Snow storms on the Peninsula? These historical pics prove it to be true

From San Jose to San Bruno, snowy scenes from the Peninsula’s past.

A photograph of Santa Clara University students enjoying a rare snowfall, February 1976. (Image courtesy of Archives & Special Collections, Santa Clara University)

The snow began to fall heavily in Palo Alto at 5 a.m. on February 5th, and by 11a.m. it had blanketed the ground with six inches of frosty white powder.

Automobiles drive on a snow covered Sand Hill Road, during the big snow storm of 1962. Note Hoover Tower in the background. (Image via the Palo Alto Historical Association)

A few hours later, around 2 p.m., someone had the good sense to go outside and take a photo to capture this rare occurrence—snowfall on the SF Peninsula.

That was in 1887.

In the many decades since, real deal snowfall of this kind upon the Bay Area has been a sort of meteorological anomaly, a literal freak of nature that occurs just once or twice in most residents’ lifetimes. But everyone seems to have their stories: the snowy deluge in February of 1976, the brief but sizable storm of ’88, and of course, the legendary snowfall of ’62. A few even have the photos to prove it.

So as the days grow colder in 2018 and one of many, many versions of “White Christmas” accompanies roaming holiday shoppers, we decided to dive into some of our local historical archives for photographic evidence of widespread snowfall on the Peninsula and in the South Bay. To our surprise, the visual record was much deeper than we expected.

So take a look….but just don’t get your hopes up.

Three family members enjoying snowfall in San Jose near 780 Irene Street, standing in front of Marvin McArthur’s 1960 Ford. From left to right: Flora Albanese Talesfore, Marvin “Moot” McArthur, and Christine Albanese McArthur. Circa 1960 (likely 1962). (Image courtesy of San Jose State University Library Special Collections & Archives)
Photos of the Stanford campus during the big snow storm of 1962. (Image via the Stanford Photo Archive)
Snowfall in Palo Alto from a variety of different years: (clockwise from top left) local residents walking in the snow on Page Mill Road during the winter of 1988; trucks driving in snow near Page Mill and Alpine Road, 1991; teens on the lawn of the Squire House with snowman, image undated (circa 1970); Hewlett-Packard building viewed toward west from Page Mill Road, 1962; Snow covered cars at intersection of Oregon Avenue and Middlefield Road, 1962; Skyline Boulevard in Winter; image undated. (All images via the Palo Alto Historical Association)
More from the snowstorm of ’62, towards the northern parts of the Peninsula: (clockwise from top left) Snow on San Francisco International Airport, 1962; San Mateo Municipal Golf Course and Coyote Point, 1962; Cow Palace in Daly City with Snow on San Bruno Mountain, 1962; Golden Gate National Cemetery Under Snow, 1962. (All images © Norton Pearl Photography / San Mateo County Historical Association)
St. James Park after snowfall, December 11, 1932. (Image Courtesy of History San Jose)
Snow on Oregon Avenue, with orange trees (right), during the snow storm of 1962. (All images via the Palo Alto Historical Association)
Lick Observatory — from East. Snow view — Feb. 23, 1944. (Image Courtesy of History San Jose)
Evidence of White Christmas potential? Roosevelt Junior High School under a dusting of snow, DECEMBER of 1932. (Image Courtesy of History San Jose)
19th Century snow: (from left) Residence of Mrs. Sarah Wallis, at First (now Ash) and Grant. This snowfall began at 5 a.m. on Feb. 5, 1887. By 11 a.m. 6 inches of snow had fallen. This photograph was taken at 2 p.m.; Mayfield Railroad Station, 1887. (Images via the Palo Alto Historical Association)

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More photography features from The Six Fifty:

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Stanford vs. Cal: A visual history of the Big Game

Feral Photography: amazing animal imagery from Silicon Valley trail cams

Class of 1918: Stories from the Stanford Photo Archive

Charles Russo

Award-winning writer and photographer with extensive experience across mediums, including videography, investigative reporting, editing, advanced research, and a wide range of photography.

Author of Striking Distance: Bruce Lee and the Dawn of Martial Arts in America; represented by Levine Greenberg Rostan Agency.

Freelance clients include Google, VICE and Stanford University.

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