Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Blizzard of '66

Snow. It is late January and we haven’t had much snow in Upstate New York yet. A very unusual year and it is making me nervous. The warmer temperatures have been great; even if it means certain harmful elements for the garden have been able to live longer and we have less precipitation meaning that next year’s garden might not do very well. However, as the old saying goes, “I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.” I’m sure we’re going to get snow and when it comes, we’re going to pay for all this good weather we’ve been having.

Comparisons have been made to the winter of 1965-66 when the weather had a similar pattern throughout the late fall and early winter. We’re coming up soon on the anniversary of what has been known locally (and throughout most of the northeast) for the last 50 years as “The Blizzard of 66.” For three days from January 29- 31 snow fell and fell and continued to fall. Although the storm tapered off, some more snow fell the following day adding to the totals. The record for this storm was recorded in Oswego, New York, about an hour north of here at 102 inches—that’s 8 ½ feet of snow! It started out as a nor’easter along the Atlantic coast and then was joined by lake effect snow off of Lake Ontario.[1]

What do I actually remember about this storm? Nothing really. I was just a baby, but I’ve heard many a story about that particular storm. Which brings me to something that I’ve neglected to do enough of in my genealogy, but everybody should do as they are able to. Record the family stories. Get them recorded digitally, on paper, however you can before the previous generations are gone and the stories are forgotten.

There are a couple stories I’ve heard from this storm about people even younger than me. Among the rural community where we lived, the most vivid stories that were told and retold seemed to be about babies that couldn’t wait for the storm to subside and be cleared out before they were born. I won’t mention the family names, as they are not related to me, and I’m not sure how much the stories had been embellished by the time I heard them, especially the first one- so I leave it to the families to record their versions to be as close to the truth as possible.

The first one involved a family in the rural area of the Finger Lakes region. They lived on a fairly main road that ran north and south along one of the lakes. During the height of the storm Mom went into labor and the contractions were not very far apart. The road in front of their house was effectively closed with all the snow coming down and the winds drifting across it. A call into “Fire Control” as the central emergency dispatch was called, yielded the fact that they couldn’t get an ambulance through the storm to the family. The best they could do was to get one on the larger state road about 5 miles away. Soon though, lights were flashing outside the house, the amber lights of a town plow truck. The driver told Dad that he couldn’t keep the road open behind him for an ambulance or pick-up or anything, but if they could get Mom up in the cab, he could get them out to the state road and the waiting ambulance. They made it to the hospital before the baby was born, but that child had the distinction of almost being born in the cab of a snowplow during the peak of the storm.

Another family lived in a small city, only about three blocks or so from the hospital. Should be no problem getting to the hospital. However, the city streets were totally unplowed and their car wouldn’t budge out of the driveway anyway. The drifts were too high for Mom to manage in her condition. Dad found a quick solution. He grabbed an older sibling’s sled, placed Mom on it and pulled her down the hill to the hospital.

What stories might your families have to tell about major snowstorms? Perhaps your own or a sibling’s entrance into the world were as dramatic as these tales I’ve heard. Take the time while snowed in this winter to write them down, interview older members of the family about stories they remember. You might not get all the details, and somebody else might remember the events that happened differently than you do, but get them down anyway. Each person has their own unique perspective on an event and remembers different little details, so get a variety of the same event if possible. It can be fun as well as preserving some memories for those that follow us!

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_American_blizzard_of_1966. Not the most scholarly source, but for weather facts, I think it’s adequate.

No comments: