Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Great Blizzards of Years Past

Remember how it was 65 degrees in February? That was nice wasn't it? I wore shorts and ate dinner on the porch while the cats across the street rolled around in the grass. Now.... not so much. 

Yes another storm has trapped us in Buffalo, a blast of northern ice to remind us winter is over when it decides it is over. How does this storm stack up to past storms? Clearly its not even close to Snowvember or the Blizzard of 77, events I thankfully missed. What about the other big storms the city has faced? How does Winter Storm Stella compare to storms of the more distant past?

The first major storm I found was the White Hurricane of 1913. Occurring between November 7th and November 11th 1913, this horrific storm took 250 lives and sank 12 ships on the Great Lakes. The storm was not a traditional snow storm and as the name implies it was a horrible mix of a blizzard and hurricane that spawned snow squalls, winds that gusted at over 80mph, and icy cold spray that made many ships founder. Waves 35 feet high broke across the Buffalo Harbor as Lake Erie attempted to swallow downtown. Though the White Hurricane caused significant damage to Buffalo, the brunt of the storm's violence was suffered by other Great Lakes cities like Chicago and Cleveland. Many of the foundered lake vessels washed up on the shores near these cities and the removal of bodies and wrecked ships was a difficult process.

The White Hurricane was a freakish and violent weather event and led to a tragic loss of life. Without a doubt it was one of the worst disasters to befall the Great Lakes region in the last 200 years. While no subsequent storms matched its destruction, there have been a number of major snowstorms in Buffalo that occurred after the White Hurricane.
Aftermath of the White Hurricane in Cleveland. Image from
The next major storm I discovered was the St. Patrick's Day storm of 1936 which dumped 19 inches of snow on Buffalo in a day and ruined whatever drinking plans people had made. A year later, just before Christmas, another big storm buried North Buffalo and Kenmore. The Christmas storm caused a minor fracas as lame duck city officials dragged their feet during the clean up. North Buffalo was still buried under several feet of snow by the time Kenmore had been totally dug out. Other storms followed in the 1940s and 1950s and memorable blizzards such as the Storm of 58 and the White January of 41 dumped foot after foot on Buffalo.
Kenmore after the streets had been dug out. Taken from

Image of the Street during the Blizzard of 1958, another giant storm. Taken from

So after looking at just a couple storms from Buffalo's past its pretty clear Winter Storm Stella doesn't stack up. This is a good thing though! Given the choice between a comfortable afternoon watching the snow float down and spending the day shoveling a tunnel out to Main Street I'll take the first option. So for the rest of you, enjoy the storm, and watch the sun set on this blustery and snowy day. Also enjoy this link! Its smooth jazz, a dog, and people wandering around Buffalo after a snowstorm circa 1945.

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