Snow in Tulare
Updated: Jul 14
Tulareans transplanted from the midwest especially appreciate the Valley's winter weather, for although we do experience a little fog, we don't have to shovel it. Blizzards that pile snowdrifts as high as a house, and temperatures that plummet to 20 below, are thankfully unknown in the San Joaquin Valley.
Snow in Tulare is a rare, but not unknown, occurrence. Early settlers were probably very surprised when after suffering through another scorching summer, the white stuff began to fall from the sky. The exact date has proved to be elusive, but Lizzie Wood, whose parents were among Tulare's first pioneers, recalled many years later that this first snowstorm in Tulare's history happened sometime in the early 1890s.
Small amounts of snow, often mixed with sleet or hail, have fallen in Tulare from time to time. The 15,000 residents living in Tulare remember the storm that visited the city on Monday, January 22, 1962, with clarity. As much as five inches accumulated on the ground, but there
was no drifting - there was no wind, and the snow was too wet to drift anyway. Ranchers rejoiced at the unexpected moisture, and school children celebrated when they canceled classes because of snow for the first time in the school's history. Hundreds of snowmen sprouted on lawns throughout the town. Calls swamped The Advance-Register, suggesting that they should send the newspaper's photographer to their address.
Drug stores soon ran out of film - one businessman called it the "biggest film boom in Tulare's history." On Monday, the low temperature dropped to 30 degrees, and the high rose to 33 - the lowest high temperature recorded since the town started to keep records in 1922. Outside of Tulare, the Ridge Route over the Tehachapi Mountains was closed for a time and the measured 29 inches of fresh snow at Giant Forest in Sequoia. Drivers unaccustomed to driving on snow or slush turned to ice were involved in numerous accidents - five in the area resulting in fatalities. An Advance-Register reporter interviewed old-timers Dr. Bob Young, Ransom Jones, William Zumwalt, Bob Rounsaville, and Bill Anderson. Each had lived in Tulare from 50 to 75 years and could recall nothing like it.
Thirty-seven years later, Tulare missed having a white Christmas by precisely one month. Snow began falling at 3:00 a.m. on Monday, January 25, 1999, and continued until nearly noon. The very wet and heavy snow accumulated to a depth of four inches. Tree limbs and
power lines were down all over town, leaving many neighborhoods without electricity. Once again, to the delight of area students, the canceled classes - they were not nearly so gleeful when they found out that they must make up the missed day later in the year.
Refugees from colder climates who miss snowy days can have their desire for real winter weather satisfied just 40 miles to the east, in the Sierras. Skiers and other winter sports enthusiasts can often find perfect conditions where snow at times accumulates up to 40 feet. But far more critical, the melting Sierra snowpack provides much of the irrigation water that makes the Central Valley the most productive agricultural area in the world.