The story of the Blizzard of '77 actually began early in the winter of 1976_1977. The weather was unusually harsh leading up to the blizzard. The average temperature for both November and December was about six degrees below normal. January averaged ten degrees below normal. Severe gas shortages were already underway. Industries and schools were forced to curtail activities and in some cases close.
In addition to
the extreme cold, snowfall in November totaled 31.3 inches, in December 60.7
inches and through the 27th of January 59.1 inches. There was a persistent
snow cover from November 29th...unusual for a
On the 27th of
January, low pressure crossed Lake Erie and moved to James Bay in
The storm began on the 28th of January as snow started falling at 5am. As winds freshened from the south ahead of a strong cold front, about two inches of new powder had accumulated on top of the 33 inch snow pack and drifts from previous storms dating back before Christmas! During the morning, the temperature rose rapidly from five degrees at midnight to 26 degrees at 11 am.
however, the storm hit with a ferocity that many in this snow-savvy city had
never before seen. As the cold front passed through
reached its worst severity during the late afternoon as winds at the
When a fire
broke out on
In addition to
the 29th, while blizzard conditions prevailed the Buffalo Courier Express could
not publish it's morning paper for the first time in
143 years. The federal government issued a declaration of Emergency which
allowed their agencies to come in and provide whatever was needed to restore
normalcy to the region. By the 30th, Federal officials had taken over snow
removal operations and before the end of the storm over 500 national guardsmen
were helping in the disaster. Offers for aid and relief came from as far
away as mainland
It was estimated that snow removal costs alone exceeded 20 million dollars. Snowmobilers and those with four wheel drive became invaluable as they delivered emergency food and medical supplies. Sadly, 29 deaths were blamed on the storm, many found frozen in their half buried cars during the four day ordeal. In addition, looting of businesses and stranded cars also took place beginning on the 29th with nearly one hundred arrested.
When the sun
finally came out for good on the 1st of February, its cold light revealed a
scene of incredible desolation in
The storms toll was felt by all. Factories and industries were closed for over a week. Retailers reported millions in lost sales as stores remained closed. At the Buffalo Zoo, over 20 animals perished in the storm and damage was estimated at nearly a half a million dollars.
Braves professional basketball games were postponed as well as two Buffalo Sabres hockey games. Mail delivery was suspended for nearly
a week also. President Carter declared seven western counties federal
disaster areas, the first time ever for a snowstorm in the
the snow at
Some of the weather
records set at
12/26/76 through 2/8/77
12/20/76 through 2/10/77
Winter 1976 - 1977
February 4 1977
The photographs below were compiled from the U.S. Army Corps
of Engineers Buffalo District publication entitled "Operation Snow
Go - Blizzard of '77". This is an excellent, detailed
post-storm report for nine counties affected by the blizzard in
clearing operations on
house, located in
first I have to find my car, then I have to dig it out, then I have to start
it, then I have to get it home! (
is a truly ironic photograph. Here, trucks are taking snow that
was produced by
As you can see, a TV crew treks across tremendous snow drifts to get some film footage of a C-130 bringing in badly needed men and equipment. The drifts are so deep that the crew avoids the roof of a car as they walk along. (Courier Express)
Cross volunteers traveling by snowmobile checked for trapped passengers in
vehicles such as the one shown above. Nine bodies were found frozen to
death during and shortly after the blizzard. A total of 23 deaths were
attributed to the blizzard in the
One-lane traffic was very common after the storm. Snow plows just kept going, in an attempt to clear as many roads as quickly as possible after the storm. I would not want to turn around here!. (2/7/77 Dept. of Transportation)
information below was compiled from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Buffalo
District publication entitled "Operation Snow Go - Blizzard of
'77". This is an excellent, detailed post-storm report for
nine counties affected by the blizzard in
Appendix B contains a short synopsis of a number of newspaper articles that appeared in the Buffalo Evening News, Courier Express, and the Watertown Daily Times.
The intent of this section is to give an all-around view of the many events which transpired during those few unforgettable days. These tidbits touch upon the many heroes, hard workers, acts of kindness, tragedies, and near tragedies that took place. They tell of many who came from near and far to help, of those who opened their doors, of those who gave so much, and unfortunately of the very few who only took advantage of an already bad situation and made it worse by looting or instituting price gouging. They tell of the many new weather records set, of the funny things, and of the sad things that happened. They tell of the unbelievable amounts of money spent on snow removal and the large losses suffered by farmers and businessmen. They also tell of the dignitaries who visited the affected areas, but most of all they tell of THE WAY IT WAS, during the "Blizzard of '77."
