But they had predicted storms before and missed the mark. How many times had we run to the grocery store to stock up on milk and bread, only to be disappointed when no snow actually fell?
In March 1993, however, the weather forecasts were right and we were hit by a storm the likes of which we had never seen before.
As I walked last week along sidewalks lined with flowers blooming and reveled in the springtime temperatures, I was struck by the contrast of that horrific storm exactly 19 years ago, dubbed the Storm of the Century by some and called the Great Blizzard of ’93 by others.
None of us who lived our whole lives in the South had ever experienced anything like that before or have since, thank goodness.
I always dreamed of getting the chance to see snow drifts and several feet of snow on the ground, but the brutality and destruction of that blizzard was something I hope never to see again.
The storm began to gather force on Friday, March 12, 1993 as powerful thunderstorms coming out of the Gulf of Mexico met up with snow and rain pushing east. As the storms collided, they created a large storm surge heading toward the eastern half of the United States like a runaway train bearing down at full speed.
When I awoke that Saturday morning in mid-March the temperatures had dropped below freezing, snow was blowing and swirling at a driving speed and visibility was gone. It seemed we were in the vortex of a white whirlpool, drowning in a sea of white.
This was no little storm that would soon pass. It roared and blew all day and all night, and soon we were buried under what seemed an avalanche of snow and we were completely cut off from the world.
My son was at a church youth retreat that weekend and we got a call Saturday that he would be driven home that afternoon. My husband walked down to the highway to watch for his return, a stroll that normally would take a couple of minutes, but now seemed to last forever in the freezing, blinding snow.
Thankfully, he made it home safely and we all battened down to ride out the Superstorm. Soon our whole area, it seemed like the entire world, was without power.
We made pallets in front of the gas logs in the fireplace and huddled together drinking hot chocolate made from hot water out of the tap. My husband heated some cans of soup and beans on the gas stove and we ate what would be the first of several days of make-shift meals.
We were among the lucky ones. Our house was not damaged in the storm; we stayed warm and got enough to eat even if it was not that great. We survived.
Several days later I made it in to the Tribune office after power was restored in Canton, but stories began to pour in of remote areas of the county where unbelievable devastation was wrought by the horrific winds packed by the storm that also spawned tornadoes and where they were still without power or supplies.
And for every story about communities cut off and elderly and sick people in peril, there were stories of neighbors offering aid, of emergency workers leaving their own families to rescue those whose very lives were threatened by the storm, of people helping one another.
There were reports of men and women with chain saws blazing a path to allow emergency workers and power crews to move quickly to help. Of shelters set up and police and firefighters rescuing people from their homes.
Somehow the storm that had isolated us in our homes also brought us closer together. In that unforgettable blizzard we learned new respect for those who put their own lives at risk to help others.
We also learned new respect for nature and it brutality.
We even appreciated the weather forecasters, those men and women who analyze the data and try to make a prediction.
Today, I am grateful for the mild winter we just experienced and the early spring that already has flowers blooming and birds singing. But I am reminded, too, of the fickleness of nature, and how even late in the season the forces of weather can combine to bring destruction.
In the midst of spring, this time of year carries me back to the Blizzard of ’93, the worst winter storm I ever experienced.
Rebecca Johnston is managing editor of The Cherokee Tribune.