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WHERE WERE YOU ON FEBRUARY 9, 1973?

I never really craved chocolate as a child. When Valentine's Day rolled around, I preferred "conversation hearts" over the traditional boxed candy. As an adult, chocolate has become my favorite treat. I guess Grandma Blizzard was right after all. She always claimed that your taste buds "change" every 9 years. I'm nearly inclined to believe it.

Recently, I was pondering these things while staring at aisles of Valentine candy in a local Wal-mart. Of course, I had to look past the chocolate Easter bunnies to see the Valentine stuff. At this rate, we'll be celebrating Thanksgiving on the 4th of July. Anyway, I stopped to talk to a viewer who was standing in the check-out lane. Conversation turned to February weather, and a reminder of something I had nearly forgotten.

February 2011 marks the 38 year anniversary of the 2nd biggest snowfall in the history of Wilmington. On February 9-10 of 1973, over a foot of snow fell in the Port City. For point of reference, over 15 inches fell in Wilmington during the Christmas 1989 event (the all-time record). In many ways, the 1973 storm was a more severe event. Like many of the great North Carolina snows, the 1973 storm was a coastal low pressure system. But it was the wind that made all the difference.

Wind gusts over 50 mph were reported near the coast, well within the range of tropical storm-force conditions. To make matters worse, the snow was fairly "dry" as it fell. In other words, snowflakes were light and easily blown by the intense winds. Snow drifts as deep as 6 feet were reported in coastal communities. The ferocity of the storm caught some aviation enthusiasts by surprise, killing 2 people in a Chowan County plane crash. And remember- as snow totals pile up, so does the weight. There were several reports of damaged homes and sheds. Some structures simply collapsed under the weight of the snow. Even coastal roadways suffered major damage. Along the beaches, pounding surf lead to the destruction of cottages. Needless to say, beach erosion was severe.

By the time the storm system departed, several million dollars in damage had been reported in the Carolinas. And all of this was due to a snow storm in February. Just goes to show you that hurricanes are not the only "big" storms around here.

(COMMENTS OR QUESTIONS? SEND JERRY AN EMAIL jjackson@wwaytv3.com)

By: Jerry Jackson