Do you recall the nor’easter that gave us the “Great Blizzard of 1978”? What about the snowiest winter on record of 1970-1971? More recent winters brought us the abnormal shift of the polar vortex in 2013-2014, and just 3 days ago on March 1st, Alpena broke the record for daily snowfall with 7.2 inches! Beating our previous record of 6.2 inches in 1926. With only 2 more weeks until the official start of spring, let’s reflect on the winters of the past that make us Michigan tough!
December, 1970– a whopping 45 inches of snowfall was recorded, making this the snowiest December in Alpena history! Heavy snowfall continued on through January, February, and March as Kathy Pinkerton of Alpena recalls, “the year of 1971 had a record number of snow days. They had to extend the school year so we would have the required number of days attended!” With 10 school cancellation days by March and 8-ft. high snow drifts, even postal services had to come to halt in and out of the Alpena area!
January, 1978– “The Great Blizzard of ‘78”, also known as “The White Hurricane”. This storm wreaked havoc on the Great Lakes and many other eastern states for 3 whole days! Local Alpena resident, Judy Hart, will never forget the Great Blizzard of ’78, as a medical emergency forced them out into the storm. “We had to call an ambulance because we couldn’t get out of our driveway- huge drifts and the snow in the streets was 18-24 inches high!” Around 100,000 cars were abandoned on Michigan highways during this blizzard.
December, 1983– Stacy VanOrman recalls being 10 years old during
the most epic snow days of all snow days, “we could not see out the front windows and the front door and the back door were both snowed shut. Being 10 years old, I had to find a way to escape from our snow prison…so I crawled out through an upper window. The snow came up to my head! I dug a system of tunnels to lead to the front door and made my own fort equipped with a snow couch, door, and even a second room off the main living area! My father then proceeded to take a number of photos of me to document my historic moment in my ice fortress.” (See photos to the right) Now that is a snow day well spent!
February, 2014– In more recent winters past, the polar vortex shift in early 2014 brought us record breaking low temperatures. On February 28th the low in Alpena was -23 degrees Fahrenheit! Do you recall those early mornings getting ready for work and starting your car in negative temperatures that chilled to the bone? Only to be greeted with frozen doors, frozen windows, and in turn, frozen fingers!
Many Alpena residents reminisced about the excitement of snow days. When the snow was waist deep and building snowmen and snow forts with siblings and the neighbor kids was a whole day’s worth of work. Watching Dad shovel the driveway while Mom prepared homemade soup and hot chocolate to warm up rosy cheeks and frozen noses. Perhaps mother nature gives us snow days to remind us of what really matters most in life, making memories and providing safety and comfort with the ones you love and hold near and dear to your heart.
Do you have a memory of an infamous Alpena snowstorm or a particularly awesome snow day? Submit your stories to Alpena: Sanctuary of the Great Lakes on Facebook for a chance to be featured as an addition on this blog!