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Thursday, November 25, 2021 1:00 am

Nov. 25, 1950: Storm strikes area with heavy snow

COREY MCMAKEN | The Journal Gazette

At least three people died as a snowstorm with 30-mile-an-hour winds brought the area to a halt Nov. 25, 1950.

The storm, which in a rare occasion blew in from the East, dropped 7 inches of snow in the first 24 hours. The wind, which included gusts of up to 40 mph, created drifts that made roads and highways impassable. A new record low temperature was set, which still stands at minus 1 for Nov. 25.

It was the worst snow storm to hit the city since 1927.

Cars were stalled across the region, leading to the deaths, which included a 2-year-old who died after carbon monoxide fumes seeped into a car's cabin. His parents were revived, but it was too late to save the child when help arrived.

Buses and trains – those that weren't canceled – were running late, some as much as 10 hours.

Hundreds of people died across the U.S. as the storm blanketed the northeast. Thanksgiving was on Nov. 23 that year.

History Journal appears monthly in print with additional items weekly on The Journal Gazette's website. To comment on items or suggest dates and topics, contact Corey McMaken at 461-8475 or cmcmaken@jg.net.

 

“Snow, Heavy Winds Rake North Indiana” (Nov. 26, 1950)

Four inches of snow, whipped by a 30-mile-an-hour wind paralyzed Fort Wayne and Northern Indiana last night and the result was one of the greatest blizzards in history.

Five inches of snow were forecast for Fort Wayne before morning, but late last night it already looked like 25 inches as the winds whipped up big drifts everywhere. Winds up to 30 miles per hour and gusts up to 40 miles per hour lashed Fort Wayne and area last night. Expected low this morning is 10 above.

The high wind velocities and snowfall were expected to end this morning between 7 and 9 a.m. Snow flurries will continue through the day, the weather bureau reported and the temperature will drop to near zero again tonight.

High for today will be near 17 degrees. Early last night the temperature was climbing. At 9 p.m. it was 30 degrees, the high for the 24 hours. The severe wind and snow made the 30 degree temperature seem like zero.

There was no definite break in sight through Monday night.

Although motor traffic was reported stalled over most of Northern Indiana yesterday, no serious accidents were reported. But the show here and elsewhere played havoc with transportation schedules. Trains from the East were reported anywhere from five to ten hours late and buses likewise had given up on the timetables.

Autos were stalled by the dozens throughout the city last night and tow trucks were swamped with business.

The blizzard moved into Fort Wayne from the East. The weather bureau reported it was moving to the northwest. This condition is rather unusual, the weatherman said, and is called “backing.” The worst was expected to have passed by mid morning.

The all-time November low was moved down 0.2 degrees yesterday morning. At 4 a.m. the reading was 1.4 below. Friday it was 1.2 below. Previous low was zero on November 30, 1929.

Traffic on all main arterials through the northern part of the state was reported at practically a standstill last night by State Police at Ligonier. At one time during the evening, four cruiser cars of the Ligonier post were snowbound. Three of them were extricated from drifts and at a late hour the fourth was waiting on a state snow plow to cut down a drift for its passage.

Scores of automobiles were reported stalled in drifts up to 4 feet in state and county highways through Northeastern Indiana, but State Police had received no reports of persons marooned or endangered by exposure. For the most part, officials said, motorists abandoned stalled vehicles and made for the nearest shelter.

The wind swept a huge drift across State Highway 427 near the intersection with State Highway 1. Snow plows bit deeply enough into the pile of snow to let traffic through.

State Police last night discouraged all traffic except in extreme emergency. Vehicles equipped with chains or other traction devices were making dubious progress over choked and slippery highways, they said.

Many property damage accidents occurred in Fort Wayne, Allen County and through Northeastern Indiana during the storm, but no serious casualties were reported. Late last night, traffic on U.S. Highways 33, 20 and 6 was reported blocked by snow.

Deputy Sheriff Arthur Faylor reported many cars stalled on secondary roads over the county. State and county highway department crews were so busy battling the drifts that they could pay little attention to stalled vehicles.

In Fort Wayne, traffic started wallowing over snow-furrowed streets long before the drifts menaced state highways. Street department officials reported last night that no serious drifts had developed over the city, and all streets apparently were open, but heavy with snow. Sand trucks kept servicing a number of downtown intersections which became slippery from the starting and stopping of heavy traffic at signals.

Few electrical outages developed from the storm in Fort Wayne, City Utilities officials reported. The wind-driven snow was not heavy enough to cause tension on the overhead circuits.

Police cars stalled in heavy snow around the City Hall and had to be pushed out. Drifts collected on a number of downtown parking lots. As a result of the heavy weather, the business district had a deserted appearance for Saturday night.

The Sheriff's Department warned against any attempt to negotiate secondary roads in Allen County. As the storm continued at a late hour, there was no assurance of any highways remaining open from one hour to the next.

All highways were hazardous as far south as Indianapolis, State Police reported.

Transportation into Fort Wayne was near a standstill. Pennsylvania and Nickel Plate Railroads were arriving here from the East 10 hours late.

Air traffic has stopped completely. No planes have landed here since noon yesterday.

