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T-Shirt Weather

Commemorating those days that leave a lasting impression on a kid

Illustration by Mitch Blunt

The weather was the last thing on my mind when I got home from school on January 11, 1985. Mom was waiting for me at the door, and she seemed agitated about something. We have to get groceries, she said. Right away.

Snowfall was predicted—light at first, then heavy. It could be heavy enough to prevent us from going anywhere.

Snow? I’m a native San Antonian, and here, snowfall—any amount—is rare. When my brother and I were growing up, snow flurries were cause for celebration. Several inches almost brought life to a screeching halt.

Mom and I were lucky to beat the rush to the stores that day. Texans know to stock up on the essentials—milk, bread, eggs, toilet paper and beer. By the time we got home, I was excited. Bring it on!

Mother Nature did just that. A band of heavy snow started south of Del Rio and gradually moved north and east toward Bexar County. The frozen precipitation didn’t stop until two days later. I couldn’t believe my eyes. The views from our windows reminded me of vintage Christmas card scenes (without ice skaters, unfortunately). Dad found a yardstick, and I went out to measure the depth. Thirteen inches!

San Antonio closed down. The city had no snowplows, of course. Kids and a few hardy adults went out to play, but most citizens were stuck indoors until it melted. The official total of 13.5 inches dwarfed the previous record of 6.4 inches in January 1926. I doubt that the new record will ever be broken. It was such a big deal that someone made and sold T-shirts that boasted, “I Survived Winter ’85 San Antonio, TX.”

A few years later, my family moved to Dallas, where I looked forward to seeing snow more often. The thought of possible bone-chilling cold never crossed my mind. The coldest temperature I remembered in San Antonio was in the low teens.

That personal record was shattered December 23, 1989, when the thermometer plunged to minus 1 degree.

I had to experience it to believe it. Leaving my coat inside, I walked out on our front porch. No snow this time—just cold. I didn’t know what to expect. Would I freeze solid?

I don’t remember any wind. I actually felt comfortable for a few minutes. Truthfully, I wasn’t that impressed. Still, it made me think somebody should print up T-shirts.

No, better make it sweatshirts.