Joe Paterno Made History in the Worst Weather Conditions

January 24, 2012; 5:12 PM
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Photo by AccuWeather.com Meteorologist Kristen Connolly late Saturday, Jan. 21, 2012, as students gathered around Joe Paterno's statue in front of Beaver Stadium, University Park, Pa.

Joe Paterno, a Penn State college football legend, died of lung cancer on Sunday, Jan. 22, 2012. His wife, Sue, and his family were by his side.

He made history several times in his 62-year career on the Penn State coaching staff in the worst weather conditions. Joe Pa was head coach for 46 years.

A crushing snowstorm struck the Northeast on Oct. 29, 2011, the day Paterno won his 409th game, making him the most victorious college football coach of all time. State College, Pa., was buried under 4.8 inches of heavy, wet snow as Penn State beat Illinois 10-7.


Video posted by Youtube user PSUBLJ.

"The Snow Bowl"

The most famous Penn State football game impacted by snow is known as "The Snow Bowl." Nearly 18 inches of snow fell in State College in the four days prior to the Nov. 18, 1995, game.

On Nov. 14, 1995, a nor'easter hugged the mid-Atlantic coast, dumping the heavy snow across the interior Northeast. State College got about 15 inches on that day alone.

AccuWeather.com Expert Senior Meteorologist Dale Mohler and his children were among the hundreds of volunteers that helped to clear snow off the field before Michigan and Penn State squared off.

"Students had to be warned numerous times not to throw snowballs during the game," according to Mohler, who said the snow was still piled high around the students in the stands.

About 80,000 fans shivered with temperatures in the mid-30s as they watched Penn State defeat Michigan, 27-17.

"The Ice Bowl"

The most memorable game played in brutal cold is known as "The Ice Bowl." Whipping winds of more than 30 mph contributed to AccuWeather RealFeel® temperatures as low as zero degrees.

Penn State beat Notre Dame, 21-20, during the Nov. 21, 1987, game, which started with 84,000 shivering fans looking on. However, by the end of the game, many of the fans left due to the severe cold, according to Mohler.

"The field was like concrete," he added.

Unrelenting Rain

Torrential rain also impacted some of Paterno's biggest wins ever, including the Nov. 16, 1985, game. Penn State trounced Notre Dame, 36-6, in unrelenting rain.

A storm pushed across the interior Northeast soaking Happy Valley on Friday. Another storm, situated over the Midwest, followed quickly on its heels. The second storm sent even more heavy rain into the region, tapping into moisture-rich Gulf air.

Temperatures over the mountains were cold enough for the rain to freeze on contact. "You could see the ice on Mount Nittany from Beaver Stadium," said Mohler.

Bringing the Heat

Joe Pa also led Penn State to victory in the grips of a heat wave. On Sept. 9, 1985, the temperature soared to 96 degrees at Byrd Stadium in College Park, Md. Nearby, Baltimore, Md., soared to a record high of 98 degrees for the date.

Penn State beat Maryland State, 20-18, despite the grueling heat. Paterno put in 66 out of the 77 players in uniform that day to give the players a break from the extreme heat. Even five freshman played.

A large dome of high pressure dominated over the Appalachians, acting as a pump pushing hot and humid air into the mid-Atlantic.

It was so hot that 1,200 pounds of block ice was placed on the Maryland sidelines to keep players cool, according to an article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. There was little ice left at the end of the game.

Content contributed by Vickie Frantz, AccuWeather.com staff writer.


A tribute to Joe Paterno by Youtube user mikemccoysmind.


Photo of Joe Paterno's statue in front of Beaver Stadium, University Park, Pa., by AccuWeather.com Meteorologist Kristen Connolly on Sunday, Jan. 22, 2012.

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