Rim Country Snow Storms Few And Far Between

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The Rim Country's big snows may be few and far between, but if you've made it through one, you know to be prepared.

This late winter storm brought at least 30 inches to the Payson area, far more than was predicted by the National Weather Service last week. It was the second biggest storm the area has seen in nearly four decades.

The last storm to hit Payson this hard came through during the holidays in 1967.

"At the old Frontier grocery they had a measuring stick right out front and it was about six feet all over," said Ted Pettet, longtime Rim Country resident.

The official depth was 77 inches in 1967, according to National Weather Observer Anna Mae Deming.

The heavy snow collapsed part of the roof of the old Payson High School gym and caved in the roofs of almost a dozen homes in the town area, Pettet said. In outlying areas, some cabins actually imploded from the weight of the snow on their roofs, he said.

"The gym had a flat roof -- it had been designed by someone from the Valley," Pettet said. "Most of the houses that lost roofs were also built by people from the Valley."

The design of the gym resulted in water coming in from the southwest corner door all the way to the basketball hoop on the other side of the building.

"It warped so bad, you could run up the floor to the basket and dunk a ball just standing there," Pettet said. "There was quite a bit of damage all over."

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Stephanie Barwick, 10, and Whitney Eselgroth, 11, take a flying bounce at Green Valley Park Monday.

Sports went on as planned though. Pettet said he wasn't coaching basketball at the time, but helped get members of the team to a holiday tournament in Ashfork.

"The whole trip was like driving through a tunnel (the snow was so high)," he said.

There was no power for several days, but most people used wood heat.

"We kept a pot of beans going on the wood stove and that got us through," Pettet said.

He had a travel trailer with a propane stove, so he dug a tunnel to the trailer and his wife, Lillian, did the family's cooking on the stove in the trailer.

"We had a tunnel to the trailer and a tunnel to the wood pile."

A lot of folks spent time on their roofs shoveling them off, including Pettet.

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This photo was taken in 1967 after 77 inches fell in town, debilitating much of the area.

The weight of the snow started to crack his living room ceiling.

He said people then knew to be prepared with enough food. "The difference between then and now is that most people expected that sort of thing and took care of themselves," Pettet said.

Shirley Armstrong learned about Payson snowstorms in April 1999 -- the year the snow canceled Easter.

"I had moved up here about March 3 or 4 and it started snowing the first of April," Armstrong said. It snowed longer and she thinks it produced more snow, at least out in the Mesa del Caballo area where she lives. The newspapers from that time reported about 25 inches fell.

Armstrong was prepared and heated with propane, so when the electricity went out she was not too concerned.

"I'd brought my horse up and didn't have shelter for it, so it spent two days in the horse trailer," she said.

Other record snows in the area occurred in February 1987 when 27 inches was recorded in Payson, 37 inches in Pine and 42 inches in Strawberry, and again in April 1999 with 25 inches in Payson, 38 inches in Strawberry, and 41 inches in Forest Lakes.

A lot of people were stuck in their homes without electricity, but with a little preparation and wood-burning stoves things were manageable, Pettet said.

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