by Joan Smedinghoff
January 12, 2018
The beginning of 2018 brought with it some unusually cold temperatures for those who live around the Chesapeake Bay. Temperatures in Baltimore, Maryland remained below freezing for eight days, which was the longest stretch of cold in 28 years. Further south in Hampton Roads, Virginia, residents were dealing with between five and 15 inches of snow. As the Bay began to freeze, ice-breaking boats were called in so those living in places like Smith Island weren’t stranded and watermen could reach their fishing grounds.
Despite the cold weather this year, Chesapeake Bay residents who lived in the region during 1976-1977 remember a much colder winter. That year, the Bay began to freeze toward the end of December and did not let up for weeks. The ice on the Bay was able to stay frozen even with its salt content, due to the extreme temperature; and was thick enough to support the weight of cars. By the middle of January, 49 cities on the East Coast had recorded record low temperatures. At one point, the thermometer at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport read -2 degrees Fahrenheit.
For those who lived on the Bay’s islands, cold weather meant isolation. One Smith Island resident at the time, Jessie Marsh, recalls the island being frozen in for nine weeks that winter. School was closed because the teacher, who lived on the mainland, couldn’t make it to the island. Marsh’s family had stocked canned food in preparation for stretches like this, but then-governor Marvin Mandel sent helicopters of supplies to the island as well.
What was the weather like in your area? Let us know in the comments!