Valentine's Day 1895 wasn't a day of trading cards and candies. It was a day of trying to stay warm and figuring out how to manage an estimated 31 inches of snow. A blizzard blew in on Feb. 14-15 that year. The snow was so deep that railroad cars couldn't move and cattle were buried and froze. The Texas Almanac says 'what is probably the greatest heavy-snow anomaly in the climatic history of the U.S. resulted from a snowstorm along the Texas coast on the 14th and 15th.' Snow even fell as far south as Brownsville, which received five inches.
The late historian W.T. Block (1920-2007) wrote in 1979 that about 31 inches of snow fell in 24 hours, paralyzing Southeast Texas and Southwest Louisiana. He said that D.R. Wingate, who had lived in Orange since 1852, was quoted as saying ‘the past six days have had more arctic weather in them than I have experienced in any week in forty years.’
Block also found a story in The Galveston Daily News about how the locomotive in the switching yards in Orange ‘could not plow its way through the snow that averaged 24 inches on top of the rails...In some places, snow drifted to a depth of six feet and effectively blocked traffic at every (lumber) mill along the river.’ According to Block’s story, the estimated depth of the snow was between 30 and 36 inches based on how far the snow reached up the locomotive.
The depth of the snow shut down the town in those days when horses were used. Block imagined ‘every pot-bellied stove glowed a cherry red as each person sought to ward off the bitter cold.’ He pointed out that firewood would not have been a problem because sawmills had large amounts of waste-wood products that people could get for free.
The middle of February drew cold weather again four years later, in 1899. The Texas Almanac reports that on Feb. 11-13 that year ‘a disastrous cold wave went throughout the state. Newspapers described it as the worst freeze ever known in the state.’ The temperature in Southeast Texas was around 8 degrees Fahrenheit for almost three days. It was so cold that Sabine Lake froze over. Block wrote that the new Dutch immigrants to what became Nederland took their ice skates to the lake and skated. The historian found a Galveston Daily News story that reported ‘large quantities of fine ocean trout were picked up on the beach Tuesday and Wednesday. They had become helplessly benumbed in the cold waters, and were soon washed ashore by the beach tides, where they quickly froze.’ The speckled trout were reported to weigh from three to nine pounds each. Block said that in Sabine Pass, residents were shoveling the fish into wagons.
-Margaret Toal, KOGT-