Newly unearthed home video shows how record snowstorm socked Tacoma on Jan. 13, 1950

A major snow storm hit Tacoma January 13,1950. Tacoma received almost nine inches of snow, and the wind which reached over 25 miles per hour created drifts up to five feet high. It was the worst storm in years and caused major damage throughout the area. 20-foot waves washed away part of Ruston Way, and ten boats were sunk in the yacht club basin. This view of the front of the Olympus Hotel, 815 -17 Pacific Avenue, from January 14th, shows the snow heaped along the sidewalks where it was left by the plows trying to clear Pacific Avenue.(Photo: Tacoma Public Library / Richards Studio D47377 -3)

TACOMA, Wash. -- January 1950 is chock full of weather history in Seattle as an unprecedented series of arctic blasts pummeled the city for a full six weeks, but perhaps no event was greater than the snowstorm that hit nearly in the middle of the mayhem: A blizzard on January 13th -- Friday the 13th, no less.

And now new video sheds some light on how Tacoma fared in the days after the blizzard.

The newly discovered archival 16mm video was found in the Tacoma Elks Lodge archives, according to the Tacoma History blog.

Michael Sullivan and Mick Flaaen took the video and produced this peek into Tacoma's history as part of their Tacoma Home Movies series.

The official U.S. weather report on the Tacoma News Tribune on Jan. 12 said it would get down into the 20s Thursday night but "moderating by tomorrow," according to the Tacoma History Blog.


With arctic air already well entrenched, a monster 983 mb storm rolled in off the Pacific Ocean into around Astoria, dropping copious amount of moisture into the freezing air. And with the storm tracking in from the south, it pulled in even colder air out of B.C.

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Seattle would go on to get about 10 or so inches of snow in the city while Tacoma got about 9 inches, but Sea-Tac would measure 20.0" of snow - still the greatest one-day snowfall on record there. (Seattle did manage to register 21.5 inches of snow during the Feb. 2, 1916 blizzard-- long before Sea-Tac was built.)

In addition to the snow, it was quite cold with a high of just 19 and a low of 11 that day.

"High winds lifted the waters of Elliott Bay onto the waterfront and frozen salt water instantly stuck to anything it splashed," local historian Paul Dorpat wrote on

Low temperature records would fall for the next six days as the snow kept coming, although mostly adding about 1-2" here in spurts.

With Seattle undergoing quite a bit of growth in the past few decades, those 1950 record lows may stand the test of time. Urban areas stay warmer at night than rural areas as asphalt and concrete absorb the day's heat better than vegetation/grasses, meaning Seattle generates a bit of its own overnight warmth.

The last time Seattle was in single digits was a 9 degree low on Dec. 23, 1983. Seattle hit 12 a few times in December, 1990, but even lows under 15 are exceedingly rare these days-- just twice since 2000 (both 14 degrees.)

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