A Buffalo City Judge visited the
Hard hit by the Blizzard of '77, 16 of the 25 towns in
For thousands of
During the emergency period the Buffalo Police Dept.
answered 9,650 calls for service and the Fire Department answered 1,570
emergency calls. The fire fighters made an incredible save by stopping a
three alarm fire at Whitney and Virginia on the night the storm hit. Fears of
A half dozen persons stranded on farms in Lewis county said they were boiling snow for water, and one resident said he would have to kill a calf for food.
A number of women who could not get to hospitals had babies at home without incident.
A young man and his six year old daughter died of carbon monoxide fumes when he started a snow blower in a closed garage. The fumes killed him in the garage and his child in her bedroom.
Another young man was killed in
After struggling to keep his driveway cleared, a northern
Three reindeer from the Buffalo Zoo took advantage of the giant drifts and easily jumped the fence for a short-lived vacation from captivity. All were sighted within a mile and brought back in after being tranquilized.
Approximately 66 inches of snow fell on
A seven member family who live in a small house near
A law enforcement officer's nightmare was filling out an
accident report involving 50 cars and 113 people. This occurred on Route 31
Many ambulance crews ignored the danger of going into the elements during the blizzard. They responded to the calls as quickly as possible constantly battling the blowing snow and high drifts. One crew carried a snowmobile with them so that they could reach a woman in labor.
Three days after the storm first hit, a number of
hotel-type establishments, which were housing hundreds of stranded people,
had begun rationing food in the
A number of husbands who were stranded complained that their wives were suspicious and refused to believe conditions were as bad as they said.
Four pedestrians on
One of the largest temporary bedrooms in
About six days after the blizzard first started the Salvation Army estimated they had fed about 67,000 people, issued warm clothes to an estimate: 4.5000 persons and housed 851 people.
The weather was so bad at
Records kept at
Even the Marines had a tough time navigating through the
blizzard. A convoy transporting 84 Marines became stranded near
When a rotary plow driver working an area with drifts 12 feet high was asked if he was concerned about hitting buried objects, he said he wasn't worried about hitting a car, especially small cars. With a straight face, he said, "Vo1kswagens are okay, they go through the rotary blades."
A common phrase heard throughout the affected areas from officials and volunteers who worked many consecutive hours manning radios, phones, cooking, etc. was, "there was no night, no day."
Some of the larger plants in the
About 3,000 workers at the Harrison Radiator Division
Many people who had to take refuge in local bars report that it was like New Year's Eve.
On Monday morning a local radio station in
A minister who hopes, somehow, to keep in touch with 200 persons who stayed with him at the church said, "I think an interdenominational prayer service is what we need to get us together with God."
Over 500 National Guardsmen augmented city and State workers. They included the entire l52nd Engineer Battalion, elements of the 22lst Engineer Group and elements of the 42nd Aviation Battalion.
One example of the amount of milk being dumped by the
Governor Hugh Carey was asked to send in helicopters to search for persons, alive or dead, who may still be in some of the hundreds of vehicles abandoned in the city and suburbs. Seven bodies were found in cars by Saturday morning.
On 29 January, the Buffalo Courier Express reported that it was the first time since 1834 that weather interrupted its publication.
Unofficial estimates place the number of abandoned
An advance party of a 300 man Army airborne engineer task
On 9 February, Salvation Army officials stated they had
distributed through their
Over 500 New York National Guardsmen assigned to the
Armored personnel carriers loaded with food, medicine and baby formula lumbered loudly through Watertown, NY, Monday night, 31 January, as the heavy vehicles set out for nearby towns that were short of supplies.
Reports of food and fuel shortages were becoming increasingly common as the storm continued.
On 2 February, at 7:00 a.m., the travel by auto ban was
lifted for five hours in the
On 2 February, an advance party from the Corps Buffalo
office arrived by helicopter in
On 12 February an estimated 160 tons of
The phone rang at 3:30 a.m. in the sales office of 1.1.
