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Dining Trays and Snowy Days

A Look Back at UMD’s Biggest Storms

By Karen Shih ’09


Remember cafeteria-tray sledding, wild snowball fights on McKeldin Mall and black ice coating every brick walkway on campus? UMD has experienced some memorable snowstorms over the last century, from the 1922 “Knickerbocker” blizzard that dumped about 30 inches and crippled transportation across the mid-Atlantic to 2010’s Snowmageddon, which closed campus for a record six days.

The earliest recorded snow day was in 1958, when 14.4 inches of snow fell and even The Diamondback didn’t publish for three days. Before that, it appears the campus never closed for snow.

“I suspect that this was because a large percentage of students, faculty and staff lived on or near the campus,” says University Archivist Anne Turkos.

At the official start of winter, we reached out to alumni on Facebook to hear their snowy stories:

1966 Blizzard

Trays for Play

“On many snow events, Barb and I would take the plastic trays from the Ellicott Dining Hall, trudge to the top of Byrd and slide on the trays down the steps. Of course, we were not allowed in Byrd. That would have been no fun at all,” says Steve Jacoby ’71, who met his wife, Barb, when Hagerstown Hall opened in 1967 as a female freshman dorm. “Football games in the snow on the La Plata Beach in winter 1969 were coed, and much fun.”

Sliding to Class

In 1976, snow and ice covered the campus, but school didn’t close.

“I had back-to-back classes,” says Karen Webster ’80, going “from Cole Field House to Ritchie across Route 1. In addition, I was always carrying a lot of books.”

“I got to Ritchie before anyone in my class. As people arrived, they asked me how I got there before them… Well, I told them, “When I wasn’t sliding, I was flying.” I had to pray the wind and ice wouldn’t take me into the street.”

1983 Blizzard

From Free Burgers...

McDonald’s used to sell 25-cent hamburgers. But during the Blizzard of 1983, “there was no one to eat them,” says Angie Perry ’86. “They were giving burgers away to the students. We carried stacks of burgers back to the dorms. Those were the days.”

… To No Food at All

“In 1993, I had the pleasure of spending spring break shoveling snow with the blizzard,” says Chris Layfield ’96. That was the “Storm of the Century,” which hit nearly 40 percent of the country, from Florida to Canada.

“Then in 1994, we had the ice storm for the first week of spring session, but the cafeterias and all of College Park were closed, so we had no food for two days,” he says.

1996 Blizzard

Double Whammy

Two storms struck in February 1996: The campus had just recovered from the first on Feb. 8–10, but was open for two days afterward when the second one hit, shutting down UMD for another two.

“I drove down from Philly that morning—it took seven hours,” says Eric Schiff ’98. “It was only when I got back to College Park that I realized the highways were closed and that campus was as well.”

Definitely Not a Dusting

In 2003, “they were calling for a dusting to four inches and it kept going up and up,” says Timothy Hoover ’03. “I think we got two feet and didn’t have school for a week. That was the year the B&O Railroad Museum roof collapsed. Everyone was snowed in!”

Heavy snow had paralyzed the East Coast, Every local airport was closed except Dulles International Airport, which had one runway open. Students couldn’t get anywhere using the streets, either. “I dug my car out with a trash can,” says Heather Mascio ’04.

Maryland Today is produced by the Office of Strategic Communications for the University of Maryland community weekdays during the academic year, except for university holidays.