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.

12 comments

  • Nita Durham

    I was born on January 8th, 1964 and there was plenty of snow still on the ground. My mother got to the hospital on time to have me but my poor Dad was trapped trying to get my grandmother up to the hospital in time to see her granddaughter born. Apparently they didn’t have snow plows in Huntsville back then, either

    Nita Durham

  • Iris Ayres Smale

    Definitely remember it. Live in Guntersville. Both my Dad and my husband worked at the arsenal and both went to work that New Year’s Eve morning. Took them almost 7 hours to get home. It was a VERY long day.

  • Jimmy Smith

    I remember this storm very well. I was 13 years old and had a blast. We lived in the country and I got my shotgun and went rabbit hunting.

  • Bill Scott

    I was at the Ragsdale home in the first picture, visiting their son, when the snow fell, and was happily stranded there until the streets could be cleared. At that location we measured 17 inches the first day and an additional two inches the second day. I was 14 years old at the time. Great memories!

  • preacher

    Was 4 years old. Lived in Arab. More snow there than in Huntsville I was told. Praise The Lord. Psalm 150. Amen..

  • Freshair

    Lived on Whitesburg Drive and the snow measured 17 inches on the cars and sidewalks. Regardless of the OFFICIAL measure, some places were deeper than that. The city didn’t have snowplows so they hired contractors with STEEL bladed road graders to try to clean the main streets. When the snow finally melted the street damage was unbelievable …. Lesson learned!

  • Debbie Russell

    I was 8 years old and remember my Dad measuring snow in our front yard at 14 inches deep. Neighbors had to leave their cars in our yard because they could not get up the hill to their homes. My Dad took them all home on the tractor so they wouldn’t have to walk it in all that snow. I wonder how many people would do that for their neighbors now?

  • Jan Coppett

    I was 7 when this snow fell. What a playground it was! Our back porch was about 30 inches off the ground, and I remember snow was even with the porch! We ran and jumped off the porch into the snowdrifts! I’ve lived in Huntsville all my life and this is a memory I’ll keep forever!

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