February’s snow event was something to behold
The physical evidence might be melting away, but the images will remain frozen in our minds for years to come.
The snowfall of February 2019 that pounded Island County and much of Western Washington will not be forgotten any time soon. In fact, stories of the snow event likely will be retold to future generations.
“It’s been the craziest weather I’ve ever experienced,” said Greenbank resident Carole Tyson. “And I’ve lived in the Pacific Northwest all my life!
“I was born and raised in Seattle. I remember the blizzard of Friday the 13th, (in January) 1950.”
It’s not uncommon anymore for the Puget Sound lowlands to receive only a smattering of snow or sometimes none at all come winter. But just when Whidbey and Camano islanders were starting to think they’d escape the cold season without a flake, along came February’s powdery downpour. Starting on Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 3, snow would fall six times over a nine-day stretch and the frigid temperatures would keep the white stuff piling up, creating all sorts of havoc on roadways, until it started melting February 12.
Instead of the usual trace, the inch count in most areas of Island County approached or exceeded double digits.
Seattle got hit even harder with 20.2 inches falling, the city’s largest accumulation of snow in a single month in more than 50 years.
“This is probably the longest stretch I can remember in my lifetime,” said Al Sherman, 86, a retired Central Whidbey farmer who lives on Ebey’s Prairie.
Sherman remembers it being colder in the past, recalling times long ago when locals would ice skate on frozen ponds. His wife Phyllis, who keeps a diary, reminded him of that January 1950 snow storm, a month that dumped a record 57.2 inches on Seattle, including a whopping 20 on Friday the 13th. “She said it got down to zero,” Al said.
Georgie Smith, a farmer on Ebey’s Prairie, said the worst snowstorm she can remember came in 1990.
“That was when the head of Penn Cove froze,” she said. “It didn’t get that cold this time.”
Tell that to Wilbur Purdue. Purdue, a high school teacher and farmer in Coupeville, was amazed by how cold it got and how long the snow lasted this February. He recalled an epic snowstorm in 1996 when it pummeled Ebey’s Prairie for days. He was a senior in high school then and stayed over at a friend’s house for several days while snow kept coming down. When he finally walked home, he remembers snowdrifts that came up to his waist.
Still, this February’s snow show was epic in its own right.
“I’ve never seen 9 degrees before or had my hand freeze to our doorknob,” Purdue said. “That was pretty cold. The snow forts we made were amazing this year.”
On Camano Island, Tom Eisenberg’s recollection of a comparable snowstorm isn’t buried quite so deep. He couldn’t remember an exact year, but recalled a big snow event on Camano a little more than 10 years ago with sub-freezing temperatures that lasted about 10 days.
“The roads were in better shape but the piled-up snow in parking lots and along road sides were around for a couple of weeks,” he said.
Carole Schmidt, who lives on a farm in the Cascade foothills about 12 miles east of Stanwood, remembers a mighty snowstorm in 2008 when 3 feet landed on her community. But she can’t recall a snow event lasting as long as this February’s since she moved to Washington in 1957.
Aside from pitfalls, this February’s snowstorm created some incredible opportunities and wonderful memories for those who enjoy getting outdoors.
It’s not often you get to experience a winter wonderland in your own backyard on Whidbey and Camano islands. And who knows when it will happen again like this?
For Cara Hefflinger, the snowy backdrop was a photographer’s dream.
“Snow gives us such a great contrast to any scene,” said Hefflinger. “It’s dramatic, calming, beautiful, and cleansing. White is difficult to photograph, too. So it presents a nice challenge.”
“It does compel me to go out and create photographs, especially here, since the snow and multi-freezing temperatures are typically so short-lived,” Whidbey photographer Dave Wechner said. “It adds a new look to the landscapes we see every day.”
Enjoy a look at some images shared by local photographers and taken by us from this February’s snow event. If you want to share a snowy image from our beautiful islands, email it to firstname.lastname@example.org or enter it in the Land Trust’s Calendar Photo Contest.