Friday, February 12, 2010

The Blizzard of 1966 (or Maybe 1967)

The current blizzards plaguing the middle Atlantic and northeast states remind me of a big storm in New York State that I lived through.  I thought it was the big storm of 1966 that happened in January of that year but it must have been in 1967 or 1968.  At the time I was living in Rochester and in December 1965 I had gone to work for IBM.

I was attending a class at the IBM Education Center in Endicott, NY but was home in Rochester for the weekend.  On Sunday it started to snow so I started the drive to Endicott early in the afternoon.  Because of the snow I thought I would take the NY Thruway to Syracuse and then go south on Interstate 81 to Binghamton.  (Endicott is just west of Binghamton on Route 17.)  Unfortunately, the snow storm got worse and the Thruway was closed so I had to find another route to Endicott.  I got off the Thruway pretty close to Waterloo and headed south on Route 96.  On Route 96 it just got worse as I went south.

When I got as far as the Seneca Army Depot in Romulus, I had been driving for probably four or five hours.  It was terrible and I could not see very far ahead of me on the road. Passing the Army Depot I spotted a car off the side of the road in a ditch and noticed it was a family with kids in it.  I stopped to help them and they said that they wanted to go back to the last town.  They got in my car, I attempted to turn around ended stuck in a ditch on the other side of the road.  Just great! The family I tried to help got a ride from another motorist going back north.  I stayed in the ditch with the headlights and heater on.

It seemed an eternity that I was in that ditch but it was probably only an hour or an hour and a half.  A road-grader plowing the road came by, pulled me out of the ditch and told me to follow him on to Ovid, a town about 25 miles north of Ithaca.  I tried to follow but the snow was filling in between myself and the road-grader.  He stopped and suggested that I park my car on the side of the road and I could ride in the cab with him to Ovid.  He told me not to worry about my car because they knew it was there and nobody would hit it.  (Yeah, right!)

I rode in the cab of the road-grader to a gas station in Ovid where I and a number of other folks stayed for Sunday and Monday night.  On Tuesday the stranded motorists, myself included, were able to sleep at the homes of a number of local families.  On Wednesday my car was towed into the gas station and the  engine was steam cleaned of all the snow.  In addition to the snow, the driver side of the car had been caved in by (what else) a road-grader!  Another car that had been abandoned was worse off than mine.  That car was pushed down a hill. I was still able to drive the car so I proceeded south to Endicott. 

That was the saga of that snow blizzard.  To this day I can still remember how uncomfortable it was trying to sleep between two folding chairs in the gas station in Ovid.

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