Thursday, January 1, 2009

Blizzard of 1978

We've all heard stories of blizzards and snowstorms from our parents and grandparents, tales of epic snows and the struggles each one brought.

"I used to walk through snow 3 feet deep just to get to school."

"I remember the snow was up to the window eaves."

"We were snowed in for over a month."

Of course, I have a few stories of my own, like the snowstorm of 2001 when we were supposed to only get a "dusting" and we ended up with 2 feet of snow. This was the winter my middle daughter, Marie, made an igloo by digging out a 3 foot snow drift. This was not a legendary storm, but it is one all three of my children remember. And although I've lived through a few snowstorms and ice storms in my 46 years, nothing compares to my grandparent's epic storms of legend.

Not unless you count the blizzard of 1978. I was 15 years old at the time of this storm, but I'll never forget that winter. Although I kept a journal at the time, many of my facts may not be accurate because at the time, I was more concerned with writing about my boyfriend than the weather conditions. However, I was able to record some of my feelings and the increasing boredom, and my memories have grown each time I tell the story to my girls.

In my telling of the story, we were out of school from Christmas break until Valentine's Day, but I don't think this is exactly right. According to newspaper articles, the big blizzard didn't hit until January 25th, so my slice of reality doesn't hold up to historical facts. We probably had a few “snow days” between Christmas and the big blizzard, but I'm also sure we went to school a few days.

I remember the weathermen had predicted the approaching storm several days before it hit. My parents, like everyone else, had stocked up on food and supplies anticipating a few days of cabin fever. As I researched the blizzard of 1978, I found a report from the National Weather Service, who categorized the storm “as a rare severe blizzard – the most severe grade of storm.” I do have my own records showing at the height of the storm, winds were gusting up to 100 miles per hour. There were also a couple of days when the wind chill was more than 30 degrees below zero. I don't know what the official snow totals were for Harrodsburg, but in our backyard we had 26 inches.

I remember the water lines froze and we didn't have water for days on end. This happened all over town, not just in the subdivision of Riverview where I lived. I remember Daddy hauling water from my grandparents farm in Bohon so we would have water to drink and cook with, as well as to flush the toilets. We also went to the laundromat in Danville to wash clothes because the ones in Harrodsburg didn't have water.

It's funny, I can remember the water lines being frozen, but I don't remember if the electricity was on or off. Our home had a gas furnace, so I guess that would have kept us warm. And I remember we had telephone service because I kept the phone lines hot talking to my boyfriend.

The first few days after the storm were fun because we could go sledding, make snow angels and have snowball fights. My younger brother and his friends made an igloo in the backyard and it was fun watching the building process. After the igloo was finished, they spent hours having the grandest snowball fights!

Although I was a tomboy growing up, I was a wimp about snow and cold weather. After the first few days, I was tired of the snow, so I spent most of my days indoors reading. At the time I owned the first 16 “Trixie Belden Mystery” books and I re-read the entire series twice during this extended vacation. But no matter how much I loved Trixie Belden, I was getting tired of reading the same books over and over again. With school closed I was not able to check books out of the library and the bookmobile was not able to travel to our subdivision. I did have "A Wrinkle in Time" checked out from school, but even Charles Wallace and the Tesseract were not enough to hold my boredom at bay.

And bored became an understatement! After the first week, I would wake early every weekday, only to be disappointed when the radio announced school was closed again. I was actually envious of the Harrodsburg students because they went back to school sooner than we did.

Needless to say, I was so excited to go back to school - to see my friends, to see my boyfriend, to get new books from the library, and ending the overpowering boredom of cabin fever. This will probably be the snowstorm story I tell my grandchildren, and I'm sure the tale will get exaggerated, just the way my grandsparents' and my parents' stories did. But one thing is for sure, I will always remember the beauty and power of the Blizzard of 1978.