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Snow Storm of January 1962
Newhall and Castaic, California

Photographs from the collection of Cassandra Skaggs, granddaughter of Earl Schmidt, show downtown Newhall and the Castaic area in the snow storm of January 1962.


The heaviest winter storm in 13 years started late Friday, January 19, 1962, and by the end of the severest day, Monday the 22nd, it had dumped 6 to 10 inches of snow on Newhall and Saugus, with up to 30 inches reported in local mountain communities. Seven months later, much of the Santa Clarita Valley, including Melody Ranch, was on fire.


Click image to enlarge.

Near Record Snow Storm Paralyzes Township.

Numerous Mountain Residents Are Marooned, Heavy Damage to Trees But No Fatalities; Injuries Slight.

A history-making snowstorm, unprecedented for the upper Little Santa Clara valley swept through the entire township Monday, accompanied by hail, sleet and icy winds. At least six and in some spots 30 inches of snow was deposited.

The main highways were blocked in places but were declared safe to use by Wednesday. Many subsidiary roads were impassable.

Schools were dismissed Monday and Tuesday, due to the difficulty of bus travel.

Aside from tremendous traffic snarls which put a severe strain on highway patrol officers, the damage was negligible and no deaths were reported.

It was the worst snow storm since January 10, 1949, when a three-day storm blanketed the area with approximately 16 inches and drove the mercury down to a chilling 13 deg.

The snow began falling late Sunday night following light rains over the weekend. Monday morning Newhall was a winter wonderland which would have done credit to Minnesota or Michigan.

Ranches Marooned.

The grimmer aspects of the storm were still evident Wednesday morning when reports of snowbound ranch families in the Gorman area were relayed to the Newhall Sheriff Station. The Ridge Route was still lying under a thick blanket of snow measuring two to three feet with drifts running as high as eight to 10 feet. The situation was considered grave enough for the Sheriff's Aero Detail to send two helicopters to the Ridge to make a general survey of conditions there.

A supply of food was brought to the Gorman outpost by resident officer Frank DeBernardi for transferal by copter to families marooned with food stocks running low.

Help for 100 Dogs.

The latest and perhaps most urgent call for help came via Dep. DeBernardi to the Sheriff Station late Wednesday from Mrs. Katherine Hyde, operator of the Dane Crest Kennels, located near Oak Flats on the Ridge Route.

Mrs. Hyde, along with her five-year-old son and nearly 100 Great Dane dogs, was stranded with a dwindling supply of food.

She struggled through the drifts of snow a distance of one and one-half miles to Highway 99 to call for help.

She had left instructions to her son to remain under an electric blanket until she returned. Almost immediately after her call for aid was answered.

Deputies reported that several hundred pounds of old bread would be obtained from Harry Vartanian of Soledad canyon and transported by Dep. Ed Haggart to the Oak Flats Ranger Station where a whirlybird would fly it to the Hyde ranch.

The temperature at Gorman Wednesday morning at 9 a.m. was 12 deg. above zero.

What It Was Like.

A graphic description of events in the Ridge area is given in the following teletype memo to the press from the Newhall station:

The state highway maintenance snow plow is endeavoring to traverse Highway 138 between the Ridge Route and Antelope Valley sheriff station to determine if any motorists are strandsed in that area. Snow is reported two feet deep on the flat and drifts up to six and seven feet. Heavy snow is still falling in the area.

A group of eight stranded motorists, including deputy Frank DiBernardi, resident officer at Gorman Sheriff station, have taken refuge at Bill Barnes ranch on Highway 138, 14 miles east of Highway 99. Deptuty DeBernardi and some local men are traveling Highway 138 on foot in search of stranded motorists. They have rescued one elderly couple and are now checking out a report of a family with a pregnant woman and small children, stranded one mile east of the Barnes ranch.

One snow plow from the Lancaster side has bogged down ten miles east of the Barnes ranch. Another snow plow from the Ridge Route side has bogged down five miles west. A third show plow of the rotary type is endeavoring to reach the location from the Lancaster side.

A fourth snow plow, rotary type, has been diverted from the Wrightwood area, Angelus Crest, and is endeavoring to reach location from the Lancaster side. Further, a county snow caterpillar tractor is preparing to run the Highway 138 in its entirety, checking for stranded motorists.

At this time it is unknown whether or not additional motorists are stranded on this highway. There is concern due to the temperature dropping if such is the case.

The area is completely impassable to any other type or mode of equipment.

Deputy DeBernardi is continuing his efforts from the Barnes ranch and reports that so far he has rescued an elderly couple and a family of five from the snow storm, and they are [safe] at the Barnes ranch.

