know what! Temperatures have gotten even lower many times and ice storms have been much worse. I don’t remember hearing such thunder as we had on Sunday though.

I’ve written about some of the early spells with winter weather several times before, but this seems like a good time to pass the information along again. They say, “if you don’t like the weather in Texas, stick around for a while.” Well, I’ve been sticking around a very long time and haven’t been disappointed yet. We go from drought to floods, snow to ice to tornadoes, but all in all, Denison has pretty agreeable weather most of the time.

I spoke with a friend in Reno, NV Monday morning and told her I was ready to come out to her house and let her come to mine for a few days. She sympathized with me and told me several times what nice weather they were having out there. Snow is more the norm there this time of year, but temperatures have been in the 60’s most of the winter.

I think Mother Nature has her seasons mixed up and locations scrambled. I can complain, but I really feel sorry for people living in the Northeast. They have been getting much more serious snow and ice than we have.

Let’s just be thankful that 1899 hasn’t had a replay. That year the temperatures dropped to 16 below zero. Yes, that is BELOW ZERO and “baby, that was cold outside.” Then in 1936 the thermometer had gone crazy and hit 110, a mere 126 degrees higher than 1899.

That coldest weather here in history since records began being recorded froze Red River solid, enough to allow wagons and teams to cross. A 5-year-old youngster, the son of D.L. Martin, who was traveling from McLennan County to the Choctaw Nation across the river, was frozen to death while the family slept in their wagon 10 miles east of Denison.

Sparrows that had built nests at the Katy Shops were frozen. There was a wholesale bursting of water pipes and hydrants. Fireplugs along Main Street were opened and tubs were filled for the livestock to have water.

Needless to say, the temperatures were much colder than city fathers had anticipated. A spectacular show was stolen from the blizzard when fire broke out in the Metropolitan Café at 201 West Main and the adjoining McCarty Hardware Store.

Water sprayed on the building froze as fast as it was sprayed, turning the area into a spectacular display of ice. Meanwhile, the buildings burned down.

Col. Russell Legate, pioneer Denison banker, who was said to have been a Rough Rider with Teddy Roosevelt, was among spectators huddled across the street when dynamite in the hardware store was touched off by the blaze. A splinter of glass struck Legate in the eye, permanently blinding him.

But you don’t have to be a real old timer to remember the ice storms of 1945 and 1949. In 1945 it was believed to have been the granddaddy of all ice storms, but the 1949 spell ran neck and neck for that distinction.

It was in February 1945 when the entire area was frozen in and the city cut off from the outside world. Damages totaled thousands of dollars.

Temperatures dropped sharply and turned the rain into sleet after some ice formed. The next day the temperature hovered at just the right point to increase the icy veneer without turning the drizzle into sleet before it reached the ground.

Power and phone lines turned into huge ropes that began snapping like spaghetti from the weight of the accumulating ice. Limbs that held several times their weight in the ice snapped like toothpicks, blocking streets and giving Denison the desolate appearance of a bombed city.

Denison was without power and phone service for a couple of days, then restored gradually as temperatures melted the ice into a mushy slush. Block after block of lines had to be rebuilt. With no power in town, the newspaper was printed two day in Paris, then two days in Sherman after power was returned to our neighbors.

Oil lamps suddenly became fashionable again and the supply was depleted in record time. Many Denisonians still have these lamps tucked away in a cupboard or closet, “Just in case we have another ice storm.” They may become collector’s items, but those who were here during that storm, will surely hang onto them.

Denison has had many ice storm teasers like those we have seen this year, but none to compare with the earlier ones talked about here. We have been fortunate that we haven’t had a storm like the 1945 freeze. If we can hold on just a little while longer, it’s pretty certain that spring is bound to arrive soon and schools can finish their year without further interruption, merchants can keep their doors open, and life can bet back to normal once again.

Donna Hunt is the former editor of the Denison Herald.