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50th Anniversary of 1964 New Year’s Day Huntsville Snowstorm

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – 50 years ago this morning, north Alabama partygoers-to-be woke up to a typical National Weather Service forecast for early winter here: cold rain throughout the day, possibly mixed with sleet. It was not a forecast for the ages.

About noon the rain turned into snow as cold air slid further south than expected. By the stroke of midnight 12 hours later, 15.3 inches of snow smothered the city. That’s the most snow ever recorded here by the weather service, which opened its Huntsville office in 1958.

But even old-timers said then the New Year Eve’s snowstorm was the worst since 1899.

It snowed so much that Huntsville had the dubious distinction of recording the most snow of any weather service station in the continental United States that last day of 1963.

“Huntsville Crowned Nation’s Top Snow-Getter for New Year,” The Huntsville Times‘ headline proclaimed New Year’s Day, 1964. Another two inches or so fell after midnight, bringing the total snowfall in this part of the Heart of Dixie to more than 1.5 feet.

The result? Bedlam.

In a town that goes nuts when a dusting falls, a Times reporter described Huntsville as a “paralyzed, helpless city.”

“Traffic jams involving thousands of cars backed up on Memorial Parkway and other major and side streets as the wintry blast reached its peak last night. Hundreds of vehicles were abandoned and still stranded today,” the reporter wrote.

Another Times story reported the Civil Defense revived a man found unconscious as his car’s motor continued running after he plowed into a snow bank on U.S. 431 near Big Cove School late New Year’s Eve.  Elsewhere, police rescued a family of seven – including five children – stranded in their car on Leeman Ferry Road.

Do you remember playing in  – or being plagued by – the massive 1964 New Year’s Day snowstorm in Huntsville? Comment and tell us your story or click the button below to submit a photo.