I was a third classman (a.k.a. sophomore) at the Virginia Military Institute in the winter of 1992-1993. Having gotten through the previous “rat year,” I was now more or less on cruise control. My life basically consisted of attending my academic classes and fulfilling my military duties. Spring break was quickly approaching, and I planned on using it to travel to upstate New York to visit my grandparents who had raised me until the age of six. I knew they wouldn’t be around much longer, so it was important that I spend time with them. Mother Nature, however, had very different plans and was about to disrupt the entire east coast.
I’ll never forget the first week of March, 1993. The weather was unseasonably warm. We had the windows of our room in the barracks open allowing the spring-like air to enter. As far as we were concerned, this was going to be the perfect spring break no matter what part of the country my roommates and I were headed for.
When we were not in class or marching in a parade, we had the radio on in our room. If music wasn’t playing, we were listening to the local radio station. About a week before spring break began, the local meteorologists started hinting at something big on the horizon. On a side note, I had always been a weather buff. The Weather Channel and Jim Cantore, in particular, were fascinating to me. Now, I found myself listening to the prospect of something that I had not seen in my lifetime. Each day that passed, there was an increasingly dire warning that the atmospheric elements coming together were unlike anything that had been seen in a very long time. Four to five days before the actual storm, warnings were being given to prepare for a storm of significant magnitude. Day after day, the confidence of the local meteorologists grew – there was going to be a significant weather event. As the first day of spring break approached, the forecast became more and more ominous and certain. Despite the temperatures in the 60s and 70s that we were enjoying, a very strong front was going to move through and an unprecedented storm was going to form on the Gulf Coast and slowly crawl up the Atlantic seaboard. The time to start preparing was now. Instead of heading to upstate New York, I decided to head to the family farm in Virginia where I would ride out the Superstorm of 1993.
I’ll never forget the progression of the storm. On the first day, the snow started falling lightly. As the day went on, the snow became heavier and the winds grew stronger while the temperatures dropped extremely quickly. By the first nightfall, the ground was covered and the storm was just beginning. By the next morning, the snow could be measured in inches. The winds outside blew the snow horizontally. Looking out the window one could literally only see white. It was a true whiteout situation. Venturing up to the barn to check on the animals was nearly impossible. One could actually sense what the settlers on the Great Plains went through during the great blizzards they endured. By the end of the second day, the snow was still falling heavily, and the wind was still howling. On the third day, we woke up to the same – blowing snow and ferocious winds. Now, the snow drifts were piling up against the doors and windows. Venturing outdoors was extremely difficult. Driving anywhere was impossible. Had there been any sort of emergency, there would have been nothing anyone could do. Stuck in the house for three straight days, my five siblings and I entertained ourselves the best we could with movies and games. Finally, on the 4th day, the storm dissipated, moved out and the skies began to clear. More than 36 inches of snow had fallen, and it was piled up in six to seven foot drifts around our farmhouse. I had never seen anything like it, and I’ve never seen anything like it since. Bundled up in snow suits and coats, my siblings and I ventured out into a world of hip-deep white snow. The snow was so deep in fact, that we were able to climb up onto the sunroom roof and jump down into the mountains of fluffy powder. We were truly experiencing what it was like to be snowbound – no one was going anywhere.
It took another two to three days for the snow plows to even reach my family’s farm. By the time I was able to leave the farm, my spring break was officially over, and it was time to head back to VMI to finish out the semester.
I find it hard to believe that it’s been exactly 30 years since the incredible Superstorm of 1993. Being “trapped” in a house with seven other people was anything but ideal, but just like any of the other difficulties we’ve faced as a family, we got through it. The snows of that historic storm melted away long ago, but the memories of it will forever remain frozen in my mind.