Remembering the massive Thanksgiving Blizzard of 1950

Vehicles and pedestrians attempt to navigate Main St. in downtown Dayton after nearly a foot of snow fell across the region after Thanksgiving Day in 1950. DAYTON DAILY NEWS FILE

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Vehicles and pedestrians attempt to navigate Main St. in downtown Dayton after nearly a foot of snow fell across the region after Thanksgiving Day in 1950. DAYTON DAILY NEWS FILE

One of the worst blizzards on record stormed through Dayton and up the eastern coast of the country right after Thanksgiving in 1950.

The “Great Appalachian Storm” impacted 22 states, killed 353 people and created, in 1950 dollars, almost $67 million in damage.

Nearly the entire state of Ohio was covered in a foot of snow. High winds and a severe cold wave swooped in Nov. 24, the day after Thanksgiving, and more snow fell Saturday, creating dangerous drifts over five feet tall in the Dayton area.

The region was paralyzed for days. Dayton Mayor L.W. Lohrey declared the first official emergency since the 1913 flood.

All flying was halted at the Dayton Municipal Airport and at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Stranded vehicles on the snow-packed roads blocked fire trucks from answering emergency calls.

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Vandalia-Butler High School opened its door to 176 “storm refugees.” The Dayton Daily News reported the youngest of the refugees was three weeks old and the oldest was an 80-year-old woman. The stranded slept on chairs, benches or the floor. Volunteers gave out food in the school cafeteria.

Bone-chilling cold created a run on department stores for woolen items, long underwear and flannel pajamas. A department store hosiery clerk received a call for fleece-lined women’s hose.

» ‘SNOW BOWL’: The 1950 OSU-Michigan game highlighted one of Ohio’s most famous storms

Marjorie Cole and her husband, Norm, watched from the window of their home as cars tried to make it up a hill along then two-lane Airway Road near the Montgomery and Greene County line. “It just kept snowing and snowing and snowing,” said Marjorie Cole, who is now 97.

The road closed but not before a stranded couple with their 4-year-old daughter came to the door. Soon after, another young couple sought refuge with them.

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Crews start digging out from the blizzard of1950 in New Carlisle. DAYTON DAILY NEWS FILE PHOTO

Credit: HANDOUT

Crews start digging out from the blizzard of1950 in New Carlisle. DAYTON DAILY NEWS FILE PHOTO

Credit: HANDOUT

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Crews start digging out from the blizzard of1950 in New Carlisle. DAYTON DAILY NEWS FILE PHOTO

Credit: HANDOUT

Credit: HANDOUT

The group kept warm with oil heat and a wood burning fireplace, but Cole and her husband did not have enough groceries to feed the strangers who stayed for two days. The first couple who arrived had been traveling home after the holiday and their car was stocked with butchered chickens, home canned foods and homemade bread. “If it hadn’t been for that man, I don’t know what we would have done,” she said.

“In order to sleep, Norm and I took our top mattress off our bed and put it on the living room floor,” she said. “The rest of them sat up in two green velvet chairs or slept on the davenport I used to have.”

Despite the severe weather conditions, Ohio State took on Michigan in Columbus for a spot in the 1951 Rose Bowl. The snow blinded the players and obliterated the yard markers. Michigan won 9-3.

Funerals were postponed and burials delayed because cemeteries were packed with snow. Hearses were unable to get through the roads for services. “One Dayton undertaker reported a body had been brought to his establishment in a dairy truck late Sunday morning,” according to an article in the Dayton Daily News.

When the blizzard finally subsided, 55 people had died in Ohio and three deaths in Dayton were attributed to the blizzard.

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