Oregon Trails: Blizzard of 1938

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WEED, Calif. — When old timers sit around on a cold winter’s night and talk about the days past when it was really cold and the weather was bad, talk often turns to the big blizzard of 1938. Jim Gubetta was just a kid 75 years ago, helping deliver milk for his uncle’s dairy in Weed. When the snow starting falling in late January, and continued for the first couple weeks into February, it was a real challenge to make deliveries. So they hitched a team of horses to a sled and with great effort he made their deliveries.

“The drift was, I think about between 9 and 10 feet and it took all four men to get the horses over the drift. The horses pulling the sled over the drift on main street!” recalled Jim. “The men had what they called carriers. and of course at that time it was glass bottles, so they’d have 2 carriers which would carry 8 quarts of milk in each one, and we’d run the sled from the end of the street and go down the street and deliver the milk.”

As the days went by and the snow piled up, a lot of things came to a stop. Highways and railroads were blocked, power was out in many places, and people mostly hunkered down to wait for a thaw. Over in McCloud, though, the theatre manager decided the show must go on and, along with a friend, strapped on skis and powered up and over the hill to Mt. Shasta to meet the train where the next movies were delivered. They stayed overnight, and with a sled, dragged 200 pounds of film cans back to McCloud so folks there could have their movies.

Out in the lumber camps, things were more desperate. At logging camp one, some 40 miles south of Tennant, the blizzard buried everything and stranded 90 men and a nurse with little food and water. Two Norwegians made it out on homemade skis and a rescue party was formed to save the others. Using a logging locomotive and an old rotary plow, rescuers started working their way toward camp one, but rocks, logs and other debris buried on the track tore the plow apart time after time. 12 miles from Tennant, the plow was hopelessly stuck, and the crew abandoned the disabled plow and went back to Tennant for more help. Hand crews returned to dig out the plow, but then the second locomotive also became stuck.ore

Several days later, with the two engines and plow freed and repaired, they continued on, mile by slow mile. After nearly three weeks, the rescuers finally made it to within a mile of Camp One. The camp was buried under 8 feet of snow! About 50 bearded men heard the engines and came out to meet the rescuers. They only had some flour and melted snow water to eat, but no one was sick. Everybody pitched in and the rescue train with it’s load of meat and other foot arrived in camp about dark. Needless to say, there was quite a celebration.

It’s been 75 years this month since the storm started that brought the big blizzard of 1938. There have been a couple others since then, bit it’s one of the every few times that snow has actually covered the rooftops in Weed, California. National Weather Service records show that Mt. Shasta City received 26 inches of snow in January, but 107 inches in February. Three feet of that fell between February 12th and 13th. Up on the mountain, 50 inches of snow fell just on Valentine’s Day of 1938.