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Weather sometimes an issue

NASHUA – The weather in Greater Nashua on March 10, 1964 – the day of the New Hampshire first-in-the-nation presidential primary election – was similar in some ways to the conditions voters faced in yesterday’s 2020 version of the primary.

Similar, perhaps, but also quite a bit worse.

“A combination of snow, hail and sleet, in the wake of an all-night rain,” is how the late John Stylianos, a Telegraph reporter at the time, described the conditions for readers who chose not to venture outside that day.

Compare that with yesterday’s on-and-off drizzle that, thanks to above-freezing temperatures, largely remained in liquid form, and it’s pretty clear the 2020 turnout was virtually unaffected by the weather, at least in these parts.

And then there was the 25-inch primary-eve blizzard, the super-nasty mix of snow, sleet and rain that struck on another primary day, and the more recent one for which temperatures hovered near zero at the polls’ opening bell and never made it out of the teens all day.

As voters went to the polls Tuesday, Doug Webster, senior meteorologist at Nashua-based Hometown Forecast Services and The Telegraph’s weather columnist, researched New Hampshire primary Election Day weather conditions going back to 1916 – the election that paved the way for the Granite State securing its first-in-the-nation status.

Voters in 1916 and in 1920 must have enjoyed their jaunt to the polls, as both featured daytime temperatures in the mid-70s with no precipitation until well after the polls closed.

Until 1948, the date of the New Hampshire primary changed a handful of times; it was held in March in 1924, then went back to September from 1928-1940.

In 1944, for reasons unknown, the primary was held on July 11, which, with a high temperature of 90 degrees, made it the warmest primary election day on record.

Four years later, in 1948, state lawmakers passed legislation that set the primary in early March. The 1952 and 1956 primaries featured seasonable weather, according to Webster’s statistics, but that would change, quite drastically, come 1960.

Just three days before the March 8 primary, Greater Nashuans awoke to find 25 inches of new snow on the ground, making some folks wonder if they would be able to make it to the polls even three days later.

Not only did voters make it to the polls, they did so in record numbers, casting nearly 6,600 votes, The Telegraph reported.

Going into the 1964 primary, pundits predicted voters would break that record, but Mother Nature again intervened, as reported in The Telegraph.

The next several primaries were for the most part uneventful weather-wise. That changed in 1984, when voters faced what Webster described as “a nasty day with snow, sleet and rain, and lots of precipitation.”

Another unremarkable stretch followed, with a little rain or snow falling here and there until Feb. 9, 2016, when about 6 inches of snow fell during the day, Webster said.

Dean Shalhoup may be reached at 594-1256 or dshalhoup@nashuatelegraph.com.

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