Nashville is known for its temperate weather and serves as one of the most welcoming cities in the south. Our snow never gets too incredibly terrible, and neither does our humidity (We’re lookin’ at you, Louisiana!). Every once in awhile, though, every blue moon, there’s a storm to end all storms – and it happened in 1951. There are still some golden folk in Nashville that remember the snowstorm that shut down the city and made history books forever.
It began to snow on Sunday, January 28, 1951. At first it was light, no one knew the craze that would come to be an incessant, never ending deluge. Residents of Nashville made it to the store to stock up on all their necessities, expecting to spend a bit of time in their homes while the storm raged on outside.
Here, you can see a shot of Centennial Park, covered with ice and snow.
By the 29th, the city was completely covered in ice. Ice in Nashville, well, ice anywhere, is a whole different story. Expecially to those living in the warm south. A thick, solid 1-inch ice coat blanketed the city by Tuesday, January 30, 1951. The fun and games were over and people were just beginning to realize how stuck they were.
On the 31st, Wednesday, Nashville completely shut down. The temperatures dropped drastically, and we were on par with the lows in Wyoming. Wyoming! As sleet swept across the city, a thick blanket of snow covered the already terrifying sheet of ice, protecting it from melting.
The heavy winds felled trees and managed to knock down the electrical lines that were already heavy with ice. Many people lost power and heat, throwing the city into the depth of winter darkness. With many people stranded and businesses closed, no one was quite sure when the fear would end. February 1st found the whole city immobilized with eight inches of solid ice leaving even cars with heavy chains buried.
No city buses were running, and eventually Memphis would loan Nashville their own metro buses for those left stranded without power. The airport was closed, as were the schools. And the worst part? 16,000 homes and families were left without power. Nashville was clocking in at 13 below zero, and nearby Bell Buckle at -22.
There were 349 deaths by February 4th, directly resultant from the weather. The damage to property reached easily in the millions, though there was never a hard and fast number released. By the 5th, the first few lanes cleared were located in West End, and the city began to breathe again. The defrost was near, but the fear of the sky stretched far into spring.