Saturday, April 30, 2005

The Snowstorm of 1967

Parents are always telling you about the "bad weather" back there on the farm when they were children. "I had to walk a mile to school in four foot of snow, every day, uphill both ways." We have all heard it. Now it's my turn.

In Gary, Indiana it can get really cold. I had to stand on the corner and wait for the bus in temperatures that were 24 degrees below zero, before the advent of wind chill indicators; and we had to wear skirts or dresses to school. There it is, my "how bad I had it with the weather as a child" story.

Except it brings to mind the year I was in 9th grade. In January of 1967 we were having some really unusual weather for northern Indiana. It had been unseasonably warm with temperatures in the upper 60's and 70's on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday of that week. In fact when a strong front headed for the area we had severe thunderstorm warnings and even tornado watches with lightening and rain. The air behind the front was extremely cold and the area of low pressure was huge. The temperature dropped into the upper 20's and low 30's by Tuesday night and the rain turned to snow.

It was snowing when I took the bus to school on Wednesday, a wet snow with huge fluffy flakes and very heavy, "blizzard-like conditions". By noon eight inches or so had accumulated so they closed schools and took everyone home. My mother taught school in an area across town from the parsonage. By the time she got home mid-afternoon, there was over 12 inches on the ground, it was still snowing and she couldn't see the driveway. She just aimed her little car at the garage door and hoped for the best. It stuck in a drift that was already forming and there it stayed. At least it was off the road.

It continued to snow all day Wednesday, Wednesday night, all day Thursday, Thursday night and all day Friday. It finally quit sometime in the early hours of Saturday morning. They never were sure exactly how much snow fell as the gauges measured to 36 inches and they ran over. All I knew was that WE WERE OUT OF SCHOOL! Now it isn't that I didn't like school, I did. But in Gary, Indiana we hardly ever got out of school for snow. It just didn't happen. They have snow plows and salt and sand and they just know how to handle it. It isn't like Mississippi where they had a THREAT of snow and closed schools at noon; right before the sun came out that afternoon.

There are several problems with that kind of blizzard. First, you didn't expect the snow to be that bad so you didn't get to the store to get bread, milk and eggs before it became too bad to get to the store. So what you have in the freezer and fridge have to last.

Second, the snow was over 36 inches deep, the front stoop of the house was the highest elevation but not that high and all the doors of the house opened outward except the basement door. So, the doors were stuck. Shoveling didn't help because the wind was also blowing and as fast as you dug to the bottom in one area, another area would drift over. We had drifts as high as the roof line of the house. The garage door was drifted to the roof line and wouldn't budge.

Third, our dog Pepper, was outside in her warm, heated, insulated, two room doghouse. This is fine except we can't see the doghouse; it is buried under a snow drift that covered her house and the kitchen window. So, I had to go out through the only door that opened inward, climb the basement stairs and start digging in the general area of the dog house. I finally hit the roof and worked my way to the front. We were afraid she would suffocate in the house and she had not dug out on her own during the actual snowstorm. But when I got down to the front door, there she was, tail wagging, toasty and dry in her condo. We let her stay in the garage for a while until I got her area cleared a bit. Unfortunately, overnight the drifts again formed over the fence and she just trotted up the drift, over the fence and out of the yard. The next morning when we went looking for her and called her we saw this little black speck coming over the white snow. She had gone into the woods behind the house and came home dragging a prize; I think it was a shoe. She loved shoes. So until the meltdown, she had to stay inside. It was either dig her out from under a drift or have her get out over a drift. It was just easier to keep her inside.

The fourth problem is boredom. After two or three days it was just plain boring to be stuck, rationing food (not that bad as we did have a freezer), in a house with a 4 year old brother and parents. We were out of school of course the rest of the week it was snowing and four days the next week. You can only read so much. FM radio was just starting to be popular and AM was as static filled as it is today.

On Friday, a week after the storm stopped, the roads were deemed clear enough for school to open. I don't know why they bothered. Over half of the kids were absent as many of the more remote roads were still under drifts or worse the parents had cars covered with the snow plowed off the streets. But we had school that Friday. That weekend it snowed 12 more inches so we missed Monday but somehow, by Tuesday they finally had everything back together.

Mom had to drive the big car back to her school because her little one was still buried. When the snow finally melted and we saw where she ended up, we laughed. She missed the driveway by about a foot and was stuck in the shallow ditch beside the road. At least we found the car....for a while all you could see was a little bit of the black top.

1 comment:

Deb Fox said...

<span>My Mother said the school bus picked us up :-D  and the snow was coming down, she was surprised they didn't call school.  By 1:00 they sent us home.  My Mother couldn't get the door open so we climbed in by climbing on the picnic table and threw the window.  A great memory of watching the snow come down and feel so save in our house.</span>