Snow Days

The first weekend of January 1985, it snowed.

The snow wasn't in the forecast. I needed a story and I remembered hearing about an internal criticism at NOAA about forecasts being too conservative.

I drove over to the National Weather Service San Antonio Forecast Office near the airport on Tuesday evening and staged an ambush interview with the Forecaster-In-Charge, Roger Smith.

I knew Roger not only from his work with Texas A&M Basketball on KMAC but also when I did weather on KENS. He knew what I was about and had just the thing to distract me.

Roger pulled out the Na-Fax charts at each pressure gradient and explained that it was not only going to snow again the upcoming weekend, but that there could possibly be a significant amount. I asked why it wasn't in the forecast. Roger told me, “The computer doesn't forecast snow for San Antonio.”

Friday afternoon it began to snow. There were tiny flakes, at first, almost like sleet. They accumulated in the crevices in the pavement and glazed over the streets. It kept snowing overnight and the flakes got larger and larger. By Saturday afternoon it was still snowing, with thunder and flakes the size of silver dollars.

On Sunday morning I got a call from Linda Santana, of KSJL. She had a tip that the mayor would be at City Hall. She couldn't make it from the north side of San Antonio because of the 13 inches of snow on everything.

I lived just off Main by Woodlawn. My car had front wheel drive and it was all downhill to City Hall. I put on a brand new green and gold plaid flannel shirt with button down collar and gold silk tie, over quilted thermals. The climate suited my clothes.

I motored past the World Savings Building, where Tom Scheppke was on duty at KISS-FM. He had managed to motor down Fredericksburg Road in his Bertone. I did a salutary do-nut to him in the snow in the parking lot and then continued downtown.

At city hall, Mayor Henry Cisneros and aide Robert Marbut Jr were surprised to see me. I asked if the Mayor might have an emergency proclamation he could make. He decided it would be a good idea and asked if I could please contact all the local stations, so they could also air his statement.

One by one, we got a hold of each station, both English and Spanish, and the mayor issued his declaration of emergency and appeal for calm. Being San Antonio, the citizenry remained calm.

You will note that I said we got a hold of all the stations, but my station, KSAQ, ended up being the only station in San Antonio NOT airing the historic emergency declaration live, due to a technical problem. Such is live broadcasting.

A few days later, at a post-disaster news conference, I noticed both Henry Cisneros and Robert Marbut Jr were wearing climate suited clothes – flannel shirts with silk ties.

Bob Crowley

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