Sandpoint Magazine Winter 2002 Sandpoint Magazine Winter 2002
Sandpoint Magazine

Sandpoint Magazine Winter 2002

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Photo by Ross Hall
Piled high and deep
Legendary winters ’round here

Every winter is different. Some contain extended cold spells with intermittent snow, but some – one oldtimer called them “clearing-out winters” – are winters to remember.

The first one on record was 1893-94, when the Spokesman-Review reported 5 feet of snow “and more falling” on Sandpoint.

In 1916, it was cold enough, long enough that one Professor Dunkle led skaters from Ellisport Bay in Hope around Warren Island and back.

On Jan. 22, 1922, at minus 20 degrees, Sandpoint suffered what many thought was an earthquake. In reality, a rupture in the lake’s ice tore from Sandpoint to Kootenai Point with such force and sound that the earth seemed to move.

At noon on Dec. 15, 1924, it was 40 degrees and raining. Five hours later, it was 13 below zero. The ferocious storm that followed blew Dover’s railroad depot off its foundation and left a swath of dead conifers from Troy, Mont., to Sandpoint.

On Jan. 30, 1937, the Daily Bulletin published a picture of 15-foot-tall piles of snow in the middle of First Avenue. The caption read, “The lady driver, you see, can’t window shop across the street.”

In 1948, the 1894 hallmark was eclipsed as Barbara Blood’s family shoveled roofs on Carr Creek. “Every building had snow on it that was level with the top of my head,” she says, “and I’m 5 foot 3 inches tall.”

In 1951-52, a storm that began Dec. 18 lasted into the New Year. In 1968-69, schools closed for Christmas and didn’t reopen until nearly February; Schweitzer loaned its snow removal machines equipped with lights to Sandpoint. The most recent legendary winter was 1996-97; it started in mid-November with an ice storm and saw snow continue to pile up long after the most inveterate skier was satisfied.

These are just highlights. The list of clearing-out winters, named for those who said when spring came after months of deep winter, “We’re clearing out,” is much longer. The question is, as always, “What will winter be like this year?”

– Sandy Compton

Winter 2004

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