Residents recall blizzard of 1980

Published 8:43 am Wednesday, March 3, 2010

FRANKLIN—This week marks the 30th anniversary of the blizzard of 1980, which brought the region to a standstill.

According to reports in The Tidewater News, the National Weather Service estimated that nearly 14 inches fell on the Franklin area March 1-2, 1980, but even more impressive is the total snowfall for that winter, which stood at nearly 42 inches. Normally the region receives about 7.4 inches.

Snow drifts from the 1980 storm reached depths of 6 feet, according to reports in The Tidewater News.

Franklin City Councilwoman Mary Hilliard said she was working at St. Regis Paper Co. in Franklin at the time and was shocked when she left the building.

“I couldn’t see my car when I came out,” she said. She said her husband had to come and help dig her car from under the snow.

“It was kind of scary,” she said.

Gayle Johnson of Capron said the storm “was very memorable” because of its intensity and how late it came in the season. She and her husband were living in an apartment on High Street in Franklin at the time.

“My car was completely buried,” she said. “I couldn’t get out to go to work. I remember my husband and I bundling up and digging my car out.”

Johnson said the city would close Second Avenue and let people sled down the hill near High Street.

Franklin City Attorney Taylor Williams was away in law school when the storm hit, but his mother, Betty Traylor, who was living in Virginia Beach, ended up stranded at the Norfolk Scope. She had gone to see the circus, and the snow had just started falling when she went in, but by the time the circus ended, the snow was so deep she couldn’t leave.

“She actually had to spend the night in Scope,” Williams said. “She couldn’t get from Norfolk to Virginia Beach.”

Police responded to innumerable reports of vehicles stuck in the snow, fender-benders and cars in ditches.

It took road crews days to clear local roads, and schools were closed for days, only adding to the makeup days for the snowy year.

The 1980 storm is the third largest to hit the region on record, according to National Weather Service data. The NWS keeps official records for the region in Norfolk. A storm in 1892 dumped 18.6 inches and a storm in February 1989 dumped more than 15 inches of snow over a three-day period.