Local residents remember 1940 snowstorm

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 12, 2010

NATCHEZ — The snow the Miss-Lou wakes up to today won’t likely compare to the snowstorm the area saw in 1940.

The record-setting 9.5-inch snowfall on Jan. 23, 1940, was certainly a memory-maker, local residents said.

Ann Garrity was in high school, and she recalls school being out for a whole week.

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“The (Memorial Park fountain) up town had frozen solid, and you could walk across it with no danger,” she said. “We also had a great time sliding up and down Main Street.”

Bill Slatter was in elementary school in 1940. Armstrong Tire and Rubber Plant employees from up North had ice skates, including his father, and Slatter remembers getting to use them.

“I remember it was cold as hell — must have been in the 10s in order to freeze a pond for skating,” he said.

County resident Betty McGehee was married with children in 1940, and she remembers her family doing some sliding.

“My husband hooked up a chain to a piece of sheet metal and pulled the children around with a tractor,” she said. “It was an improvised snow sled.”

Garrity most recalls the river freezing over, while the construction of the Mississippi River Bridge was under way.

“My aunt and I rode the ferry boat,” she said. “It was the last trip it made before they had to tie it up over the ice. The boat was frozen into the bank, it couldn’t move.”

January 1940 was the only time Garrity remembers seeing the whole river frozen.

“Ice had floated down from the north that month and when it got here, (the larger ice pieces) had frozen together,” she said.

McGehee said she wasn’t a fan of the snow because of the slushy messes that the children dragged into the house.

“When you have a lot of children coming in, by the time you dry the mess up the children are running back in,” she said.

The toughest part, McGehee recalls, was living in the country and having to go out and feed cattle.

“I remember wrapping plastic bags over the shoes so we could go out in the snow and not have wet feet,” McGehee said.

Slatter’s older brother took it upon himself to provide a snow-shoveling service to his neighborhood.

“My brother, who had been used to shoveling snow, as it was a normal thing to do up North, volunteered to shovel the sidewalks at the house across the street,” Slatter said.

“I remember them being so mad at him for removing that beautiful snow!”