Malloy is no Meskill – How 2011 and 1973 Compare

It’s staggering to think that as of 8 p.m. Sunday 50% of the town of West Hartford is heading into their 9th straight night without power and in many cases without heat.

Putting this storm in historical perspective is relatively easy to do on one hand and a little more difficult on the other hand. In terms of October snowstorms this snowstorm was unprecedented. 12″-20″ of snow across a large portion of the hills and Farmington Valley is unheard of for October. Double digit snow totals in Hartford and places like Middletown and Wallingford is equally remarkable.

But how does the damage from this storm compare to other winter storms?  An unusual late or early season snowstorm can produce tree and power line damage (remember the April 1, 1997 storm?) when the snow can be so wet and heavy it clings to tree limbs and weighs them down.

For snowstorms I can’t think of anything in the last 100 years that came close to last weekend’s historic storm. What about ice storms though?The December 1973 ice storm may have come close to the October 2011 snowstorm for tree damage in many areas. The ’73 ice storm dropped an inch of freezing rain in many areas and was followed by 3 bitterly cold days.

Here’s a look at the December ’73 weather records at Windsor Locks

  • 12/16 – High 27, Low 24, 1.7″ snow
  • 12/17 – High 32, Low 16, 1″ snow, 1.19″ precipitation
  • 12/18 – High 24, Low 10
  • 12/19 – High 16, Low 3

With some people in the dark for a week in 1973 and such bitterly cold weather that followed the suffering after the great ice storm was worse than what we’ve just gone through.

It’s difficult to quantify the amount of tree damage from this storm and the amount of tree damage in ’73. The great ice storm was also widespread impacting the shoreline and the hills from New York to Rhode Island. It’s also hard to say how an ice storm 40 years ago would impact the today’s power infrastructure but I’m guessing the impact would be similar to the October snow storm.

As October snowstorms go this may have been the worst since colonial times. As winter storms go destruction like what we just saw is not a once in a 500 year event. Ice storms can and have been crippling with the potential to produce even more suffering when followed by bitter cold.

Governor Malloy has certainly been more visible than Governor Meskill was back in 1973. Instead of a weekend ski trip it’s been a seemingly endless 8 day trip to the Armory. This is one comparison between the two storms that is easy to make.

Note: Please post any pictures or memories you have from the 1973 ice storm. There’s very little literature about the great ice storm, unfortunately.

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5 thoughts on “Malloy is no Meskill – How 2011 and 1973 Compare

  1. 1/3 of the state was without power in the middle of the ’73 ice storm while over 3/4 of the state lost power during the height of this October storm.

    • 3/4 of CL&P customers lost power but not the entire state. Most of UI’s 325,000 customers were not affected. The ice storm was remarkably widespread with damage from coastal Fairfield County to Windham County. I do think it’s difficult to compare power outages from a storm in 1973 to a storm in 2011. Fewer people live in cities… more people live in the suburbs. Suburban sprawl and the explosive growth of relatively rural areas in the state has made our power infrastructure more vulnerable. The amount of tree trimming near lines too may have changed through the decades. My point being is that there’s more to the numbers than just comparing the raw figures.

  2. I was 11 years old during the ice storm. We lived in Manchester on Proctor Rd. It was a three family house. I remember how beautiful the ice was on the trees, but we were told not to go outside, as kids we went outside anyways, and the next door neighbors kids were outside also. We didnt stay outside long and after we went in a big branch had come down in the neighbors yard, no one had gotten hurt cause we had gone in. I remember staying around our gas stove wrapped in blankets so we could stay warm. Gas stoves were different then. They didnt require electricity, so we had hot food to eat and stayed as warm as we could.

  3. We lived in Manchester in 1973 as well. My son (Stormsurge) was only 6 months old at the time and we were without power for a good week. We spent that week living in the basement of my parent’s home on Plymouth Lane where we had a fireplace in the basement and could close the door to keep the heat in. I think there were 7 or 8 or us down there and we had to heat baby food and bottles on the barbecue. As mentioned, it was also bitterly cold and frozen, broken pipes were a big problem.

  4. I lived in Fairfield County CT and I was 7 years old during this ice storm. We lost power for 7 full days. I remember sleeping on our mattresses in front of the fireplace – the only warmth we had. You could hear the sound of the branches snapping and falling all the time. We were not allowed to be outside much because it was so cold, but I remember being able to walk on top of the snow because the ice layer was so thick it would hold my weight. We went through the entire winters supply of firewood that week. To pass the time, we played lots of card and board games. We ate canned good heated in the fire. I think on the 4th or 5th day my father had to take the car out for supplies – mostly water as we were on well water and without electricity there was no way to pump water. We had filled our bathtub with drinking water but with 5 of us I don’t think it lasted long. We lived at the end of a dirt road so no snow plows were even going to come our way if they could. We walked up and down our road, breaking a path for the car to get some traction. That was very cold work! He did manage to get out. I remember it was early evening when our power finally came back on. We all cheered!

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