Record Snowfall Blankets New Hampshire

All-time record snowstorm in 1956

By Nancy Heden Clayman

The lights flicker wearily, and sleety snow raps on the kitchen window. Mom and I are eating  dinner together in silence, lost in our own thoughts. I’m guessing she’s worried about my dad, driving home tonight in this yucky weather. 

For me, our big house feels empty and lonely with my brother, newly married now, living several hours south of Andover, my sister away at UNH, and Dad working the evening shift at New Hampshire’s state prison where he oversees the boiler room. Mom breaks the silence, “The roads must be really bad; I haven’t heard a car or even the snow plow go by for hours.” Her statement of fact only adds to my low mood.

We’re both startled by a loud thumping noise, seemingly coming from the rear of our big old farmhouse. “That sounds like snow sliding off the roof,” offers Mom. At age 11, my imagination is off and running. A huge bear or wild boar is breaking into the shed, maybe an avalanche, but we’re hardly at the bottom of a mountain or, yikes, could the roof be caving in over our very heads?

With another loud crash, Mom grabs a flashlight and heads toward the back door. I jump up to follow her, more from panic about being left alone than with any thought I could be helpful. “You stay here. It’s just snow.…” 

Her reddened cheeks and rigid jaw belie her calm as she moves through the mud room, then opens the door to the shed and what is our laundry room. Despite her warning to stay put, I’m at her heels and soon see what she sees — two huge ceiling beams, hanging at an angle from the roof toward the floor, pieces of roofing mixed in with piles of snow. 

What I don’t notice, but what catches Mom’s attention, is a somewhat clear path to “her” washing machine — not an electric, new-fangled machine but an old wringer washer Mom uses almost every day.

“Go inside. I’m pulling out that washing machine.”

“What? You’re going to…that old thing? It’s too heavy for…you’ll need help.…”

She roughly pushes me aside; I nearly lose my footing. I scream, “It’s only a washing machine, my God, get out NOW,” as I helplessly watch her pull and tug, finally rolling that monstrosity through the doorway. Within seconds, just seconds, the beams give way and the ceiling of the shed caves under a roof-high pile of icy snow that fills the space Mom has just barely left.

“Mom, Mom, say something. You could have been killed.” Full of rage and relief, I look at her clutching the edge of the washing machine, red-faced, sweating profusely, making horrendous grunting sounds. “I’m calling…”

“No, no. I’m okay — I think,” as she pulls herself into the kitchen and onto a chair. I want to yell at her, the stupidity of taking that chance, but mostly I want to hug her. I almost lost my stubborn, crazy Mom, who thought her washing machine was too precious to leave behind.

I wonder now, were we that poor? That washing machine lasted another 16 years until the house was sold in 1972! Dad thought a “new-fangled” one would use too much well water; my Mom rarely complained.

In 1956, the year our roof caved, central New Hampshire was blanketed with 128.4 inches of snow. According to National Weather Service statistics, from 1868 through 2023, the year 1956 set an all-time high record for snowfall in any one year.