Snow? In San Francisco

A few people have been talking about this, but unfortunately they weren’t old enough to experience it first hand [you darn kids!]. In 1976 something weird happened in San Francisco…it snowed. Now I spent plenty of time outside San Francisco on vacations and even had a chance as a five year old to drive up to Hamm’s Station in the Sierra’s from my Aunt’s house in Jackson to experience snow and tobogganing. Unfortunately my much larger football playing cousin fell off the back leaving light old me to shoot up over the end of the snow and head face first for a trailer hitch with my parents just standing there screaming and doing nothing to stop the toboggan. For some reason a little voice in my head told me to lie down and I slid under the car and was stopped by a gas pump.

That was the last time I was allowed on a toboggan, but it wasn’t the last time I dealt with snow. So on sometime around February 5, 1976 I heard my Grandmother yelling from downstairs for me and I jumped up and ran downstairs at 3am thinking what do you want and why are you screaming at me at 3am in the morning and then she opened the back door. SNOW, in San Francisco. There must have been close to a foot at the time because it was the middle of the night. Our dog ran down and ran outside and got to the bottom of the stairs and decided to come back in the house. He had never seen snow so this was something he didn’t understand. I started making snowballs and throwing them all over the place of course because that’s what you do with snow.

In the morning there was still snow and I got bundled up for junior high school and walked down and as I turned the corner was hit by a snowball. OK, it’s on now. I knew how to be a machine gun with snowballs and several of the kids started to run away while a few joined my team. One of my friends Martin who was on the other team who happened to make a rather large snowball and as I saw it coming at me I ducked and heard a rather large crack behind me. Apparently it was so big because it was a snowball made around a heap of frozen dog poop. Throwing frozen dog poop is kind of like throwing a rock at someone because the person who got hit took it right in the nose and ended up with a broken nose. That was probably the most not fun part of the snow storm.

The roads were icy in places and it was the first time a lot of the city kids had not only seen snow, but seen cars swinging back and forth on the ice. Note I had hike a few miles to the Sulphur Works in December at Lassen Volcanic Park with a friend of mine Mark Ghiorso wearing snowshoes so there was a bit of mountain man in me. Slipping on the ice you just expected if you didn’t have crampons attached to your shoes which we didn’t. I understood the snow while most of the other kids didn’t.

This was a whole new world to a lot of us, but we actually have had snow since then. I lived for a short time in Midland Terrace and in the mornings would see a few trucks coming down off the top of the mountain and they’d have some snow in the back of their trucks. In 1986 I worked on the third floor of the Pacific Bell Building and we started to see snow fall and all ran downstairs to see the snow which had melted by the ground floor and just turned into rain.

We do have every few years  of weather where it’s cold enough for your car windshield to ice over which I would always go and get a bucket of hot water and pour over the windshield. The first couple of times my wife would yell at me because you apparently don’t do that back east because it either freezes over or cracks your windshield. Well, on the west coast it doesn’t stay cold enough for that to happen and the ice just melted away.

Snow can be fun, but after hearing what living through a winter back east is like, I’ve decided I’ll just take the cold rain here. You don’t need an old beater car to drive in the snow so you don’t ruin your good car. You don’t need chains and the stores don’t run out of food and your power doesn’t go out for a couple of weeks at a time. Thank you San Francisco.


So according to the weather service San Francisco could possibly be hit by snow Friday or Saturday. Lot’s of people are up in arms because for a lot of people who have been here for awhile don’t know what to do. Let me give you a little hint. Do nothing. Look at the picture to the left, that’s what snow in San Francisco will be perceived at by many. They’ll poke it with a stick and go about their workday.

I fondly remember the four inches of snow that came down in 1976. It was a really cold winter that year, much colder than we’ve had this year. I even remember getting up in the mornings and water that had condensed on your car was frozen solid frequently. It’s been a few years since I’ve seen that here, but I ain’t seen it once this year or last.

Just to refresh your memories if you were here in 1976, I was woken up by my Grandmother who pulled me outside in my underwear to show me the snow. Well, she was of German decent, so maybe it was more like she pushed me out in the snow. This warranted a return fire of a snowball that caused much yelling headed my way for mucking up the house with…snow. When the time came to go to school I was walking down to A. P. Giannini Junior High and there was no snow on the streets, maybe a touch on the sidewalks, but you would mostly find it on people’s bushes and grass.

When I got to the school everyone was out in front having snowball fights because that’s the only place we had any grass at the school. Note to everyone, this was a time period when people didn’t have to clean up after their dogs so some of the snowballs were more like “poopsicles.” Just keep this in mind if you get any ideas of throwing a snowball if it snows in the next few days.

School starts and we’re all excited because, well, it’s SNOW, in SAN FRANCISCO! Most of us weren’t paying attention that day to the teachers as we were too busy looking out the windows at the snow falling…IN SAN FRANCISCO! Good things have to come to an end though and when it was time for lunch a few of us snuck outside the gates to play in the snow only to realize, it was gone. Our few minutes of west coast urban dwelling in the snow was gone.

San Francisco is a beast when it comes to weather. Sure, we can have torrential downpours, but those are rare and rarely last more than a few hours before the powers that be push the rotten weather back north and just let us lounge around in our bad weather that we get.

Moving forward in time to 1986 I was working down in North Beach and from the third story of the building I was working in we noticed snowfall…AGAIN! We all ran down the stairs to stand out in the snow only to find that at ground level all we saw was a bit of fog. We ran back up to the third floor…snow…back down…fog. Snow will never beat us because of the heat generated by the smugness of the people of San Francisco. If you live in fear of snow in San Francisco take a day off work and sit in your window with the best view and sip a nice warm hot buttered rum, or you can be uber-San Francisco and run out in the snow naked with flowers in your hair [150lbs weight limit, please.]