|THE 1947 WINTER IN HALESOWEN, WEST MIDLANDS
|February 1947 March 1947 January 1947 Summary
Before embarking on the analysis for February, a few notes on the way in which snow depth had to be measured during that winter. Due to the very strong and gusting winds that blew for practically the whole month, it became necessary to make very careful estimates of depth due to the widespread, and deep drifting which had occurred. Several measurements were taken across the plot, melt water was measured and converted, and a board was placed on a clear patch to estimate fresh falls. In addition, estimates were made on the farmland adjacent to the site to give a further idea of falls in "open" areas. All depths of snow are for the plot or the immediate environs. Conditions in open country could, and did, vary considerably, and this is commented upon in the text.
February was ushered in with brisk SE winds and sub-zero temperatures, though no fresh snow fell on the first. However, further heavy snowfall began at around 04.00 on the 2nd that brought the total snow depth to 15cm by 09 hr. This was added to over the next 5 days with fresh falls of snow and snow grains bringing "level" snow to a depth of 19cm and drifts to well over 12 feet in places. Winds remained in an easterly quarter throughout and gusted to 40 knots on the 8th. This caused severe wind-chill and blew snow back into drifts as soon as attempts were made at clearance. By now most local roads were blocked and it was futile attempting clearance with winds of the strengths being encountered. During the first week temperatures rose no higher than 1.1C and fell at night to -4.4C in the air and -6.7C over the snow field. Gusts during the week were regularly around the 30-knot mark peaking at 40 knots as mentioned. With the continued falls of snow, permanent frost and continuously overcast skies, Britain was akin to the Antarctic. Air temperatures stood at 0C early on the 4th and there then ensued a period of sub-zero temperatures lasting the best part of 100 hours. It was not until the 9th that daytime maxima reached 1.1C, and this rise was to last barely 48 hours! To add to the depression felt by many struggling in to work or school [neither factories, schools nor shops closed], the skies remained totally overcast by day and night, apart from a short break on the 6th, until the 15th when we had the first glimpse of the sun for the month, and that lasted just one hour! From the 11th until the 23rd inclusive persistent frost occurred totalling in excess of 320 hours of sub-zero conditions. During this period the lowest maximum reached no higher than -3.9C on the 17th and the night-time low plunged to -5.0C from the 16th to the 18th. Temperature levels over the snow surface fell to -8.9C on the 16th, all these figures being held up by the fact that the sky was continuously overcast! In addition, 3 days, the 3rd, 7th and 10th saw freezing fog at 09 hr with thick fog at other times on a further 6 occasions [smokeless zones had not yet arrived]. During this time winds had been gusting regularly to levels between 21 and 31 knots bringing severe wind-chill, widespread drifting and reduced visibility due to blowing snow. By the 23rd, level snow had reached 23cm, though drifting, which was widespread and severe, resulted in all roads [and railways] in cuttings being totally filled and blocked. In several places drifts were deep enough to cover hedges and reach the windowsills on the upper floors of many houses. The only way from the front door to the "road" in many cases was to dig a tunnel through the snow akin to that from an igloo! By this date we had had snow or sleet on 15 days and the sun on just 2! The sun did reappear, howbeit briefly, on the 23rd giving a run of 2.4 hours, though this did lead to clearing skies and plummeting temperatures. Both the 23rd and 24th saw snow surface temperatures as low as -15.6C and -18.3C under clear skies, the 24th giving us the first really sunny day of the month with 7.1 hours. Payment for this was made during the night of the 24th/25th when snow surface temperatures plunged to -20.0C and the air to -8.9C. Despite this, snow or sleet continued to fall, only 4 days from the 14th to the 28th being clear from solid precipitation. At no time during the month had night time minima risen above zero and thus the mean daily temperatures were positive on only 3 days, the 3rd, 26th and 27th. Indeed, these reached their lowest on the 17th with a mean daily of just -4.4C. With depressions crossing the country on the 25th and 26th winds turned to a westerly quarter and strengths increased appreciably giving gusts of 35 and 43 knots on these days. This resulted in much blowing snow, though a slight surface thaw occurred on the 26th, only to be followed by further snow to end the month. By the end of February the countryside was in chaos, as were many towns and cities. Fuel was in very short supply since the railways were strike-ridden and impassable, as were almost all roads [we did not have any motorways then]. In truth, everywhere was practically at a standstill. People had to walk to work or school, an easier task in the immediate post-war years as almost everyone lived very near to their place of work. The "commuter-age" was fortunately still decades in the future. Rationing meant that people were "adequately" but not well, fed, and the biting cold without central heating or sufficient fuel, meant one room being heated with the bedrooms like iceboxes. I remember ink freezing on a table under my bedroom window and getting into bed was like slipping between a couple of sheets of ice! And so, to draw the threads for February together. The warmest day was the 26th with a maximum of 4.4C with the coldest night occurring on the 25th with a minimum of -8.9C. The 17th was the coldest day when the mercury rose no higher than -3.9C with the warmest night seeing a temperature of 0.0C on the 3rd. The lowest temperature over the snow field was -20.0C on the 25th. The mean maximum ended at -0.7C, the mean minimum at -3.8C and the mean daily at -2.3C. Snow lay on 28 days to a maximum "level" depth in the enclosure of 27cm and local drifts up to 12 feet. Frost in the air occurred on 27 nights and over snow on 28. Snow or sleet fell on 19 days with hail on 9 and fog on 4 days at 09 hr. Precipitation occurred on 21days to a total of 55.5mm [melt water]. Sunshine totalled a mere 15.2 hours with 22 sunless days. Winds were predominantly NE'ly gusting to a maximum of 43 knots on the 25th. Finally, sub-zero temperatures occurred for a total in excess of 420 hours in 2 spells, the first of 4 successive days 5th to 8th inclusive and the second of 13 successive days the 11th to 23rd inclusive. Wind chill regularly reached -13C, sometimes -15C. The nation was "shell- shocked", but March was to bring even worse privations. So do please forgive me if I do not join with so many of you who almost "will" a spell of severe weather. Such conditions do always have major drawbacks, especially as you grow old and infirm. The young and energetic can cope, and in any case, the economic situation today, as well as living conditions in general, are far from what they were in 1947.