Last weekend's snowy flirtation with winter was no comparison to the great storm that hit North Carolina 85 years ago. Snow started during the night of March 1, 1927 and continued until it had hit record depths and crippled the city.
The heaviest accumulation was reported in Wilson, which saw between 30 and 40 inches of snow. Nearly 18 inches hit Raleigh. The storm spanned the state and extended as far west as Kentucky and as far south as Alabama. It was the biggest storm since the famous blizzard of 1899.
Raleigh yesterday struggled beneath the heaviest single day's snowfall in the history of the city. Twenty hours of continuous snowfall, which ceased yesterday afternoon at 3 o'clock, brought the total depth to 17.8 inches, one-tenth of an inch more than the previous record of 17.7 inches recorded February 12-13, 1899.
Yesterday's record snow played havoc with traffic and business in general. The General Assembly was practically the only organization to function on all cylinders. Street car traffic was at a standstill; bus lines and taxicab companies kept their vehicles in the garages; trains in and out of Raleigh ran several hours behind schedule; city and county schools observed the day as a holiday; no session of Wake Superior or Raleigh city court were held; state departments declared a holiday, and in offices and stores throughout the city only partial forces were at work as many of the officials and employes were snowbound and unable to reach the establishments.
While the snowfall was but 17.8 inches, it was accompanied by a 30-mile wind which resulted in drifts on streets of the city in some instances waist high and at the corners of tall buildings in the business section of even higher proportions. Pedestrian traffic was the order as few automobilists ventured forth in their vehicles. Pedestrians found safe traveling on the slippery tracts or in the knee-deep drifts extremely difficult, and to maintain safe footings proved a feat.
Dispatches from all over the state described conditions in individual towns.
The University of North Carolina and the town of Chapel Hill are literally snowbound today. The heaviest snow of many years fell last night and this morning, burying the countryside beneath a 20-inch blanket of white and cutting off all communication with the outside world except by wire. Until a late hour this afternoon there had been no mail service of any kind. Not a bus or car has run between Chapel Hill and Durham, and train connection with the main line of the Southern at University station 13 miles away has been cut by the deep drifts. Railway authorities stated that the train to University station would make a trip late this afternoon, and people of the town may get their morning papers late tonight. Highway crews are working on the drifts that block the roads leading into town, and travel by bus and auto may be resumed tomorrow. Until then Chapel Hill is a town that stands alone.
Although this was a record snowfall, it was not as problematic as others in recent memory.
The famous snow storm of April, 1915, which started on Good Friday evening, and piled up a depth in snow of around ten inches, was by far more destructive than the present storm. The 1915 snow started falling after the ground had been soaked by a torrential rain and with the temperature high enough to cause the flakes to stick together, with disastrous results to telephone and telegraph wires, trolley lines and trees. The fall continued from Friday evening, around 8 o'clock, until Saturday afternoon.
The scene that greeted Raleigh citizens [that] Saturday morning was one of devastation on all sides; fallen trees and telegraph and telephone poles littered the streets, adding to the obstacles of resuming street car service; broken wires made laborious walking dangerous; and the usual Easter Sunday fashion parade as well as church programs were postponed for a week. The paralysis of the wire systems kept the city without lights and power for two or three days.
Raleigh was cut off from outside communication for an entire week, the first wire to be re-established by the Western Union being used to handle Associated Press reports and urgent commercial business. The "Old Reliable" was forced to get its news by train, receiving carbon copies of the Associated Press report at Greensboro a day late. -- The News & Observer 3/3/1927