January 1916

Folklore and tall tales aside, the most bountiful snowstorm recorded on Puget Sound was in late January and early February of 1916. On February 1, Tacoma and Seattle experienced their maximum 24 hour snowfall. Over several fridgid days four feet of the white stuff fell in Tacoma and the city pretty much came to a complete halt. Hard narrow tires on the few automobiles in town kept them off all but the flatest roads. Only the cable car loop running up and down 11th and 13th kept people moving downtown but as the snow piled up, with some wind driven drifts reaching five feet high, shopkeepers couldn’t open, schools closed and it was easiest just to stay home. With two feet on the ground and daytime temperatures below freezing it began snowing hard on the late Monday afternoon of February first and by the same time Tuesday 21 inches more fell over the city. In Seattle the snow load collapsed the massive dome on St. James Cathedral and in Tacoma Union Station went the entire period with no arrivals or departures (the dome did fine). Now a century ago, the winter of 1916 was not our coldest but when it comes to lowland snow it was certainly a hundred year event. Which means, by my calendar, that this year might just…..


Written by tacomahistory

This site is about the way history, in this case of a city and it's surrounds, is remembered or recorded in stories and small bits of memory. It's also about the way images and stories go together, how they inform and enrich each other and how we as thinking people fill in the content between a narrative and a visual document. So here is my city in time past, the way it looked and the people and events that create its character. For more than 20 years I have taught a 5 credit course on the History of Tacoma at the University of Washington Tacoma. With an average of 30 or 40 students a year, each doing a research paper as their primary focus for the course, I have benefited from many paths of inquiry and many researched and assembled stories. Here are some of them in the retelling along with the treasures of photographs and images in the collections of the Washington State Historical Society, Tacoma Public Library, University of Washington Digital Archives, Washington State Archives at the Office of the Secretary of State, Library of Congress, Washington State University, Alaska State Library, and many other archives, libraries and private collections.

One comment

  1. We had two of these “blizzards” in Seattle in 1969. Probably Tacoma too. Amazing and unforgettable. I don’t remember the statistics but I’d say at least 1 foot and maybe 2 feet of snow would be possible. Also, zero degree temps. No snow plows. Only goofy people like us slip sliding through the lovely powder snow in our Datsun.


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