Receives Record 27 Inches of Snow
January 31, 1937
|"Yes, This is Salem," read the caption
of a front page photo in the Capital Journal on February 1,
1937. During an eighteen-hour stretch the previous day, the
City of Salem had received 27 inches of snow--one of the heaviest
snows Salem has ever seen.
That December had been a cold one for the City; snow earlier
in the month had brought relief from a cold snap which saw daytime
temperatures in the City at seven degrees above zero. Floating
ice on the Willamette River had caused problems for river traffic.
The warming trend had been brief, however, and after only two
days the mercury again plunged, this time to six degrees. Still,
the snow had been minimal, and there had been nothing like the
paralyzing snowfall the city experienced on January 31.
All over the City, the deep snow caused problems. Hundreds of
cars were stranded on Salem streets, buried in the snow--and
then lost completely as the big diesel shovel began clearing
snow from the streets, piling it in the gutters. City buses
were stuck in the snow. Court hearings were delayed and the
postmaster announced that mail would be delivered only to those
who shoveled their walks. The roof of the Christian Missionary
Alliance Tabernacle on Ferry Street collapsed under the weight
of the snow, and all over downtown, building marquees, overburdened
by the snow, came crashing down: Miller Mercantile at Liberty
and Court Streets, and the Schreder-Berg grocery at State and
Commercial Streets among them. Several buildings at the State
Fairgrounds were damaged by snow. Jensens Greenhouse,
a 22,000 square foot structure at 15th and Market Streets, crumbled
under the snow, a loss of $15,000. The Dreamland rink at the
end of State Street fell "with such force," according
to the Capital Journal, that "shingles were hurled across
When the prison annex, cottage farm and tuberculosis hospital
lost electricity, Portland General Electric workers on skis
were sent to find the break in the line. A County grader operator
clearing snow from streets was badly injured when he was struck
by a train at 12th and Chemeketa; the grader was a total loss.
Hotels overflowed with stranded travelers and people who couldnt
get rooms slept in lobbies. A minor milk shortage developed,
with supplies low and almost undeliverable through the snow.
A fire at the Marion County Courthouse found Fire Department
equipment unable to get to the scene. Fortunately the fire was
extinguishable by hand, and damages proved minimal. However,
it took nearly two hours to get the fire equipment back to the
station. A shortage of hand shovels in the City made the already
gargantuan task of clearing sidewalks nearly impossible. With
unemployment still high as a result of the Depression, all men
desiring work were urged by employment officials to secure shovels
and create their own jobs. Snow cleared from roads and sidewalks
was dumped into the Willamette River.
To the relief of many, the snow did not linger: on February
1, rain began to fall, beginning the long, slow melting of the
snow. The melting was so gradual that flood danger, always a
concern in such situations, was averted.
Compiled and written by Kathleen Carlson Clements
Taylor, George and Raymond R. Hatton. The Oregon Weather Book:
A State of Extremes. Corvallis: Oregon State University, 1999.
Capital Journal, January 31-February 3, 1937