26 Years Ago

On January 30th and 31st 1982, a 1-in-70 year snow event occurred from the eastern Ozarks to central Illinois with the heaviest axis of snow blanketing St. Louis, Missouri. The snow began during the evening of January 30th, a Saturday, and ended during the afternoon of Sunday, January 31st.

If you were here back then, you remember it. The weather forecasters were still saying 2-3 inches at about the time you could go outside and see there was already 8-9 and scratch your head in confusion about what the forecasters were smoking. Over 20 inches in spots by the time it ended.

I had turned 13 a little over a week before.

It’s snowing outside right now. I doubt it will approach 20 inches. They’re only predicting 8. But they were only predicting 2-3 that night 26 years ago.

Apparently however, despite the accumulation, it wasn’t a blizzard. (“What the heck was it?” I hear a few people ask.)

For a blizzard to have occurred, the following conditions must have prevailed for a period of 3 or more consecutive hours:

  • Sustained wind or frequent gusts to 35 miles an hour or greater, and
  • Considerable falling and/or b>lowing snow that reduces visibility frequently to less than 1/4 mile.

The second of those two requirements happened. The first one did not. It was just a snowstorm.

0 thoughts on “26 Years Ago

  1. Kathy

    I didn’t realize that was almost 26 years to the day. I was in third grade then. I still have the photo of me standing in snow almost up to my waist.

  2. DL Emerick

    I do most definitely recall that horrible storm, though I was living on the southwest outskitrs of Champaign-Urbana, Illinois at the time, in a little town called Savoy.

    The first wave of the storm was comparatively mild. It left a snow drift about 3 feet high across my northern facing driveway. The winds were unpleasant to say the least.

    United Van Lines pulled into my drive at about 10 AM, as all my househould goods were packed up, ready for my (second) move to Minneapolis Minnesota. I had just finished clearing the drive, when the truck came up.

    I had planned to sleep in Minneapolis that night, just a few hundred miles to the northwest of CU! The drivers assured me that they could load everything and that they would see me tomorrow (the next day) in Minnepolis to deliver those household goods to my temporary rental housing. I had engaged to buy another home, but it was not to be vacant before April, so the bulk of my furniture and goods were to go into storage when the van got to Minneapolis.

    I set off with my wife Blanche and my young son Ben (2.5 years old). The day was clear, cold and windy. I left my Amoco credit card at the first gas station on old Illinois 130, somewhere in the northern middle of the state. Sigh.

    By late afternoon, the day had turned a sullen and angry gray. As we passed Madison WI (where I happen to live these days) and evening came on, snow began again. The roads soon deteriorated, long before I passed Thief River Falls. I made it that far, but the roads were terrible. We learned that the Interstate was down to one lane ahead of us and closed behind us. We were still at least 3 hours from Minneapolis, even in good weather.

    We found a hotel. Their restaurant and bar were closed, due to the late hour and the inclement weather. But, still, we found a room at the inn, better than a manger in a stable!!! We ate out of the vending machines some perfectly awful stuff.

    The next morning, 20 inches were down, but more snow was expected to fall soon. The highway reports were of treacherous conditions. We pushed on, having heard from our United Van truckers that they might be able to make Minnepolis tomorrow, at the best!!!

    Snow resumed falling. In Minnepolis they say the storm paused for 15 to 20 moinutes, never having even stopped over the course of the night!

    The parking lot, where we were to put our car, pending better arrangements at the tower apartments downtown Minneapolis, was packed in snow. We persuaded the building manager to open the garage and let us park underground — where we were due to get a permit, anyway, after “check-in” to our temporary apartment. (The company — now defunct Control Data — was paying for our move and for incidentals like our two months lease of those temporary accomodations in that beautiful, almost fully furnished apartment in downtown Minneapolis.)

    So, we finally got there, with nothing but a few travel clothes. Fortunately, the buiilding had a minimart for groceries in it.

    By the next morning, a total of 47 inches of snow had fallen, 23 before the pause and 24 after it, if my memory serves me the detail of such facts rightly.

    Lucky for me, my office downtown in Minnepolis was just a few blocks away, although our baby sitter’s home was 30 blocks south! (Sigh.)

    We survived, without too many other incidents, because we had already lived, on a previous sojourn, for 3 or so years in the Minneapolis region. This time we endured for 4 years, before moving down to fair St. Louis, where Blanche had many family connections.

    During the 7 years I lived in Minneapolis, over these two periods, I experienced 5 of their 10 worst-ever winters, as measured by snow falls and such. Two of my three children were born there, in Edina MN — I attribute the childhood blond-ness of their heir not only to their Germanic ancestors, but also to the glowing snows of Minnesota.

  3. Kathy

    As I sit here, I remember that day. I was supposed to go to a Fraternity party, but my sister was to busy primping like a girly girl and we didn’t get out the door before the snow started to look to dangerous. Folks who did make it partied for almost a week.

    I was driving my used Pacer at the time. It went through everything at the end of the week even though most of the city was still digging out.

    Those were the days.

  4. DL Emerick

    A report of the long run average snowfall at various places, including St. Louis.

    You may notice that Madison, WI, where I am, averages about twice as much — something like 3 feet.

    This year we have a record-breaking winter. We crossed the seven-foot line in the most recent snow-ice storm yesterday — with some of the heaviest (normally) snow days yet to come in late February and March. Our present 84 inch level is a foot over the old record total snow fall for a winter already.

    Snow is piled around my long horse-shoe shaped drive in broad bunkers, up to six or seven feet high. I’ve spent tons of hours plowing and shovelling the hundreds of yards of driveway and parking areas.

    I’m tired of this winter from hell. It’s not been much fun. I’ve stopped laughing.

    Global warming seems like an empty promise, rather than a dire threat at this time of the year. Where, oh where, can there be warmth, soft soil and green grasses waving in a spring breeze? Will I ever get out of my thermal underwear, or am I doomed to wear layers of long, thick clothing forever?

    So, I long for the easy winters of St. Louis and Southern Illinois!!! However, I never cared at all for the thick humidity of the summer months. Sadly, Wisconsin has that, also, plus a much thicker cloud of mosquitos hanging over its summer days, making ventures into your backyard unpleasant and even dangerous, if you believe in Nile fevers. In St. Louis, by contrast, mosquitos are more like blue jays and black birds — endurable unwelcome pests like boors, or maybe like me.

  5. John

    The way Madison Wisconsinites should brag is saying they get almost 50% more snow than Barrow, Alaska. (It’s the only city in Alaska from that list they can say that about, but damn, it sounds impressive.) Barrow gets 29, Madison gets 43. The difference is 14. 14 is something like 48% of 29.

  6. DL Emerick

    Man was meant to be a nomad, to follow the good weather and leave the bad behind.

    But civilization, even in Barrow, means sitting there, like a dummy, in one spot and learning to take what comes to you, instead of going out after it, nomadically.