As the temperatures get lower, the tales start flowing.
“That blizzard in 19(whenever)” or the “snowstorm of 20(whatever)” become the largest meteorological snow events according to family dinner table lore.
But come with the facts.
The most accurate data of snowfalls in Cobb County available is from a home just southwest of Acworth that has been recording the data since 1947, said Lauren Merritt, a National Weather Service forecaster.
She said this data comes from the Service’s Cooperative Observer Program. The NWS vets all such volunteer-measured data as it comes in, but she admits that there could be some gaps in these readings — one of the reasons it is technically unofficial.
“Each observer has been specifically trained on how to measure snow, so these totals should be accurate, although they are not official,” Merritt said.
Between the meteorological data and newspaper archives, you can get a feel of those powdery records:
4½ inches on Jan. 1, 1964
Happy New Year! Here’s a snow shovel! That was 1964 throughout metro Atlanta.
Here’s the beginning of a story that ran on the front of The Atlanta Constitution that day: “The tender infant, New Year’s 1964, cracked out of its shell in the midst of a raw, troublesome snow and ice storm sweeping across Georgia.”
The first day of the year was a Wednesday and Cobb County schools had planned to stay closed through the week, but many Fulton and DeKalb schools got extra time before coming back from Christmas holidays.
Atlanta police’s traffic superintendent J.T. Sikes told the newspaper that this was “the worst he had seen in 25 years on the force.”
In all, five cop cars had crashed by mid-afternoon and more than 200 wrecks had been reported citywide the day before.
5 inches on Feb. 14, 1960
Maybe the worst Valentine’s Day ever for Italian restaurants in Cobb County was 1960. Snow blanketed the whole region. But, on the plus side, boyfriends who had forgotten to make plans were saved from an awful fate.
The first line of the front-page Constitution story from that day was someting special: “Weather of the decidedly Yankeeish bent cloaked Atlanta with rare snow Saturday and played general mischief throughout Georgia and the South with mixed potions of rain, snow, sleet and wind.”
Unfortunately, the newspaper also had to write that nine people died in traffic accidents the day before throughout Georgia.
The headline was “Cold May Close Roads Again as 5-Inch Snow Falls in North Georgia” on Feb. 15.
5½ inches on Jan. 25, 1991
Most everyone from Rome, across metro Atlanta’s northern arc and to Clayton County saw the heaviest snow, according to a newspaper story from the time.
And that includes Cobb County, where school buses had a particularly tough time.
Five buses loaded with students waited for more than two hours at Due West Elementary School while police cleared accidents on Kennesaw Due West Road.
The news story at the time did not say if the bus drivers were expected to recieve the Congressional Medal of Honor for their patience with the children.
Residents eventaully came to the aid of the drivers and students by taking students to their homes ahead of official help’s arrival, Cobb transportation director Carroll Pitts told the newspaper.
Brian Walton, age 12 at the time, was planning to go to school when he learned that his bus had slid off the road while turning into his northeast Cobb subdivision.
“I was off the hook,” he said. “I played with friends in the snow and had a few snowball fights and rode the sled.
7 inches on Jan. 10, 2011
This one you might remember. Metro Atlanta was frozen for a week.
The figure as of Jan. 31 that year was that Georgia governments spent $19 million to deal with the insanity.
Cobb’s tab came out to $267,000 among all county departments. Most of that, about $137,700, went to personnel clearing streets, answering resident phone calls and handling emergencies.
When you add what Austell, Marietta and Kennesaw spent, that number becomes $430,000.
“The areas where we would like to do things differently were staffing and communication,” Faye DiMassimo, Cobb’s transportation director, said at the time.
Cobb had four spreader trucks to treat roads in 2011.
10½ inches on Jan. 22, 1987
The thick blanket of slush caused nearly 150,000 Georgia Power homes to lose electricity that day.
Cobb Public Safety Communication Supervisor Valerie Sheffield described the roads as hazardous and icy.
In an early morning accident on South Cobb Drive, two Cobb police officers and a Metro Ambulance medical technician lifted a Dodge pick-up truck as another technician pulled out a 43-year-old Chickamauga man who was pinned under his vehicle, officer R.M. Krueger said at the time.
A Georgia Power spokesman said the areas hardest hit by power failures were in east Cobb and north DeKalb counties.
“The real question is how much of this stuff is going to refreeze. Ice is much more of a problem than even the wet, thick snow we have,” Rick Rountree, the spokesman, said.
But there were other scenes.
“Joe Jones, a business representative for the Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Union, put on his Santa Claus suit and stood in front of Union Local 709 headquarters on the South Marietta Loop and waved to passing cars while he made snowballs,” a story printed the next day read.
Jones, who had been playing Santa around Marietta for about a decade by that point, offered some insight.
“It only takes a clown or a fool or somebody who likes to do it to come out in this weather,” he said. “This is my piece of cake. I just love it. I love people being happy.”
15 inches on March 13, 1993
“Three million people around the country without power ... Generally, all interstate highways from Atlanta northward were closed.”
It said about 270 died nationwide between March 12 and March 15. Of those, 15 were in Georgia.
“This is over 3 times the combined death toll of 79 attributed to hurricanes Hugo and Andrew,” the report said of the national death toll.
Mountain City in Rabun County got 24 inches of snow.
For the first time, every major airport on the east coast was closed at one time or another by the storm.
In Cobb, folks prepared.
Trisha Speights, manager of Whit’s Video on Mableton Parkway, said video sales had tripled.
Marietta’s Sunny Giles got eggs and milk to make “snowcream,” which she described to a reporter: “Let it snow for a while to settle the pollution out of the air, then catch a layer of snow in a pan. Mix it with egg and sugar and milk.”
Frank Berezo and Dave Brouillette borrowed a neighbor’s four-wheel-drive vehicle to buy beer and pretzels and other food for four families at a Kroger store in Marietta.
And more than winter, it was Girl Scout Cookie season.
A large portion of the 2.5 million Thin Mints, Tagalongs and other cookies sold in a 20-county area were scheduled for delivery on March 13, according to a story at the time.
Karen Baker, whose 24 Girl Scout troops picked up an Acworth auto parts store, said one troop wanted to come later to try to avoid the weather.
“Short of a natural disaster,” it's hard imagining anything stopping distribution on a widespread basis, said Phyllis Creekmore, the Northwest Georgia Girl Scout Council Inc.'s cookie sales director.
Their plan if the weather got bad?
“Well,” she said resolutely, “we won't go hungry.”
It got bad. Ask Bob Zamarra.
He told a reporter that he was taking a shower when a large tree weighed down by heavy snow fell onto his Marietta house. Two limbs stuck through the roof and punched two holes in the bathroom ceiling.
“The story here is not one of bobsleds,” said Bill Cranford, who couldn’t get out of his Kennesaw neighborhood. “It's one of misery.”
But at least the storm answered the age old question: How do you make David Copperfield disappear? 15 inches of snow. (He canceled two performances at the Fox Theatre.)