Tuesday, February 01, 2011

From the archives: Where were you when the blizzard hit?

First posted January 28, 2007.  See the original post  for several interesting responses.  The photo below was found here.

January 28th, 1977 was the first day of the Great Lakes Blizzard of 1977. If you never realized just how significant that snowstorm was--well, it has its own page on Wikipedia, so there you go.

Some people associate this storm with Buffalo. We didn't live in Buffalo, we lived in the same part of southern Ontario we do now. But you need to understand the connection we had with Buffalo, because of TV and particularly because of Channel 7 WKBW, the home of Eyewitness News, Commander Tom, Rocketship 7 (the show that featured Gumby and Davey and Goliath), and all the other cool American shows that we saw thanks to the marvel of cable TV. We were about as familiar with the goings-on in Buffalo as we were with things at home: weekly deals at Bell supermarkets, Muscular Dystrophy Carnivals, how the hockey team was doing, what was on fire...and later on, reminders to "remember the hostages in Iran." (I never hear the Sabre Dance without thinking of hockey.)

Anyway...on January 28th, the storm hit, and it lasted until February 1st. Think of the beginning of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer". Think of The Long Winter and Snowbound with Betsy. It was That Kind of a Storm. I know winters were worse back then, but this was the one we remembered. According to Wikipedia,
In the hardest struck areas snowmobiles became the only viable method of transportation. In Western New York and Southern Ontario, snow built up on frozen Lake Erie and the snow cover on the ground over land at the start of the blizzard provided ample material for the high winds to blow around into huge drifts. The combination of bitter cold, high winds, and blowing snow paralyzed the areas most strongly affected by the storm. Lake Ontario was not frozen, which meant that Northern New York did not have to deal with previously accumulated snow blowing off the lake’s surface. This did allow for considerable lake effect snow to occur, that when coupled with the existing snow cover and wind also created paralysis.
Here's another interesting page that says, "By the night of Friday, January 28, 1977, thousands of people were stranded in office buildings, schools, police stations, fire halls, bars, factories, cars, houses and in the homes of strangers. Most highways were impassable, train lines were blocked and airports were closed."

Mr. Fixit's dad was coming home from work that afternoon and ended up leaving his car several blocks away because the streets were so filled with snow abandoned cars that he couldn't get through. He was also only wearing a light overcoat! He couldn't find their house but managed to get to the neighbour's and stayed there until he could make it home--next door. [Update: that's Mr. Fixit's account. Grandpa Squirrel says that he did get to his house, banged on the door and rang the doorbell--but the power was out, everybody was in the basement keeping warm around the fireplace, and nobody could hear him to let him in!] A few miles to the south, Mama Squirrel was just happy to be let out of school early for the day, and she remembers her own dad bringing somebody who got stranded at work to spend the night.

And it just kept snowing! This page details some of the serious and sad results of the storm, as well as this "disaster": "Four Buffalo Braves professional basketball games were postponed as well as two Buffalo Sabres hockey games."

As a tribute to Eyewitness News and the Storm of 1977, here's a very short audio clip of Irv Weinstein saying that Buffalo has been declared a disaster area. (Unfortunately, I can't link to more than the site; but a search on that page for Blizzard will get you to the right place.)

What were you doing in January 1977?

1 comment:

Brenda@CoffeeTeaBooks said...

My daughter was born in December by C-section. Our part of the Midwest had a huge snow storm while I was in the hospital recovering. We thought that was terrible. Little did we know what January would bring...

Yes, we still talk about "THE STORM" and everyone knows what storm we are talking about.

We ran out of everything, food... formula (I had tried to nurse but she was losing too much weight)... everything.

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