A 34-year old polio victim, who uses crutches to walk,
manned his four-wheel-drive vehicle over a sporadically interrupted 96-hour
stretch during the blizzard. He lugged food and medicines to shut-ins, helped
police chase looters, rushed a heart-attack victim to
The only school to remain open and hold classes right
through the blizzard of '77 was the
National Guard troops reported, "The people on
A taxi company asked help in locating three of their cabs which had been missing for one week.
The entire contingent of 31 Coast Guard
personnel, including 3 women, were isolated at their Buffalo Base off
Although many funeral services were conducted during the week of the storm in spite of the weather and driving bans, very few actual burials took place. Most caskets were stored by funeral directors and cemeteries until conditions allowed actual burials later in February.
The Westchester County Executive returned half of their
county's $103,000 emergency hiring money to the Federal Government to be
The zero visibility that the blizzard brought occurred so
quickly that it trapped
National Guard personnel operating heavy duty open cab snow removal equipment had to change shifts every 12 to 15 minutes during the extreme cold periods. "Warm Up" trucks stood by so that they could hop in, warm up, then relieve their relief.
Sample answers given to inquiries concerning the driving ban; "Yes, you can drive your wife to the hospital to have her baby; Yes, you can go to a funeral, but not to a wake; Yes, the wedding can go on with the guests arriving by car."
The only serious accident reported, concerning the clearing of hundreds f street miles, occurred on 5 February, when a pedestrian was run Over and killed by a truck full of snow while it was backing down a street.
A Hamburg snowmobile dealer tells the story of a man coming into his store during the height of the blizzard on Friday and asking, "how much does this cost?" pointing to a snowmobile. "What else would I need to drive it? Any special clothing? Special equipment?" After he was completely outfitted he reached into his pocket, peeled off $2,000, and roared off into the night on his new snowmobile.
Shovel off to
There were 100 residents still isolated in
There were many tales of human kindness during the five days of sometimes zero-visibility weather that followed, but there were also stories of irresponsible behavior.
The rash of looting in the east side of
One report told of a neighborhood grocer who reportedly charged $2.50 for a half-gallon of milk.
In spite of the fact that officials and volunteers tried to do the very best they could under the circumstances, many phone calls conveyed only awful name calling.
A few of the travelers stranded at Greater Buffalo International Airport report they were charged $10 per person to be driven across the street to local motels. The taxi drivers would not leave until they had five in the car.
The Buffalo Fire Department responded to seven false alarms Friday, 20 Saturday and 15 Sunday.
Police reported that some truck drivers in the south end
The Buffalo Fire Department reported the loss of radios and microphones from mired trucks it had been forced to leave at fire scenes during the storm.
More than $1,500 worth of medical supplies were taken from a stalled ambulance. A downtown bar stopped selling individual drinks and began selling by "the bottle only" $16 a bottle.
A downtown hotel doubled the price of its $20 rooms and doubled the cost of the standard l5-cent phone call from the rooms.
Some private taxicab operators quoted "take it or leave it" prices to their passengers.
A private plow operator asked $50 to clear an elderly couple's driveway.
They refused, and another operator came by and cleared the driveway in five minutes, free of charge.
Examples of price gouging - bread $1.00 a loaf, eggs $2.50 a dozen, cookies $1.50 a package.
Towing charges as high as $65 to $80, which seem exorbitant until looking into the facts which revealed that it occasionally took 2-1/2 hours to dig out and deliver the cars or that a service man was utilizing a 40 ton wrecker.
A few residents complained of being charged 70 cents to $1 a gallon for gasoline. The normal cost of regular gas was about 60 cents. A few others complained that unless you were a regular customer you couldn't buy any gasoline at certain stations.
Because of the severe winter, 33 of
Two fires in
A report from
Two men cruised city streets with a large sign attached to the front of their car reading "Here Comes Help." They got people's cars started, rescued freezing motorists in stalled cars and drove pedestrians home or to other shelters.
From Friday through Wednesday, the Buffalo Chapter of the American Red Cross reported that five tons of food through 84 (14 in the city and 70 in the county) feeding stations had been distributed. They estimate feeding about 50,000 people to that date.
On 4 February,
James Earl "Chip" Carter III, the 26 year old
son of President Carter, sent on a fact finding trip to
Looking at the Blizzard of 77 in retrospect, one obvious conclusion that strongly shines through is the unselfishness and genuine concern people showed toward one another.