The recent snowfall we've had, with potentially more on the way this week, has been a welcome weather arrival. For longtime residents, it reminds us of how things used to be in the time of winters past. One of the biggest storms in living memory happened 42 years ago on Jan. 31, 1979.

It was a Wednesday morning when the snow started, and then kept right on falling, accompanied by high winds as the storm continued. As the hours went by, Tehachapi residents kept thinking "It will probably stop soon," but it didn't. This was long before the days of cell phones and weather apps, and forecasting technology wasn't nearly as good as it is now, so the size of the storm was a surprise.

When there finally was a break in the snowfall, Tehachapi had about 14 inches of snow in most areas, with snowdrifts that were four feet high in places. With a storm of that magnitude, of course, Tehachapi wasn't alone: Lancaster got eight inches of snow as well, closing Highway 14.

In fact, all major interstates into Los Angeles were closed. Snow drifts shut down Interstate 10 on both sides of Palm Springs, temporarily isolating the city. Palm Springs itself got two inches of snow, the biggest snowfall on record there. Two to four inches of rain fell in 24 hours in throughout Southern California, and higher elevations all got snow.

A shocking 7.4 inches of snow was measured at McCarran Airport in Las Vegas, the heaviest one-day snowfall on record there. Hundreds of flights were canceled at numerous airports and hundreds of thousands schoolchildren rejoiced in school being canceled.

I was one of those Tehachapi kids delighted with the unexpected snow days. There was no school on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday. I was 14 years old and I had recently gotten my first camera, a little cheap plastic instamatic. I went around outside taking snow photos, including at my family's farm on Cherry Lane where the snowdrifts nearly reached the roofs of some of the outbuildings. It was a truly epic amount of snow.

When we have snowstorms, you can tell by looking at the landscape, even from a distance, how much we got. Light dustings leave some areas white, while the rest is still varying dark shades from exposed rocks, trees, roads, bare ground, etc. A heavier storm will turn a higher proportion of the scenery white. The snowstorm of 1979 was truly transformational, covering nearly everything in an unbroken white blanket.

I'm honestly glad that we don't get storms of that magnitude frequently, because they're quite disruptive and definitely change the pace of life for several days afterward. But I sure wouldn't mind more snow, like the winters remembered with affection by those of us who grew up in Tehachapi in past decades. I hope this winter will bring us more. . .

Have a good week.

Jon Hammond has written for Tehachapi News for more than 40 years. Send email to