I was sitting here today grumbling to Jack about our lousy, bitter, cold, snowy weather and bad roads with more of the same predicted and March nearly here.
Then I got to thinking about how much worse it could be.
Back in January, 1978 it definitely was worse.
C.R. Snider, National Weather Service Meteorologist in Ann Arbor said on January 30 that year, “The most extensive and very nearly the most severe blizzard in Michigan history raged January 26, 1978 and into part of Friday January 27. About 20 people died as a direct or indirect result of the storm, most due to heart attacks or traffic accidents. At least one person died of exposure in a stranded automobile. Many were hospitalized for exposure, mostly from homes that lost power and heat. About 100,000 cars were abandoned on Michigan highways, most of them in the southeast part of the state.”
I remember that storm. Jack and I lived with our three youngsters (Lisa was six) on Second Street in the Village of Concord, about 20 miles southwest of Jackson at the time. I was the editor of the Homer Index then, a little weekly paper with a circulation of around 800 in the next little town.
That Thursday, as it is these days, was our day to put the paper together at the main office in Albion. I don’t remember if I even had a clue as to what was coming, but I do remember getting up and finding that not only could I not get out of the driveway – I couldn’t even get out the door.
When I called my boss to say I couldn’t get in to work, he just laughed…
We got about 25 inches of snowfall, but winds had piled drifts so deep they completely covered our next-door neighbor’s car. Only the aerial was showing and in front of our door, a drift covered more than half of the storm door – and our front door was three steps up from ground level.
With some pretty strenuous shoveling, we did get the door clear, but our little dead end road was still chest deep in snowdrifts in places.
Jack, who was on the fire department back then and an Emergency Medical Technician, was able to get out with the help of a fellow fireman who came in with a snowmobile to get him. I didn’t see him again for three days, except for a quick stop while he dropped off our rural fireman friend’s four youngsters who would have been home alone. They also came via snowmobile and stayed with us for about four days.
Luckily we had plenty of supplies. My best friend Jan, who lived a half block away and was also a fireman’s wife, and I got together and with a sled behind us slogged through drifts to all our neighbors’ houses taking orders. Then we headed four blocks downtown to the store and stocked up for them too.
Everybody in that little town that was able was out helping others. People came together like you seldom see and we all came through the emergency together.
We were snowed at home for a couple of days, then the Village plows finally got streets cleaned up a bit. We still couldn’t go far though as the highway just a bit further north (M-60) was completely blocked with an eight foot wall of snow for nearly four days.
Army vehicles made it through for medical emergencies. Jack and the other firemen were busy taking supplies to people around town, using snowmobiles of course.
We baked bread and made cookies and homemade soup and watched on TV as the “Blizzard of 78″ unfolded on the news. Our kids and the other youngsters staying at our house had a blast. Once our street was plowed, the snowbanks became giant hills and they took advantage of it with sled races, built elaborate snow forts and had many, many snowball fights with the neighbors.
Without so much to do in our busy lives, we visited and spent time together with our neighbors.
It was a horrible storm, but the whole community became closer than we had ever been before.
For that brief time, we were all family.