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The Blizzard of 1977

Written by Mary Kate Wirfel

As the end of January approaches many Buffalo residents and historians reflect on the snow storm that happened 44 years ago from January 28th to February 1st of 1977. This became known as one of the worst snow storms in all of Buffalo's history. On Thursday, January 27,1977 the national weather service issued a winter weather advisory for the area saying that there was some sort of winter storm coming. Little did they know what was about to happen.

On the eve of Thursday, January 27 to Friday, January 28,1977 the weather conditions were strong. By Friday afternoon the wind conditions worsened as the wind reached 46 mph and the gusts were 69 mph. The snow began to pile up over frozen Lake Erie and it didn't stop. The wind and the snow created a wall of white with zero visibility and for the next 13 hours the storm raged on in Buffalo. Local meteorologists were not aware of how bad the storm was until it was too late; people were already heading off to work. For the next five days, the storm paralyzed Western New York and parts of Southern Ontario. Everything in the entire city was shut down.

The blizzard was deadly; it killed 29 people, nine of them were buried alive in their cars. Over 15,000 people never made it home on the first night and school districts did not open their doors for two weeks. The schools finally reopened their doors on Valentine's day, February 14th. This type of snow storm happens every 200 years. A similar snow storm happened in November 2014, but the "Snowvember" snow storm was nothing like the Blizzard of 1977. The total amount of snowfall during the blizzard was 12.3 inches over the five days.

I asked my father, who was only 16 years old when the blizzard hit, his experience of living through the storm. He told me that in North Boston there were over 7 inches of snow, the roads were closed, and he didn't go to school for two whole weeks. People on snowmobiles delivered milk to everyone on the road and would also deliver other supplies or whatever they could find at the stores. My dad also told me that my grandfather (his father) did not make it home; he was stranded at his friend's house for five days. After the storm had ended my grandfather walked from his friends house in the Boston village all the way back home, leaving his truck behind. He survived the snowy walk home. My grandmother made bread and the random snowmobilers delivered the bread to people's homes.

I also spoke to my mother who was only 13 when the blizzard happened. Her family lived in South Buffalo. They did lose power for the five days and my grandfather (her father) ended up being stranded at the Buffalo Armory on Connecticut Street until things cleared up and he finally made it home. Since there was no power my grandmother heated the house with the gas stove in the kitchen and the only food that they had to eat during that time was bologna and bread sandwiches. When my grandfather finally made it home, he and my mother took a sled down to a small corner store to see what they could find. All they got was water and a loaf of bread because everything else was already gone. The legacy of the Blizzard of 1977 will be known as one of the worst storms to hit in Buffalo's history. There have been several books written about the storm, pictures to document it, as well as a board game. The idea of the game is to get home from work before the blizzard hits.

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I highly doubt having 7 feet of snow fall isn't worse than the Blizzard of '77. More snow fell, more people died, it was not expected to be that bad, schools were closed for nearly a half a month (yes Thanksgiving exists but it would've been closed anyway). They're both severe in their own ways really.

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