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Local History

The ice storm of 1924 and the big sleet of 1848.

 An undated Local History postcard of Benton Avenue during an ice storm.

From the Springfield Missouri Republican, December 18, 1924, page 2
Drop to Zero is Expected -- Cold Weather to continue and snowstorms today predicted for Missouri and Kansas.

These headlines preceded the ice storm of 1924.  On December 18, 1924, the newpaper reported  that rain was falling in the Ozarks with temperatures around 40 degrees.  A cold wave, already griping much of Kansas and northern Missouri, was moving south and snow was predicted for the Ozarks the next day.  Train service into Kansas City was delayed and a streetcar in Kansas City, Kansas had slid down a hill and turned over injuring 23 persons.

The next day the headline in the Springfield Missouri Republican was:
City Held in Grip of Ice Storm
 "Throughout the night Springfield was isolated from the outside world by telephone and telegraph, even the Frisco railroad office here being completely cut off…Limbs fell from trees in all parts of the city and trouble crews of the Springfield Gas & Electric company were kept busy answering calls where the falling limbs had broken wires... the limbs falling on wires 'caused a short circuit that produced flashes that rivaled the lightening in brilliancy'.  The city streetcars were ...impeded by the breaking of power wires and by the coating of ice on the trolley wires…the 'sleet neel', a device for fastening on trolley wires to break off the ice, was the only thing that permitted the maintaining of service."

And the Springfield Leader for the 19th had this:
Heavy Damage Results when Storm Sweeps City
"The only telegraph line open this morning on the Frisco in this section is from Springfield to Nichols Junction…Bus Lines in and out of Springfield were still in operation…" but "The big Joplin bus went into a ditch five miles out on the College street road last night and was left abandoned there."  Automobiles were "frozen and many stranded on the road leading to and from the city.  Storage garages were being
rapidly filled this morning and alcohol was being sold at a fast rate for use in radiators.. J.W. Smith, assistant fire chief…urged carefulness in handling oil lamps and [of] building fires."  The Republican reported 12 fire calls in the previous 48 hours on December 19, 1924. On the 20th the Republican also reported 320 students absent from Senior High due to cold winds, slippery walks and "transportation inconveniences."  On December 21 the Republican reported that the storm "swept across Missouri in a belt a hundred miles wide…extending only five or eight miles south of Springfield…"  Southwestern Bell Telephone estimated that 3,000 poles went down in a radius of 43 miles."

The March 1925 issue of the Frisco Employes' Magazine stated that the railroad had approximately thirty-five hundred poles down on the entire line and wire breaks reaching nearly thirty-five thousand. "All wires were clear at 9:30 a.m. January 9, just twenty-one days after the trouble started."

The History of Greene County recounts the November 1848 ice storm that they called the “Big Sleet”.
“The sleet began falling and then came rain and hail and freezing weather alternately, until the ice covered the ground to a depth of three or four inches. Timber was badly broken down, and in many places the roads were impassable… many a horse slipped on the ice…The people in many parts of the county were compelled to bring to light their old mortars and pestles and "beat" meal for bread, as it was impossible to get to mill for some days. The "big sleet" was general throughout the Southwest."

See the Local History and Genealogy web page for more online histories, the online Frisco project and to search our microfilm newspaper index

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