The Great Thanksgiving Blizzard of 1950




Springfield, Ohio after the snowstorm.

Exactly 67 years ago today, the Great Thanksgiving Blizzard of 1950 began. It was the biggest snowstorm for Columbus, and indeed most of Ohio, during the 40-year period of 1920-1960. That period, especially from the mid-1920s through the mid-1950s, had the lowest rates of cold and snowy winters of any comparable period. The average seasonal snowfall during that period was just 19.1″, a full 9″ below the average the 1980s-2010s have had to date. Still, the period was not without its memorable winters, including 1935-36, 1939-40 and 1947-48. None of those winters, however, had a snow event nearly as big as November 1950.

October 1950 had generally been very warm, ranking historically as the 19th warmest October in Columbus. Highs reached 65 or higher on 21 days of the month. This warmth lasted through early November, and the 80 degrees recorded on November 1st, 1950 remains tied for the warmest November temperature ever recorded. After that, the month seesawed up and down until a strong cold front and rainstorm on the 19th-20th dropped temperatures 25-30 degrees across the state, from the upper 50s-low 60s on the 20th to the low-mid 30s on the 21st. This front would be one of the catalysts for one of Ohio’s greatest winter weather events in its history.

Snow began in Columbus and other parts of Ohio on Thanksgiving, Thursday, November 23rd as a low moved through the Great Lakes and weakened. Behind that system, another cold high pressure was diving south out of Canada.

Thursday, November 23rd 1950 National Map
*Requires a DejaVu plug-in to view.

On Friday the 24th, a low formed on the stalled cold front that had moved through Ohio a few days earlier. Initially forming in southeastern North Carolina, this low would’ve normally gone out to see or moved up the East Coast as a Nor’easter. Instead, the strong, cold high pressure was moving into the Ohio Valley at the same time, and the little low exploded and as it began to move north. The strong push of cold was very evident in Ohio, as temperatures plunged from the upper-30s to upper 40s on Thanksgiving afternoon to single digits and low teens by early Friday morning.

Friday, November 24th, 1950 National Map

The low moved into southern Pennsylvania by the morning of the 25th, and then began to do something few other storms ever do- it began to retrograde toward the west and Ohio, continuing to strengthen as it went. The unusual west movement was caused by a blocking high pressure system parked over Maine.

Saturday, November 25th, 1950 National Map

Light snow that had been ongoing in Ohio on the 24th quickly intensified from east to west across the state as the low moved westward from Central Pennsylvania to Northern Ohio by the end of the day on the 25th. With it arrived winds of 40-60 miles per hour, causing blinding white-outs and drifting.
Saturday the 25th was the height of the storm as the low pressure bottomed out at 978mb, a pressure normally associated with hurricanes. This day was, coincidentally, the famed Ohio State-Michigan rivalry football game, now famously known as the “Snow Bowl” for its terrible weather conditions.

With temperatures on Saturday morning in the single digits, wind chills well below zero and with heavy snow, there was debate about cancelling the game altogether, which was the Big Ten Championship. Ironically, despite the fact that Ohio State would’ve gone on to the Rose Bowl had the game been cancelled (Michigan did not want to reschedule), it was Ohio State’s athletic director who ultimately refused to cancel the game, much to the rest of the staff’s disappointment. Perhaps after the fact, considering Ohio State lost 9-3, that decision was regretted, especially in front of the more than 50,000 die-hard fans that managed to show up for the game.


Columbus would receive 7.5″ at the airport, with eastern suburbs getting up to 10″, just on that Saturday alone.

Due to the blocking high pressure, the storm didn’t budge for days, and it continued through the 26th and 27th before slowly dying out. The last accumulating snowflakes from this system fell on the 29th, 6 days after the snow began.

Sunday, November 26th, 1950 National Map
Monday, November 27th, 1950 National Map
Tuesday, November 28th, 1950 National Map
Wednesday, November 29th, 1950 National Map

All in all, the storm was a record-breaker. Snow totals reached 10″ or more across most of the state except the far northwest and far southwest. In Central Ohio, snow had piled up between 10″-20″, with Columbus officially reporting 15.2″ for the duration of the event. This was the second-heaviest snowstorm in Columbus on record to that time, falling just shy of the 15.3″ that occurred February 17-18, 1910. Both of these storms would be surpassed by the February 14-17, 2003 snowstorm of 15.5″, which itself was surpassed by March 7-8th, 2008’s 20.5″.

Other totals in the state included up to 22″ in Cleveland, 27″ in Marietta, and reports of 44″ in Steubenville in far eastern Ohio. Totals of 25″-30″ were common throughout the eastern 1/3rd of the state. These totals are some of the highest the state has ever seen, coming close to those seen in the eastern Ohio snowstorm of April 1901.

In addition to the snow, record cold temperatures in Columbus of 5 degrees on the 25th (along with a record low maximum of 20) made this one of the greatest early winter events of all time.


Cleveland after the storm.

For more November weather records, go here: November Weather
For more general Columbus weather records, go here: Columbus All-Time Weather




Before and After April 2017

I haven’t done a Before and After installment for a while. This time around, I chose to not focus on any single neighborhood.

First up is a photo of the construction of the Columbus Interurban Terminal, looking northwest from 3rd. The photo was taken on October 5, 1911, about 3 months before the building opened. The interurban system was relatively short-lived in the city, and the terminal closed after only 26 years in 1938. The building survived as a grocery store through the mid-1960s before the building was demolished in 1967 as part of the construction of the Greyhound Bus Terminal across the street. The actual location of the building was not on the Greyhound site, but was used as an overflow parking lot. It remained a parking lot until the mid-1980s, when it became part of the City Centre Mall site. Today, plans are for the site to become the location for the 12-story, Two25 mixed-use project.

