Hello, Chicago! Today, more snow, and subzero. Latest totals are 29.5 inches at O’Hare for January. That’s more than January 1967 or 1999!
The blizzard of 1967 is still the largest single snow event in Chicago history. It was the Big Snow. During 35 hours on January 26-27, a total of 23 inches of snow fell on the city and suburbs.
Two days before, on Tuesday, January 24, the temperature was unseasonably mild. It was a balmy 65 degrees, with rain. Wednesday, temperatures started dropping. Snow began falling on Thursday, January 26 at 5:02 a.m. and kept falling until 4 p.m. on Friday, January 27.
According to the Chicago Tribune, there was little or no advance warning. Thousands of downtown workers were stranded trying to get home. Both O’Hare and Midway shut down. Hundreds of CTA busses and thousands of cars were abandoned, blocking the streets. Roofs collapsed under the weight of the snow. The city came to a standstill. Long lines formed at grocery stores. There was looting. There were 26 deaths from the snow, including a 10-year-old girl who was accidentally caught in the cross-fire between police and looters and a minister who was run over by a snowplow. Several others died of heart attacks from shoveling snow.
Drifting, blowing snow piled as high as 10 feet. Schools were closed for days. As you can see from the photo above, these kids had a great time.
Here are some more photos from the Tribune archives.
Could this be the memory of snow we carry with us, the kind of winters we remember? A “real” winter? Snow piled higher than cars. Even those born since then have seen pictures and heard stories about the Great Blizzard of 1967.
Think of it in context of the mid-60’s, too–Lyndon Johnson was President. Richard Daley, Sr. was Mayor. The Viet Nam War was going on. Martin Luther King, Jr. would speak out against the war in April of 1967.
The number 1 song on the Billboard charts for the week of January 26 was “I’m a Believer ” by the Monkees. The Beatles, the Supremes and the Rolling Stones were also popular. Mini skirts were the latest style.
This was before Woodstock, the first Moon landing, the ’68 Convention. There had been riots on the West Side the summer before. There were no cell phones, except on Star Trek, which premiered in 1966. This was before microprocessors and personal computers. A first class stamp cost 5 cents.
There was a Woolworth’s on State Street, then. And Marshall Fields. Marina City, built in 1963, was a marvel of modern city living. The Picasso statue in Daley Plaza would be dedicated in August of 1967.
The Chicago Cubs roster that year included Ernie Banks, Fergie Jenkins and Ron Santo. The Chicago Blackhawks had Phil Esposito, Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita.
Many winters have passed since then, and blizzards. We have the internet, now. We have Doppler Radar.
Could the Blizzard of 1967 happen again? Well, call it Snowpocalypse or Snowmageddon, the Ground Hog Day Blizzard of 2011 brought almost as much snow as the Blizzard of 1967. A total of 20 inches was reported at O’Hare.
Because of the state-of-the art forecasting, many downtown offices closed early, and people were able to get home before the storm hit. Yet, even with advance warning, cars were still stranded on Lake Shore Drive. Cell phones ran out of power. Fake Twitter account @RahmEmanuel was tweeting from the hood of a snowplow on Lake Shore Drive. And who could forget the THUNDERSNOW?
Real Rahm Emanuel is the Mayor, now. We are more prepared for snow storms, today. We have snow plows and snowmobiles, snow blowers and snow shovels. We have antifreeze. We have better cell phones.
Chicago Weather Center reports “cumulative seasonal snowfall of 44.8 inches, and counting. That’s 260 percent of Chicago’s normal season-to-date snowfall (17.2 inches) and 122 percent of the city’s normal full-season total of 36.7 inches. In 130 years of official snowfall data, only two winters have had more snow through Jan. 21: 1951-52 with 54.0 inches and 1978-79 with 66.3 inches.”
Yes, we’re getting some big snow this year. I’d say it’s been a real winter, so far! This is one to remember.
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