Friday, February 5, 2010
The Great Blizzard of 1967
Back in my day, of course the forecasting was a bit iffier. On January 24, 1967, it was a balmy 60 F degrees in Chicago. The forecast for the 26th (mid-year graduation day for Chicago high schools) was possibly light snow up to four inches. Now in Chicago, that wasn't anything to even notice. Four inches? Bah.
On the morning of the 26th, I dressed and headed off to school. Strictly speaking there was no school that day as it was a combined teacher in-service day and graduation day. But the choir sang at the graduation so I went in to set up the chairs on the risers. It was snowing at a moderate rate.
My parents weren't going to be home that evening after the graduation so I made arrangements to stay with a friend across the street from the school.
At school, the choir officers--President, Vice President, Treasurer and Secretary (that was me!)--trooped down to the auditorium to set up the chairs. The AV guys were down there setting up the PA system. Officers from the orchestra were setting up in the pit. It was a noisy, bustling scene.
Around noon we went back up to the choir room to get our coats. Our intent was to walk the three blocks up to a popular kosher hot dog stand and buy lunch. Polite kids that we were, we asked our choir teacher if she wanted anything. And she was the one who suggested we look out the window before embarking on our trip.
There was already about a foot of snow on the ground!
After some consultation, the guys decided they would go as we girls were all dressed in skirts. Slacks were not permitted until two years later. So in my day, we generally froze while walking to school. There was no bus system other than the CTA buses.
The guys waded through the snow to fetch lunch. The owners of the stand were getting ready to close up and go home so they packed everything they had left and sent it with the guys in case anyone else was hungry.
By three o'clock, there were serious issues on the streets. Most of the smaller streets were already impassable. Many of the main streets were rapidly getting there. And the freeways were a giant parking lot of abandoned cars.
I made my way across the street to my friend's house. Her mom made sure I had a hot dinner. We watched the spotty coverage on the television until the power went out. Then her father walked me back across the street to the school.
Just about half of the choir, orchestra, and graduating students were able to make it to the school. Some of the choir and orchestra students were stuck for hours on the elevated train. There were some teachers stuck overnight at the school. Buses, trains, cars all were unable to drive as the snow steadily deepened.
The next day when it finally stopped, the official measurement was 29 inches of snow. In the middle of the street where I lived, we had 32 inches. For the first time in living memory, the schools closed for weather. I didn't make it home until four days later.
Then began the great dig out. There were snow tunnels everywhere. Kids were playing on top of the cars. A deep freeze came down out of Canada and froze the snow so hard it was like concrete.
My middle brother chose that week to run away. The cops picked up him and his friend walking down the center of the closed Interstate.
Two of the pictures above are from that blizzard. Funny, but after living through that, somehow the rest of the storms don't seem so impressive. Who knows? Maybe today's storm will impress the heck out of me. I'll let you know how it measures up!