Here is the same place in September 2016.

And the near future.

The second historic photo is of the #57 streetcar on Kelton Avenue just south of the Oak Street intersection. The photo, which looks north, was taken on June 30, 1915 and includes 3 separate visible buildings as well. The house on the left actually survived until 1977, when it and the rest of the east half of the block was demolished. The building visible on the right is the surviving streetcar barn. Today, it is in bad shape, and while many would like to see it renovated and saved, time seems to be running out. The other surviving building, barely visible in the 1915 photo, is the tenement building on the northwest corner of Oak and Kelton.

And in November 2015.

Third in this list is a photo of the demolition of the old Franklin County Jail, once located at 36 E. Fulton Street in Downtown. Built in 1889, the structure survived until the fall of 1971, when the building, which by then had become outdated for its intended purpose, was torn down to make way for- what else- a parking garage. The parking garage remains to the present day. Columbus leaders at the time should’ve been flogged for such short-sighted thinking, something that was repeated over and over and over again during that era. Today, such a very cool, gothic building would’ve made an excellent candidate for mixed-use conversion.

And in August 2016.

Finally, this next photo isn’t really historic. It was taken a mere 15 years ago in February, 2002, looking northwest from the corner of N. High Street and 10th Avenue. At the time, this area had been made up of low-rise historic buildings that had long held bars for OSU students. All these buildings in the photo, and many more, were demolished not long after the photo was taken in order to make room for the South Campus Gateway, now more or less just called the Gateway. Similar large-scale demolitions are taking place to the north and south as the entirety of the High Street corridor around Campus is transformed. Whether that is good or bad depends on who you ask. What can be agreed upon, however, is that the corridor will be almost unrecognizable in the end.

And in October, 2016.

Columbus in Video History

March 1913 Flood
This video is mostly photos, but still quite interesting.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2se6fjEPbPU

1950s
A video about Columbus being a test market (something that is still true somewhat today) and the impact of Reader’s Digest on Columbus businesses.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ga-W2RB4zjo

1964-1965
Images from OSU Campus, Downtown and more.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cDFHXtaUF28

1980
Check out this relocation video from when AEP moved its headquarters to Columbus from New York. Total cheese fest. The focus on suburban malls is interesting considering their decline today.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5zdSSRYAKcc

1985
OSU Campus to Downtown near and along High Street.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vPabRx9EPd4
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NNzFfIfR5W0

Ameriflora 1992
Who could forget this event? It was supposed to be a defining event for the city, but ended up very overhyped and not nearly the success that was promised.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=on4_4HV9G7A

May 11, 1995
A Channel 4 news report on gas prices. Ironic that the report is that prices are too high, but I bet everyone would love to see these prices again.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oaX2CnPfCSY

OSU’s Major Housing Project

Ohio State University has been engaged in long-term housing improvements on its campus for a few years now, and is set to begin the next and largest phase to date.

The first phase along W. 11th Avenue, called the South Campus High Rise Renovation and Addition Project, is nearing completion. The $171 million project began in 2010 and focused on Stradley, Smith, Park, Steeb and Siebert Halls. The residential buildings, which were all constructed between 1957 and 1960, would see major changes.

-New 12-story additions would connect Park with Stradley and Steeb to Smith.
-10-story Siebert Hall would receive a major renovation.

Rendering of the additions between Park/Stradley and Steeb/Smith.

In addition to the building additions, air conditioning, new elevators, lobbies and other improvements were made. The air conditioning was provided by drilling 450 geothermal wells. The additions would bring an additional 360 student beds.

Also renovated and added to was the William H. Hall housing complex at W. 11th and Worthington Street. Opened in August 2012, the building added 530 new beds.

The South Campus High Rise Renovation and Addition Project will ultimately add about 900 new student beds, but this is a far cry from the project just beginning along Lane Avenue.

Announced around the same time as SCHRRAP, the North Campus Residential District Project began just this past week. This project focuses on the large cluster of dorms and other buildings at the southwest corner of N. High Street and W. Lane Avenue. Most were built in the 1960s and 1970s and look it.

North Campus area 2013

The image above shows how the area looks currently. As the key says, the buildings in red are scheduled to be demolished. The road that goes through the complex, Curl Drive, is also scheduled to be removed.

The image above shows the first phases of construction through Spring 2014. As you can see, there will be 3 main areas of construction during this period.

-A new dorm will be constructed at the southeast corner of W. Lane and Neil Avenues. This area is currently a surface parking lot.
-Scott Hall will be demolished and the site will be replaced with a much larger building.
-Raney Commons will be demolished, and site preparation will take place for new buildings, as well as removing Curl Drive and other infrastructure.
-Once site preparation is complete, 3 new dorm buildings will be constructed at the corner of N. High and W. Lane.

The last image above shows the final phase of construction, from Fall 2015 to Summer 2016. During this period, several changes take place.

-4 row homes along W. Lane will be demolished, as well as North Commons, Houck, Blackburn and Nosker Halls, the Royer Student Activities building and the Jones Pool.
-5 new buildings will be built in this area, as well as new addtions to Taylor, Jones and Drackett Halls.
-A central pedestrian corridor will be completed through the entire complex.
-High and Lane will be landscaped, and park spaces will be created throughout.

Final Project Renderings

In the end, 3,200 new beds will be created in the $370 million project. This will drastically change the look and feel of this area, and will continue to add density to the campus area, already Columbus’ most dense.