On The 10th Day of Blogmas: The Blizzard of ’97

Blogmas

I am clearly having snow withdrawals because I have been watching documentaries about the Blizzard of ’49 on Colorado & Wyoming PBS. Listen, I am not asking for a Christmas blizzard but a little snow would be nice. It got me thinking about the Blizzard of ’97 & how even with all of our modern conveniences, we are still fragile in the hands of mother nature.

If you are a Minnesotan or ever lived here, I am sure that you have been regaled with tales of the Halloween Blizzard of ’91. There was a foot on the ground before the kids were back from trick or treating 🙂 There have been heavy snowfalls since I have lived here, nothing that really shut the city down but I am still waiting. Anyway, us Coloradoans have our very own tales of an October Blizzard & it was pretty epic as I recall. I grew up in the San Juan River Valley, we didn’t have mild winters – the chains went on in October & didn’t come off until April. I was in 3rd grade, we went to school in town which was 45-minutes to an hour down the mountain. There were a dozen or so of us that were called ‘the mountain kids’ because we were designated our own bus since the route was so long. Occasionally, the mountain kids would be sent home early because of winter weather but this particular day, we knew it was a bigger deal because we were loaded up before lunch. I also remember the bus driver looking stressed & no wonder, not only did she have to get us home before the roads became impassible, she had to get back down the mountain to her own home safely. I don’t know how she drove that route all of those years, she was at least 70 for my entire childhood 😛

The atmosphere before a big snow has a a feel about it. The air literally feels heavy & dense, I remember being scooted onto the bus & inching closer & closer to these huge snow clouds as we headed up the mountain. It felt like we were being squished between the dense air below us & those huge clouds above us. About halfway into the journey, we ran into a wall of snow that had been falling in earnest already & only got heavier as we gained altitude. As kids I don’t think we fully appreciated that we were travelling through white out conditions along a twisty, turny mountain road but we were feeling tense nonetheless.

With each kid that was deposited safely in front of their home, a blast of frigid wind & snow entered the bus. We were all sitting in the middle of the bus nearest to the heat blowers but that icy chill was far reaching. There were two times that we had to pull off so that the driver could bang the ice off of the wipers but the ride was mostly uneventful. In my kid mind, it took us 5 hours to get up the mountain because it was dark out but really, it was about 2 in the afternoon by the time we got home & the sun was just obliterated by the storm system. We were the last stop on the route but we made it. Our farm was down a long dirt road & over a rickety bridge that crossed Stoner Creek (which is river size not creek size) that the bus couldn’t actually drive on but my dad was waiting at the opening of said bridge with the toboggan to pull me home. We watched as the bus driver backed across the road & started her journey back to town.

I had a bloody nose by the time we got home, I get them when I am stressed out but was fine outside of that. The blizzard raged for at least three days but I don’t recall sleeping very much. There’s a lot of things that need to happen on a farm & it’s all thrown into hyper-drive when bad weather is an added factor. The animals have to be accounted for, they have to be kept warm but putting heat sources in a barn is tricky because it eats the oxygen up & you can burn it down. Not all of the animals fit in the barn either, so they have to be contained as close as you can get them so they don’t freeze. We had to bring the ducks inside & house them in the bathroom which was the highlight of the blizzard for me. My dad headed out a few times in the tractor to help others dig out all while the snow was still dumping. At one point, the phone lines did go down but we never lost electricity which was a small wonder considering the weight of the snow on the power lines.

When it finally stopped snowing, the amount of snow was breathtaking. My dad spent hours clearing snow, helping neighbors clear snow – we lived on a county road so often had to clear the main road well before the plows arrived. At some points, there was nowhere for the snow to go & the roadways were very narrow with huge snow mounds on each side. I don’t remember how long we were out of school but I want to say it was at least a week.

When I have travelled home in my adulthood, it never ceases to amaze me remembering how isolated those few mountain farms were. To this day, there is one treacherous, narrow road in – you had to be resourceful in an emergency because outside help is scarce. We never had any major emergencies but a number of things could have gone wrong during that blizzard. The worst that happened on our farm was after the blizzard when I was in charge of returning the ducks to their pond, I slipped & fell in some goose shit & this pack of geese descended on me. We had this weird flock of geese that stayed pretty much year round, they were mean.

Have you experienced any memorable weather events in your lifetime, let me know! I hope you enjoyed, thanks for stopping by ❄

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