Blizzard of ’77

By on January 25, 2017

The Blizzard of ’77

I was 19 at the time of the blizzard of 1977. I still lived at home in Hamlin with my mother and brother while attending SUNY Brockport. I had only been driving a few years. The morning of the storm, I took my mother’s car to Brockport to register for classes for the spring term. It wasn’t snowing and the roads were clear. I signed up for classes and as I left the college it had started to snow. By the time I got to West Ave. in Brockport, I couldn’t see anything because of the heavy snow. I remember coming over the hill on West Ave. almost to Sweden Walker Rd. and missing a car that was abandoned right in the road. By the time I crossed Ridge Rd. I could see nothing the snow was so heavy. The only way I knew where I was on the road was hitting snow banks from one side to the other. That is one thing I remember about growing up in Hamlin. We didn’t have the snow melts like today and snow banks on the sides would grow progressively higher through the winter. I was terrified but couldn’t see any houses or driveways to pull off so I kept going until I ran into the back of a stopped car and then someone hit me and eventually, after the storm, there turned out to be 7 cars that collided.

I tried to get out of my car because I had a snowmobile suit in the trunk for emergencies. I was instantly saturated so I knew I couldn’t go out in the snow or I wouldn’t make it. I had no idea where I was. Finally, I saw the outline of someone in the road only to see him jump back against a snow bank as a tractor trailer coming down the road drove around all the stopped cars and almost hit this person who was coming for us. We learned later the truck only made it a little further and was stuck for several days at the corner of Roosevelt Highway. I was stuck at a house for 2-3 days with the people from the other cars. The wonderful people who rescued us scrambled to keep us fed. It was one of the most awful experiences of my life to sit in a living room with a group of stranger, unable to sleep sitting up, no books, no hair brush, unable to wash. We all eventually got rides home on snowmobiles after the storm as the roads remained impassable for days. My car and the other 6 were completely buried and people were snowmobiling over the tops of them. The snow reached almost to the top of the stop sign at the corner. If I had stayed in my car, I would have died. For years after, as a young mother, I was afraid to go anywhere with my children in the winter. I want to say there was no warning of this snow storm and it came on so quickly it was terrifying. When my boyfriend came to get my mother’s car, he had to use a blowtorch to melt snow in the engine as it was completely packed with snow. The trunk was as well and snow had even been driven into the car by the force of the wind. I have always carried an orange jacket, food, blankets, a candle, and a can to melt water in my car since that storm and often tell this story to my some of my young co-workers who come to work in hoodies and shorts during the winter months.

On a final note, when I finally made it home after the storm, my mother had no water as the water line had broken somewhere and no one could get out to fix it. This was common in Hamlin when I was growing up. So I still couldn’t take a shower for several more days. It’s a miracle no one died locally thanks in part to the people who helped total strangers be safe. I do remember the hired hand at my neighbor’s farm broke his leg and had to be taken out in a snowmobile ambulance. I also heard of someone who went into labor and had to have the baby at home.