Bus traffic from and to the East was stalled at Lima, Ohio. The last bus to come in from Pennsylvania was seven hours late. Traffic north and south was doing better. Indianapolis connections were still holding last night although buses from Detroit were three hours late.

Late last night Greyhound discontinued all east-west service.

Bus service was continued west from Fort Wayne through Chicago. Nearly all ABC, Short Way, Indiana Motor bus lines were running yesterday. They were about 20 to 60 minutes late. Schedules were discontinued last night, but expected to resume today.

“Worst Blizzard In 23 Years; 7-Inch Snowfall” (Nov. 27, 1950)

In the wake of the heaviest snow storm to hit Fort Wayne and Northeastern Indiana since 1927 three persons were dead and thousands were marooned in farm homes. Many of Fort Wayne's streets were still banked with snow last night, making transportation impossible.

The local Weather Bureau reported a seven-inch snowfall in the 24 hours between Saturday noon and Sunday noon, and expected the depth to reach eight inches by this morning. Winds up to 45 miles-an-hour were reported in Fort Wayne Saturday night.

The last time such a storm swept over the Summit City was in 1927 when 8.3 inches of snow fell in 24 hours. In December 1929, 6.9 inches fell in the same period of time.

The storm dead include:

• Robert Strawser Jr., 2 years and 4 month old son of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Strawer of Fort Wayne. Mr. Strawser is 24 and his wife, 23.

• Earl Edwin Gipe, 54, Whitley County, retired farm journal editor.

• Edward Loper 60, former police chief at Portland and an employee of the Municipal Water Works there.

The Strawser child died of carbon monoxide fumes which seeped into his parents' stalled car on State Road 4, two and one-half miles east of US Highway 27 near Ashley. The car had stalled in a drift as the parents and grandparents were en route to Ashley for the day. The car stalled yesterday morning, and the younger Mr. Strawser kept the heater going to keep the five of them warm. All complained of headaches after a short while, and the elder Strawsers walked to the Raymond Pfefferkorn farm, one-eighth of a mile away, to get help.

When the Strawsers and an unidentified woman returned from the Pfefferkorn house the younger Strawsers and their only child were unconscious. The woman carried the child to the house while the grandparents waited at the car for Mr. Pfefferkorn to bring a tractor and trailer across fields to carry the unconscious couple to shelter.

The child was dead on arrival at the house. Late last night the younger Strawsers were reported in good condition at the home of the L. D. Strawsers.

Sheriff Frank Carpenter, State Trooper and Fireman Denny Lung, of Auburn, when they received word of the parents' condition, struggled through 11 miles of snow in three hours to bring an inhalator to the Pfefferkorn home. They revived the young parents, but were unable to revive the child.

The body of the child was taken to the Swank Funeral Home in Ashley pending funeral arrangements.

The younger Strawsers had only recently moved here to a trailer camp from Ashley.

Mr. Gipe died about midnight Saturday from exhaustion and exposure after his car became stalled one mile from his home on State Road 9 five miles north of Columbia City. He was found dead in the center of the highway by Gaylord Thomas, his son, Robert, and Lewis Krom, all of Whitley County.

His car was stalled a mile from where his body was found.

Former Police Chief Loper, also the victim of a stalled auto, was on his way to work at the water works. After Vainly trying to free his car, he walked two blocks and crumpled to the pavement. He was dead on arrival at the Jay County Hospital.

Life in Fort Wayne came to an almost complete standstill early Sunday. Churches boasting some of the largest congregations in the city saw only handfuls of worshipers struggle in for Sunday morning service.

Scores of persons spent all of Saturday night in their snowbound cars in all directions from Fort Wayne, according to State Police.

Others who did not have enough gasoline to keep their motors going were forced to take shelter in nearby farmhouses.

State Trooper Willard Johnston said that cars and trucks were stuck in a solid line in most directions north and east of the city on State Roads 3 and 37 and U.S. Highway 27.

On US Highway 30 east of the city, a solid line of both cars and trucks, parked bumper to bumper for more than two miles, were stranded for many hours until snow plows could reach them Sunday morning.

Many of the occupants of the cars remained in their cars keeping their motors running and their hearers on at full blast, Trooper Johnston said. Others who did not have enough gasoline, were warned to get shelter at nearby farmhouses.

At one time early Sunday, the State Highway Department said, traffic was completely stalemated in the Fort Wayne district as far south as Ridgeville. Special crews plowed and shoveled to open one-car lanes on the main highways.

By afternoon the sun was shining brightly over the area, however, and temperatures were in the middle twenties.

Weathermen said there was no danger of flood if the show melted slowly but a warm rain could mean that the St. Mary's, St Joseph's and Maumee rivers might overflow their banks. They saw rain in the immediate future however.

Snow was expected to continue falling over the area last night, with a few flurries today. But the worst of the storm was long gone, said the weathermen.

The mercury was expected to fall to about 15 last night and rise to about 25 this afternoon. The winds that built up huge snow drifts all over the city Saturday night had diminished by yesterday and were not expected to return.

In Indianapolis, the Weather Bureau reported freezing rains last night leaving the highways covered with ice. The rains seemed confined to the southern part of the state however.


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