We will always be known for the Blizzard of ’77. Younger people ask about the blizzard and wish for another one. I do not. It was a deadly storm and yet it brought people together. Our Mayor at the time, Jimmy Griffin, famous line “grab a six-pack and stay inside”. Buffalo is the city of good neighbors. Everyone works together during these winter storms. And we have been through many but none like the Blizzard of ’77. I would like to first state none of these pictures are my own. They are widely distributed and I provide credit to the local media and national weather services who came into town. Remember this is before smartphones where you can take a picture and text it to the world!! Instead we were glued to the TV and radio to for our news. The phones were only for emergency use.
The actual snowfall was not significant. Over five days we had 12.3 inches as compared to 70 inches of snow in November 2014. it was the high winds plus the massive amount of snow that was on the frozen lake and nearby land. Basically the high winds picked up that snow and dumped it on the city. It buried us.
The storm was from Friday, January 28 to February 1. On January 27, there were warnings of a pending storm – but no one knew it would make history. No one knew how quick it would bury us or how deadly. The Buffalo News reported that by Friday afternoon we had sustained winds at the Buffalo airport at 46 mph, with gusts up to 69 mph. Meteorologists realized Friday morning that their models under-estimated this storm. Somewhere between 9 and 11 a.m. the weather service issued a blizzard warning. The storm hit us at 11:35 a.m. The warning came too late for a few hundred thousand people who were at work or on their way to work.
The high wind combined with the loose snow created a wall of snow. Visibility was zero, for an almost 13 hours, starting at 11:30 a.m. Friday Jan. 28. The storm killed 29 people, at least nine of them buried in their cars. You can see the cars buried in these pictures. Many of them are in parking lots and on the road ways. An estimated 10,000 to 15,000 people never made it home that first night. And some school districts didn’t reopen their doors for more than two weeks, until Feb. 14.
Here is my story of the Blizzard of ’77. Back in those days schools never closed – not like they do today. A little snow and the schools are closed. It was different back in the day. Our school was not closing but our bus drivers knew of the pending storm and refused to drive. School was then closed. Luckily or I would have been stranded at school. Of course it was exciting to have a snow day! Because we did not know a blizzard was headed our way! My mother babysat a couple of young children. Their mother dropped them off and we were settling in. She worked one minute from our house. Literally a minute. Thirty seconds if the light was green. She only made it to the end of our street and then returned to the house. (That takes about 15 seconds.) From the time she arrived to our house and then headed to work the storm was hitting.
We quickly bundled up the two children so they could return home. Their house is 3 minutes away. Plenty of time for them to get home safely. In the few minutes, literally few minutes it took to bundle up the children, their car was buried in our driveway. The storm hit that hard and that fast. They were stranded with us for the weekend. Her husband was stranded at work in downtown Buffalo. Luckily my father worked the afternoon shift at Ford and was home. He was stranded with us. Luckily because during a storm there is a lot to be concerned about.
Below is a news report with more blizzard pictures. It was the storm of the century!