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Let's Reminisce: The Great Ice Storm of 1949
By Jerry Lincecum
Dec 13, 2013
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Who besides me remembers the Great Ice Storm of 1949?  I’m talking about the one that started on Jan. 22 and didn’t end until Feb. 4.  I checked the dates on the internet, finding it listed as the worst ice storm in company history of Texas Power and Light.  Steel towers crumpled and two inches of ice accumulated on some transmission wires.

I was not quite seven years old, and on our farm near Groesbeck we had several old oak and pecan trees that lost large limbs.  There was the fun part, too, in that our pond froze hard enough for skating (using tow sacks).  Fortunately, we were still burning wood in stoves and fireplaces, because butane froze in the tanks of some of our neighbors.

Shirley Smith Clark was living on a farm in Celina.  She can remember awakening one cold frosty night in January to a loud jarring noise, followed by complete silence. Soon there were crackling and popping sounds outside her bedroom window, followed by a clatter as something fell crashing to the ground.  It was an old hackberry tree that stood for years, but was now unable to bear the weight of several inches of accumulated ice on its huge branches. She was frightened, and as the strange sounds continued, she quickly got out of bed, grabbed her clothes and raced downstairs.

Her dad took them outside, and Shirley could hardly believe her eyes. The night was so bright it seemed like day. The dark sky seemed filled with stars. Everything was covered with ice that glistened like million of diamonds in the light of a full moon.
Beauty has its price, however.  Their electric lights were off, and her mother had to find her old oil lamps and light them. She made hot cocoa, and they all sat around the kitchen table, listening as the ice continued to take its toll on the trees. When morning finally arrived, their yard was piled high with broken limbs and fallen trees.  Because of the severity of the damage to power lines, it was weeks before their electricity could be restored. School was closed for a week.

Elton Clark remembers the arrival of the ice storm in Sherman was a scary night for an eleven year old.   His family’s neighborhood in south Sherman was an old one with many trees.  They sat up and listened as limbs crashed all around.  Some of the sounds were like explosions as old trees split and big limbs fell, sometimes on cars and houses.  

Very close to the Clark’s house was a big elm tree, and several falling limbs from it slammed down on the roof right over their heads.   They’d lost electricity early on and the candlelight didn’t help much as they huddled, fearing the next sound might be a tree coming through the ceiling. 

Elton recalls that the ice storm of ’49 left its stamp on Sherman for years to come.   The Austin College campus and Birge Street Park were two areas which had many of their mature trees reduced to trunks with few limbs and ugly scars. 

Austin College students walk amid fallen trees on campus in Jan. 1949.

A retired English professor, Dr. Jerry Lincecum teaches classes for older adults who want to write their life stories.  He welcomes your reminiscences on any subject: jlincecum@me.com.