Remember When, Chattanooga? This famous mid-century ice storm led to mountain black outs

Contributed photo from EPB archives via / This 1960 photo of downed power lines on Lookout Mountain documents an ice storm that kept many of Chattanooga’s mountain neighborhoods without power for days.

This weekend marks the 30th anniversary of one of the landmark local weather events of the 20th century, the Blizzard of 1993.

On March 12-13, 1993, more than 20 inches of snow fell in parts of metro Chattanooga, paralyzing the city for several days. A city that only averages 3-4 inches a snow a year got about five times that much in 24 hours.

But old-timers will tell you there is another March weather event that stands out, as well. The Great Ice Storm of 1960, which began March 2 that year, was especially brutal for residents of Lookout and Signal mountains.

The photo accompanying this article, from the EPB archives via, shows downed power lines on Lookout Mountain in 1960. According to news reports as many as 30 power crews from EPB and the then-Southern Bell Telephone Co. (later BellSouth, and later still AT&T) worked for days to restore power in the upper elevations.

In a March 1960 newspaper report, E.C. Edmonds, then-system operator for EPB, called the ice storm "the worst I've ever seen in the 31 years I've been with the Power Board."

According to news reports, the storm started with heavy rains that turned into sleet and freezing rain. By March 3 the mountains were covered in ice and power was off in most mountain neighborhoods.

A News-Free Press reporter, Irby Park Jr., described the scene: "A winter wonderland created by ice, sleet and freezing rain became a frozen nightmare on Signal Mountain ... as countless huge tree limbs and entire trees snapped under the weight of coats of ice.

"Standing in the midst of the icy forest gave one the feeling of almost complete helplessness as sections of trees and tree limbs crashed to the ground on all sides."

Unable to return home, many downtown workers who lived on Lookout and Signal mountains checked in at downtown hotels such as the Read House, where some stayed for more than a week.

Meanwhile, after the initial ice storm, temperatures plummeted into the mid-teens in ensuing days, sending the ice-covered mountains into a deep freeze.

A few weeks after the ice storm, The Chattanooga Times published an eight-page special section on the weather event which it called "the giant crystal sheath that gripped the area in frozen fury." Copies of the special section sold for 10 cents each.

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The "Remember When, Chattanooga?" series publishes on Saturdays. Contact Mark Kennedy at or 423-757-6645.

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Follow the "Remember When, Chattanooga?" public group on Facebook. See previous articles in this series at

The "Remember When, Chattanooga?" series publishes in print on Saturdays. Contact Mark Kennedy at or 423-757-6645.