The family of five consists of Mr. and Mrs. Vernon Craig, and children ages four, even and 10 years, of Yuba City.

Further, Antelope Valley station is sending two radio cars that will follow the snow plow to Barnes ranch and assist deputy DeBernardi in the rescue operations.

It is believed that there are other stranded motorists in the area.

Snarled Autos.

The California Highway Patrol had its share of the congestion problems. Many people who who lived here and worked in the San Fernando Valley became stranded en route to and from work. Patrolmen, assisted by LA.P.D. men, worked frantically to untangle traffic jams at the Fremont and Weldon canyon passes. Some motorists were equipped with chains and some were not and they were mixed about evenly in the procession, causing difficulties to become aggravated.

At the foot of the Five Mile Grade of U.S. 99 on mid-Tuesday about 500 trucks and 1,100 autos were stalled, some of them since Sunday night, according to C.H.P. The lengthy parade of vehicles was marshaled into a convoy, and those with or without snow chains were led by a Patrol car up the hill to the Signal Cove garage. Instructions to travel Indian file were given to motorists, but out of their rear-view mirror, the officers noticed that some drivers were ignoring the instructions and passing when an open space appeared ahead of the next car.

Many motorists who became bogged down left their cars standing on the right of way unattended, and these had to be cleared away by tow trucks before snowplows and sanding vehicles could render the way passable.

In Newhall Monday, intermittent heavy snows left a mantle of white over the entire community. All of the surrounding mountains of the valley were cloaked in beautiful white dress. Snowmen appeared by the score. A couple of families got together on Arch street Monday and spent the afternoon putting up the town's tallest and biggest snowman — towering 10 and one-half feet, and topped with a Mexican sombrero.

Some damage was reported in trailer parks adjacent to Newhall with the canvas and metal awnings getting the worst of it as the weight of the soggy snow caused them to buckle and cave in. At the Merrill Huntoon home on Chestnut street a 20 by 30 bamboo-covered patio shade supported by four-by-fours crashed to the ground, completely wrecking it.

Numerous tree limbs and one high-tension wire came down in Happy Valley, and a minor traffic stoppage irked drivers without chains trying to climb the gentle slope on Lyons ave. a few yards west of the Newhall-Lyons Intersection.

Several Newhall merchants closed their doors for the day and went home, however a heavy sale on cameras and film as well as galoshes, anti-freeze and tire chains was reported. The womenfolk raided their menfolk's wardrobe and donned heavy jackets and warm full-length pants for outdoor wear.

Radio Car Slightly Hurt in Fremont Snow Crash.

Another casualty of the snow storm was a Sheriff radio car being used on the Fremont pass to direct traffic. The vehicle, a '61 Chev, assigned to Deputy Delmer Burrow, was stopped with its red lights flashing when it was broad-sided by a '59 Ford driven by Roy Baum, 48, Newhall. Baum said he was unable to control his car and was hemmed into the inside lane by a motorist on his right His brakes failed to grip with the resultant crash. Neither driver was injured.


SNOWBOUND.

We imagine that a newcomer from the north or from the middle west experiences great puzzlement over the fact that we old Californianos make such a fuss over a snow storm.

There is a darned good reason.

These storms are as scarce as hen's teeth in this dry land, and according to the records, come about once a decade. In the memory of old timers here the major storms happen oddly enough just about at the turn of every decade. There was a bad one in the late forties, another in the early thirties, and yet another about the turn of the twenties. Beyond that we do not know.

These storms are lots of fun, mostly for kids. The schools all close down for a couple of days. This is not because our children are so tender that they cannot stand a little snow. Quite to the contrary. We suspect that the school daddies know that on the occurrence of these once-in-a-blue-moon winter wonderlands most kids are going to ditch school anyway. What you can't possibly lick is sometimes best to join, and the school daddies in their wisdom do this.

There are all kinds of other facets to such a winter spectacle. Did you stop long enough to marvel at the cold beauty of the wooded Santa Susanna ridge to the west of us, or the austere beauty of the big San Gabriels to the east?

There is something about snow that changes the whole landscape, that renders a dreary panorama into a fairy-land. Even your own backyard that you are so used to takes on an entirely different look. The air is clear and bracing, the sky is a bright turquoise blue.

In spite of the damage that may have occurred, it was a delightful occasion, and besides ... the kids had the time of their life — and so did we.


SK6201: Download original images here.
WINTER STORM
JANUARY 1962

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Walnut Street

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Newhall, Castaic x4

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