‘Storm of the Century’ remembered 20 years later
by Matt Shinall
Mar 13, 2013 | 3257 views | 0 0 comments | 22 22 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The front page of The Daily Tribune News’ edition covering the snowstorm that pummeled the South and Bartow County 20 years ago is housed on microfilm in the newspaper’s offices. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
The front page of The Daily Tribune News’ edition covering the snowstorm that pummeled the South and Bartow County 20 years ago is housed on microfilm in the newspaper’s offices. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
On this date 20 years ago, an icy pallor fell across the South, taking a toll on many states and countless communities.

In Bartow County, the advance of spring was abruptly halted on Saturday, March 13, 1993. Snow first began to fall the day before, but conditions worsened overnight with Georgia Power reporting its first Bartow County outages at 2:15 a.m.

Two-year-old Katherine Kennedy was pictured on the front page of The Daily Tribune News Friday, March 13, posing in a bed of dafodils to promote a spring event at Barnsley Gardens Resort. In the days following, headlines transformed to “Bartow held in icy grips” and “Storm of the century paralyzes city, county.”

“Everything is chaos,” said then Maj. C.B. Siniard of the Cartersville Police Department on Monday, March 15, 1993, to The Daily Tribune News.

In what quickly became known as the Blizzard of ’93, hundreds of travelers were left stranded across Bartow while some residents faced the next several days without power.

Several local businesses also felt the impact of the snowstorm. Facilities were damaged at Princeton Carpet in Adairsville, Maybank Textile Corporation, A.S. Haight, Enforcer and Kroger Grocery Store under the weight of the snow and ice.

“The damage was pretty extensive,” said Enforcer founder Wayne Biasetti. “There was a differential in heights of two buildings and the wind blew many tons of snow up against the joint between the two buildings.

“That was our production area, that first building that got wiped out, and being a small company we couldn’t afford to have voids on the shelf and not ship — our competitors would have eaten us alive. It happened over a weekend and my head engineer stopped by and saw it.

“We called in everyone, people from the office, everyone. We started digging out with shovels at first and then a Bobcat. Then we got up and cut off the steel ... and we were fortunate enough that we had just finished a new building, a liquid containment area for our mixing tanks. So we worked around the clock and by that Friday we had everything moved to the new building and almost fully operational.”

In the aftermath, as building suppliers and construction crews were swamped with demands across the South, Enforcer erected a new production building themselves to stay ahead of competition.

Despite countless stories of the storm’s destructive power, the blizzard also inspired stories of inspiration, community spirit and goodwill. An article in The Daily Tribune News in the days following the storm recalls the wedding of Nina Davis and Bob Bissinger. The March wedding of their dreams was derailed by the weather, separating the bridal party and stranding out-of-town guests at the Super 8 Motel. Despite the obstacles thrown their way, Davis made her way to the motel on Sunday to be in the presence of family when a stranger pronounced the couple husband and wife. The pastor officiating volunteered his service to the couple he had never met, the bride wore a borrowed dress and two college students from Indiana sleeping in the hallway agreed to sing at the impromptu ceremony — but at the end of the day, the newly-pronounced Bissingers were just as married as they would have been in an elaborately decorated church.

Other stories to come from the event included the efforts of emergency and medical personnel, including the staff of Cartersville Medical Center. Among the sacrifices made were staff members living at the hospital for several days and physicians, such as the late Dr. Sam Howell, hiking to Cartersville Medical Center to care for patients. Howell, grandson of the namesake for Cartersville’s Sam Howell Memorial Hospital, at the time lived several miles from the hospital on Sugar Valley Road.

“We had a lot of staff that spent two or three nights here, myself included,” CMC CEO Keith Sandlin said. “We had a couple of physicians who hiked in several miles from their homes to stay here and help care for patients. We had local law enforcement, the sheriff’s department, who helped get some staff here and back home. We also had a number of travelers off the interstate, hotels and motels were full, who actually camped in our lobby and public waiting areas until they could make progress on the highways.

“It was a difficult time, obviously, but it was another situation where everyone pulled together and worked well together and made sure patients were taken care of and everything that needed to be done got done.”

While most Bartow County residents hunkered down to ride out the storm, freshman legislator Jeff Lewis wound up having to make the commute to Atlanta three days in the week that followed the blizzard.

“I remember it like it was yesterday,” said Lewis, who was then serving his first General Assembly of what would be 16 years as state representative. “We were due to convene that Monday, but I could not get down there, and of course, I wasn’t alone — a majority of the legislators could not get there. That afternoon, the speaker of the house made a call strongly urging everyone to make it to the Capitol the next day because, constitutionally, missing is not an option. Don Thurmond was the sheriff of Bartow County and I called to ask if there was any way he could get me to the Capitol and rode with a deputy the rest of that legislative week.

“That one day was the only legislature day I missed in 16 years.”

At home in White, Lewis got together his wife and parents and spent the week at his grandmother’s — the only home in their family with a gas furnace. They cooked every meal on an outdoor grill and his wife, Kim — then serving as executive director of StarCrest Personal Care Home — made the trek back to Cartersville to care for residents until the normal staff rotation was filled, which left her living at the assisted living facility for several days.

Stories of kindness, adventure and hardship are abundant from the snow that fell in March 1993, and while the amount of snow that accumulated during the Blizzard of ’93 varies by source and location, Lewis measured the depth at the city of White post office at 21 inches.