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.