slide show and radio news from January 28th 1977. My personal story of survival from that deadly storm follows;
On the evening Of Thursday January 27th, my husband and I went to Ft. Erie Canada to visit friends. A young bride at 19, I was 5 months pregnant with our first child. There had been quite a bit of snow accumulation in the previous weeks after Christmas, much like it is now. My friends lived in a little 2 bedroom cottage on Highway 1 "The Dominion Hwy" right on the lake at the mouth of the Niagara River. The old Fort Erie was across the street, a tourist attraction now but originally was built as a British garrison in 1764 as a supply depot and later was taken by American troops during the War of 1812.
It became late in the evening after we had fun making dinner and watching a movie while visiting with our friends and we decided to stay the night in their spare bedroom. They had work in the morning. Jody my girlfriend, was a customs agent working for the Canadian Gov. and Dave my husbands' friend, was a short haul truck driver. They were newly married that summer also.
The next morning we were awoken by the phone ringing off the hook and decided to answer it, it was Jody in a panic telling us to get all the money we could (their stash and whatever we had) and get to the little grocery store down the road and stock up. "There is a huge storm coming" and she was on her way home. We hurried to the store approx. two miles away past the 'S' curves that ran parallel to the Lake Erie. We had about $30.00 but that was enough to get about three bags of groceries in those days. We were in a happy mood as my husband loaded the bags in the back seat of our 1965 Impala. It was about 11 am.
We pulled out of the driveway and headed back towards the S curves and home to the cottage when we saw it, a massive grey wall coming straight at us. We barely had time to say anything when it hit; a blinding sideways hitting white-out with howling winds. We were on the road and then bam, we hit another car head on. I didn't have a seat belt on and my knees slammed into the dash.( no one used them back then, those bruises lasted for weeks) I said I was OK and what did we hit?, we could not even see what it was! He jumped out and came back a few minuted later saying it was an old couple and her head hit the windshield and was injured but it was decided to keep going. The storm was intense and it was dangerous to stay stopped on the road.
My husband Nick decided to drive the car (whose hood was now blown straight up) partway in the ditch on the side of the road and try and count the streets back. I recited the names of the streets I could remember whilst he stuck his head out the window and drove.
We could not see the end of the car much less any street signs or anything at all! It was a total white-out. All of a sudden the wind cleared for a second and in the white we saw a stop sign. He said "we've gone too far we're at the fort" I agreed, it was the only stop sign on that stretch of road. He turned around and we counted 2 streets back and pulled into that road and somehow found the driveway. Dave and Jody's house was the first one on the corner.
Jody had already arrived and was worried about her husband. We made dinner and waited and listened to the news on the radio and TV. Children had been dropped off by the schools and were home alone, their parents not able to make it home. Over the next few days we were glued to the radio. Children were staying on the phone with volunteers that helped them get a meal, get ready for bed and just hung out with them as they were terrified, some of the wee ones as young as 6.
For a few days it was a below zero F, wind howling, complete white-out blizzard out there. When it stopped we opened the side door to a complete wall of snow, and started digging. Dave made it home after 3 days by getting a snow mobile ride from someone he knew in a neighboring town after having to abandon his truck at a restaurant there.
It took a week of digging to get to the end of the street probably 60 feet at most. They fixed up the car hood by wiring it down and then we waited. The food ran out,and the bridge back to the US had been closed. We were starving at the end.
Finally the bridge opened and we decided to make a run for it. We drove up a snow ramp to get up top the road. We had been completely buried by snow, about 20 feet of it dumped on us. As we drove up there we realized we were driving over the tops of other cars that had been abandoned and were now buried under us. 29 people had lost their lives during that storm, some in their cars.
What I remember about getting home was not just every one's tale of survival but how much everyone had worked together to help everyone else. They went out during the storm to search cars, helping stranded people back to their homes and took care of them for days, strangers helping strangers. Yes there was a shortage of bread and milk and the National Guard had to dig us out, dumping the snow back onto the frozen lake from where it came. I found out that there was no beer nor rolling papers to be had in the entire city although the bars were filled every night. Those who were lucky to have a snowmobile or were close enough to walk over mountains of snow made their way to the shops checked on their neighbors and everyone just spent their days digging.
All of my houseplants died during the two weeks we had spent stranded in Canada. We had been stressed and hungry and fought with our spouses, Jody and I furiously knitted many baby blankets while the guys basically stayed out of our way and dug, lol. The mini series "Roots" had us riveted to the TV every night.
Having had the experience of starving, I now make sure I have one months worth of food stored during the winter months.
Buffalo, New York is known as "The City Of Good Neighbors" as well as "The Queen City Of the Lake", we are known for our brutal winters and for being a snowy city. I've never seen the sheer amount of snow that slammed us that January, and I hope never to again. My daughter Brittany was born that June, none the worse for wear.
I hope you enjoyed the slide show. The book documenting the storm "The White Death" The Blizzard Of 77 by Erno Rossi is a pretty good read.