People & Community

Wednesday, Nov 27 2013 12:06 AM

History: Snow in Bakersfield?

By Jeff Nickell

Longtime Bakersfield residents know it does snow in Bakersfield. Whether it's a blessing or curse, it only happens about once in a quarter century. Days that get a flurry that last just a few scant minutes don't really count. This is about real snow that can bring our usually dry city to a crawl, or even a complete stop.

What amount of snow can do that? For Bakersfield, it is about 6 inches, which sounds funny, but it's true. Mid-westerners and other snow plagued area people can laughing mightily. Six inches, really?

Related Info

Bakersfield has received snowfall 28 times since 1937, but only four times has snowfall been measurable.

* March 17, 1922: 2.5 inches of snow

* Dec. 11, 1932: 4 inches of snow

* March 8, 1974: 1.5 inches of snow

* Jan. 25, 1999: 3 inches of snow

Source: National Weather Service; snowfall measured at NWS locations.

Related Photos

Few traveled the icy streets of Bakersfield, Truxtun Avenue pictured here, following snowfall in January 1999.

Snow blankets Sam Lynn Ball Park in 1999.

Tim Oats snowboards down the Panorama bluffs in 1999.

There was measureable snow in the 1930s with photo evidence at the Kern County Museum to prove it. It also snowed in 1974, causing teachers to keep children indoors (so the children did not bring snow and mud into the classroom, or so the story goes). And, there have been a few teasers between then and now.

But the real snow day occurred on Jan. 25, 1999. Depending on the part of town, 6 to 8 inches fell that day in town. That was enough to bring the town -- schools, businesses and many city and county entities -- to a virtual halt, with many of them closing.

The issue was not so much the snow, as it was driving in it. Bakersfield residents were, and are, not accustomed to dealing with such an ordeal.

The threat of snow has been joyously anticipated throughout the years, but to resident's dismay, it seems to never come. But, on that particular day in January, employers awoke to phone calls from employees asking, "Do we have to go to work today?" Many employers, who had not looked outside yet, were telling the employees "yes," as if to be in shock they were being asked such a question. The resounding response was, "But, it's snowing outside."

Indeed, it was, and it didn't stop, which put Bakersfield at the forefront of national news, in print and on the television (there was no Facebook and Twitter back then).

Even the city's trees were not used to the snow, with many large branches falling on structures and others blocking roadways. Residents, however, delighted in making snowmen, snowball fights, making snow angels.

Many ventured out to see the town covered in glistening white powder. Photographs taken by The Bakersfield Californian and others are a reminder of "the day it snowed in Bakersfield."

Thought rare, rest assured that it will snow in Bakersfield again, and Bakersfield will close its doors for business, again. We just don't know when!

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