Of Snow and Buffalo
Of Snow and Buffalo
By Michael Boyajian
The snows that recently hammered our region seem to be overwhelming with 100,000 losing power in the mid-Hudson Valley while politicians conveniently disappeared and ever frugal Mayor Bloomberg closing New York City’s schools for the seventh time in thirty two years but this is nothing compared to the typical snowy winter in Buffalo, New York.
Between 1976 and 1978 I attended Buffalo State College and being from temperate Long Island knew nothing about real snow storms upon my arrival in New York’s second city. Then the Blizzard of ’77 hit and I learned what snow was really about.
Buffalo is used to heavy snow and even in the late 1970s, before the Weather Channel, they had a knack for pinpoint forecasting. One day I came back from class at 4PM and turned on the Three Stooges. Then a ticker tape appeared on the bottom of the TV screen that said, Snow squalls will arrive in ten minutes, white out conditions expected. I scoffed at such a precise forecast yet in ten minutes you could not see outside my eighth floor dorm window, it was a complete white out.
Anyhow, when the blizzard hit the school canceled classes and ordered everyone to stay in the dorms except to go out to the cafeteria to eat. You could reach the cafeteria by following and holding on to a rope line that helped you against the wind and inability to see. Fortunately most of the dorms were near the dining hall.
The storm lasted a week and shut the city down along with the New York State Thruway for the second time in its history. Word came around at one point that President Jimmy Carter was coming around to survey the situation from Air Force One. We all looked out our windows but could not see a thing through the snow but swore we heard his jet above us. Needless to say the president declared the city a disaster area with city and state politicians taking credit for the action.
Of course, being locked in the dorms for a week, we had cabin fever and that led to unusual actions by many students the tales of which will remain secret to this day. At one point all the downstate students gathered all the snow hardy upstate students and offered to bankroll a liquor run to the 24 hour liquor store off campus. This was at a time when upstaters and downstaters shared a common interest. A select group agreed to the mission and we gave them snow goggles double parkas and tied them together with rope at the end of which was attached a shopping cart and sent them on their way. They returned in less than an hour with a cart full of booze. We were then able to survive the week in the dorms. One group of Long Island students had been returning from a road trip and had gotten stuck in a ten foot snow drift and was rescued by snow mobiles out of Olean.
The first thing the school did after the storm was open the campus pub. The snow was so high that you walked through a twelve foot high snow canyon to the pub. That night as we exited the pub we looked up to see a dozen reindeer peering down at us from twelve feet up. We thought we were hallucinating from bad booze but later learned that drifts were so high at the Buffalo Zoo that the herd and other animals were able to escape to the dismay of the Buffalo Police Department.
Students were jumping out sixth floor dorm windows landing safely in snow drifts and one group of students ran out side in their bathing suits. The picture of this highlighted a college reunion twenty five years later. Art students made a fortune selling silk screened T-shirts that read, I Survived the Blizzard of ’77.
Around this time we were walking to an off campus bar when we found ourselves on top of what seemed to be a hill. Well it wasn’t a hill it was a drift over a 1960s Cadillac and we knew that because although it was completely submerged one of its tail fins was sticking out of the snow in an apocalyptic fashion.
I could go on for ever but will tell you this, 1,200 of us were locked up in the dorms for a week and it created a comradery between us that lasts to this day and allows us to laugh at any snow storm, and concurrent actions of elected officials, we experienced before or since because nothing matches Buffalo’s Blizzard of ’77.
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