It was 35 years ago...

... and I remember it like it was yesterday.

What was it?

The Blizzard of '77, of course!

What, you don't remember it?  :)

I remember walking to school, about half a mile away, that morning. My brother and I were still in grade school - I was in Grade 2, he was in Grade 5. My sister was in Grade 7, attending junior high, and would have taken the bus to school that morning.

As far as I can remember, the morning was quite nice.

Then, it started to snow. And snow. And snow.

Now, this is Canada. Snow is not unusual, nor are blizzards. Growing up, snow days were plentiful, but this storm was different.

Very different.

I still remember someone's father coming to the school with a rope. For all the kids walking home in his direction to hold onto, so they wouldn't get lost. (SO "Little House on the Prairie"!!)

Yes, it was THAT bad.

I also remember him turning off into the subdivision before our house, leaving me and my brother to carry on alone.

And I still remember starting to cry after another block or so, thinking we were not going to make it home.

Yes, it was THAT bad ;)

That is the only time I remember anything like that happening - generally, if school closed, we were left to our own devices for getting home (well, at least those of us who walked to school). I don't remember what the policy was for kids who didn't have a parent at home, but I also don't remember too many mothers who worked full time.

We finally did make it home safe and sound (and really, it wasn't that far from where everyone else turned off, it just seems a LOT further when you are seven and scared!).

What I also remember about the storm is the aftermath.

The area was closed down for days afterwards, and the roads were impassable. The snow was so deep, especially the drifts, that vehicles, including buses, were completely buried.
Yes, that is the roof of a car.
It's a good thing many local residents had snowmobiles, since those, along with the local radio stations, were what literally saved the day. People would call into the station and request help for whatever emergency they were facing, and squads of people on snowmobiles would go and help. They rescued people stranded in cars, help get emergency food and medications to those that needed it, and were, for at least two days after the blizzard, the only things moving.

Dad's co-worker had snowmobiles, and I remember him coming by to get Dad to help. I also remember, after the true emergency was over, them bringing the snowmobiles by the house to give all of us kids rides - the first and only time I've been on one!

I have two lasting impressions of that storm:

1. How a community can come together to help out in an emergency. Without the rescue efforts co-ordinated by the radio stations and carried out by the snowmobilers, I'm sure the death toll would have been much higher. One school friend ended up staying at her bus driver's house - along with every other kid on the bus - when the driver realized she wasn't going to be able to do the run safely. There was more than one example of people banding together to help out, to take in stranded strangers, to share food with others.

2. How unprepared MANY people were to go even 3 days without access to stores. I can remember my Mom being aghast at the number of people calling in to request things like disposable diapers and food. 

And I'm quite sure that second impression is part of what makes me stock up on food and other emergency items, because I don't want to be the one asking for help when the next big blizzard hits!

Wow - 35 years! We've had some big storms since then, but this is the one that sticks in my memory, and I'm sure in the memory of many other who lived through it.

And looking out on the green, green grass this February, it's hard to remember just how much snow there was on the ground 35 years ago!

1 comment:

  1. What a great memory! Thanks for sharing it.

    In 1977, I lived in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I seem to remember it was cold enough to snow one year, but it didn't stay very long.

    In the early 80s, we'd moved to East Texas, and we got a big snow storm that the community wasn't prepared for (no snow plows or salt trunks) and I remember my dad calling the nice old lady down the street to see if she needed us to bring her anything.

    I also hear similar stories from friends who lived through the Loma Prieta earthquake in Los Angeles and how the neighborhood all banded together in the days afterwards, helping each other out.

    I love stories like that. Even with our political and personal difference, we're still human and when crisis hits, we come together.



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