NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – It’s known as the Great Blizzard in Nashville, but it was actually an ice storm that left the city under 8 inches of snow and ice.
The storm started January 29, 1951, and ended February 1. It took eleven days for the snow and ice to melt.
For many Middle Tennesseans, this is the winter storm they compare other winter storms to.
News 2 spoke with Krissy Hurley, the Warning Coordination Meteorologist at the National Weather Service Office in Nashville, about the history of the storm. “You know, it’s known as the ‘1951 Great Blizzard’, but ironically, it does not categorize as a blizzard as far as meteorological definitions are because the winds were never that strong.”
The alternating layers of ice and snow with sub-zero temperatures ended up shutting Nashville and the surrounding areas down for days. It also led to one of the biggest traffic jams in the city’s history as people abandoned their vehicles in the middle of the road.
According to Hurley, the conditions leading up to the storm were certainly unusual, “What made the 1951 winter storm so significant was that we were close to 60 degrees and the temperature just dropped. Once it dropped, it started off as snow. Then it warmed back up the next day, just enough where we got tremendous amounts of freezing rain, which is ice. And that’s one word you never want to hear when you’re dealing with winter weather.”
Due to the ice, roofs and power lines collapsed, and multiple trees were downed. According to the NWS, two people were killed in car-related accidents.
Accounts of this storm have been passed down to younger generations. Some claim there wasn’t a hackberry tree left in town because of the ice. And for many who are from the Nashville area, this storm is why they prepare when winter weather is in the forecast.
“Well, I think ice can occur very quickly and cause deteriorating conditions. It’s really hard to prepare for ice. And when people make fun of Southerners going to the grocery store for their milk and bread, I think everybody that does that has a certain historical weather event or heard about a weather event such as an ice storm.”
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Tennessee 225: Dive into the history of the Volunteer State.