As extraordinary weather goes the winter of 1949-50 was cruising along as nothing special. In the days after World War Two, folks felt a new confidence in weather predictions and early warnings of approaching weather. As part of wartime military defenses, weather observation stations, atmospheric science and communications had been greatly advanced and converted to civilian service. But in January 1950, after weeks of frosty winter mornings and occasional snowflakes, there was no high tech weather pattern modeling like today, no weather satellites or cloud radar. Tacomans relied on radio weather reports and the predictions of newspaper weathermen. On the front page of the Tacoma News Tribune of Thursday January 12th, the Official U.S. Weather Report in the upper left corner read “Colder Tonight But Moderating By Tomorrow”.

“Break in Weather Forecast” was the headline below and the accompanying story quoted weatherman Ross Miller who reported it would drop down to between 20 and 25 degrees before warming up on Friday and turning to rain on Saturday. That’s not what happened.

Thanks to Mick Flaaen and Mariposa Productions for the mini documentary. Its part of the Tacoma Home Movies series.

The film footage was discovered in the Tacoma Elks Lodge archives and in the Celmer family collection of 8mm films. The still photographs from the Richards Collection are held by the Tacoma Public Library.

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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.


  1. I was born Feb 18-1950. I have family photos of the snow that I just missed. There is a great video of Gig Harbor bay frozen solid.


  2. I remember it well. My sister — creative, though never particularly coordinated — managed to dive head-first off the sidewalk into a snowbank so that only her legs were left to extricate her by. Man, that was some deep snow. Deeper perhaps by my only being four at the time and somewhat shorter than today.


  3. I was born on Friday, January 13, 1950 during the Tacoma blizzard. My dad had to fill the trunk of the car with big sand bags to get my mom to the hospital.


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