Winter 1930: Lake Worth Ice Capades

The temperature today is forecast to reach (sorry, Emily Bronte) withering heights: 104. To cool off, let’s go back in time and temperature ninety-two years and one hundred degrees.

On the afternoon of January 15, 1930 the temperature in Fort Worth dropped below freezing, dipping to eleven degrees by 6 a.m. the next morning. A Star-Telegram headline optimistically predicted “Warmer Weather Due After Drop to 11 Above.”

The next week would show how relative the term “warmer” is. . . .

Because the next day’s front page predicted the coldest weather of the young year with a “blizzard” to bring snow or rain. A small headline reported that Lake Worth was beginning to freeze over.

(Listen. Can you hear the Model Ts revving up?)

In fact, before dawn on January 18 the temperature dropped to one below zero, the coldest temperature since 1899, when it had fallen to eight below zero.

The severe cold had consequences. On January 18 a woman in Fairmount was burned when a gas space heater ignited her dress. She would die of her injuries.

A deputy county clerk who was in the habit of placing his false teeth in a glass of water each night woke the next morning to find that the water in the glass had frozen solid. He had to thaw the water to eat breakfast.

He was late to work.

(The headline about the robbery suspect was wrong. The suspect committed suicide.)

The sub-zero jolt made ice on area lakes and streams thicker. Finally the temptation was too much:

People began to skate and sled on Lake Worth and Sycamore Creek . . .

Even as the Star-Telegram once again forecast “warmer weather.”

Cattle raisers and citrus farmers in the state began to report losses.

“Zero Weather Due Again Tonight” was the forecast on January 21. Note the “Water Body Will Act on Proposals Thursday” headline. Eagle Mountain and Bridgeport lakes were being planned on the West Fork of the Trinity River.

Meanwhile, among the people skating, sledding, and ice sailing on Lake Worth was James E. Locklear Jr., a younger brother of aerial daredevil Ormer Locklear.

The city water department reported that one hundred water meters had burst.

On January 21, before the cold snap even ended, the cost of repairs of burst water pipes, construction losses, and other weather-caused expenses in Fort Worth was estimated at $300,000 ($4.7 million today).

The low temperature on January 22 was eight degrees. Note the headline about “opening of lake resort.” Casino Park on Lake Worth had been heavily damaged by fire in 1929 and would reopen later in 1930. Again the Star-Telegram forecast “warmer weather” for the next day . . .

Even as people skated and ice-fished on Lake Worth.

On January 23 the newspaper said about two hundred people had been on the frozen lake the day before, with another thousand around the shore marveling at the sight.

On January 22 about fifty cars were skittering over the lake. Daredevil motorists on the frozen lake discovered that if they speeded up their cars as best they could and then braked hard, their cars would go skidding uncontrollably over the ice. (Photo from University of Texas at Arlington Libraries Star-Telegram Collection.)

In response to such shivery shenanigans, the police department at first dispatched motorcycle officers to patrol the perimeter of the lake to prevent motorists from driving onto the lake. Finally the police department dynamited the lake at places where motorists had been driving onto the ice.

From shore to shore, ice on the lake was seven inches thick by January 23.

But on January 23 the temperature finally rose above freezing. The “warmer” that the Star-Telegram had been predicting for days finally arrived. The end dreweth nigh for winter sports on the glacier called “Lake Worth.”

The Big Chill of 1930 had done what the Great Depression could not: halted construction on five major building projects downtown because the air was too cold to work with concrete and plaster: The Fair, Petroleum Building, Fort Worth Public Market, Firestone Service Store, and First Methodist Church.

Although the Star-Telegram on January 24 reported ten days of sub-freezing weather, according to the National Weather Service, Fort Worth temperature had been at or below freezing from 3:15 p.m. January 15 to 10 a.m. January 23. That’s 211 hours (8.7 days), which ranks second to 295 hours—twelve days—set in 1983 from 7 a.m. December 18 to 2 p.m. December 30. (See freeze summary below.)

Feeling cooler now?

Posts about weather:

“Greatest Tragedy of the Century” (Part 1): “Dead Outnumbers the Living”
Winter 1930: Lake Worth Ice Capades
The Deep Freeze of Fifty-One

Texas Toast: The Summers of 1980 and 2011
The Flood of 1889: The First of the Big Four
Double Trouble: The Twofer Flood of 1915
From Beneficial to Torrential: The Flood of Twenty-Two
The Flood of Forty-Nine: People in Trees, Horses on Roofs
Deja Deluge: Forty Years On, the Flood of 1989

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9 Responses to Winter 1930: Lake Worth Ice Capades

  1. Mark Stevens says:

    I have to wonder why so many people in Fort Worth had ice skates.

  2. Kamurrah Knowles says:

    I love the details you provide for this site, Mike; I remember some of the stories from my childhood. I would love to subscribe, get this every month. How do I do that?

  3. Sally and Tom Campbell says:

    Thanks for another fun post, but we don’t feel cooler–guess we’ll try watching “Fargo” or “The Shining.”
    The February 2021 deep freeze should add interest and bragging rights to updated versions of these stats.

    • hometown says:

      Thanks, Sally and Tom. Can’t watch “Fargo” without wondering, “And people LIVE there?!” Which no doubt is what THEY say about US in August.

  4. Deborah B Carl says:

    Loved this! I have a photo of Miriam Todd long time speech/drama teacher at Paschal standing beside a Model T on a frozen Lake Worth. When she gave the photo to me many years ago she commented on her scandalously short skirt…”Look at those knees!”

    • hometown says:

      Thanks, Deborah. I shudder–literally–to think of how cold the temperature would have to be for the lake to hold later cars–such as the dinosaurs of the 1950s and 1960s.

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