Repeat the Question*

Following Buffalo’s October surprise storm (and with the Blizzard of ’77 marking its 30th anniversary), what’s your favorite story of a Buffalo winter event?

Kathleen March, PhD ’80, MA ’75, MA ’73 & BA ’72

Orono, ME
Blizzard of 77

And yes, that is a car buried deep in the snow in a photo taken following the Blizzard 0f ’77. (Photo courtesy of University Archives)

On January 28, 1977, I was sitting in Clemens Hall in a graduate class in Spanish. It was late afternoon, and the sky was one of those suspicious Buffalo skies we all loved. It got increasingly more somber, looked like it was coming down to greet us and thoroughly distracted us from the normally enticing literary texts of contemporary Spain. We kept reading as if the sky wasn’t falling (it was), listened to the professor (whose voice was softer than the snow), looked up and waited for what we knew was coming. But in hindsight we had not fully comprehended the outcome.

Gail M. Silver, BA ’79

Chicago, IL

After looking at the pictures of your October Surprise, my colleagues had to hear my stories of the Blizzard of ’77. I was a sophomore on the Main Street Campus and I have great pictures of snowdrifts perhaps 10 feet high next to Norton Hall, then the student union. We had talent shows in the dorms (desperate times called for desperate measures) and beach parties in the dining hall. What started out as fun with no school quickly became cabin fever, however. We were actually glad to get back to classes! Honestly, the Blizzard of ’77 was one of my best memories of UB.

Sylvia Williams Ferguson, BA ’98

Buffalo, NY

October Surprise left me shaken, as the trees in my neighborhood park snapped one after another, providing unwanted sound effects that would rival any horror film. I made it out the next morning and went to work late, but as “the one person who made it in.”

April A. Alongi, BA ’05

Lexington, VA

Well, I was in Buffalo [in October 2006] for an interview and stayed at a hotel right next to campus. Then, the storm hit, and like all Buffalonians, I did not worry, and proceeded to go out to dinner with my boyfriend. When I came back, the power was out and there was no heat. Thank goodness for UB, because it was the only place in the area where there was food and electricity. As a result, I was able to get lunch [the next day], use the Internet and charge my phone! However, getting in and out of the parking lots at UB was (not surprisingly) a challenge.

Omar Bobb-Semple, BA ’03

Los Angeles, CA

I remember Thanksgiving 2000 at Hadley Village: It was the same year PlayStation 2 was released, so right before the storm hit, a couple of friends and I stopped by Blockbuster to rent it and a few games for the long weekend. Many of our friends got stuck in Buffalo. The most amazing thing I remember about that storm was how much snow fell—the door to the front entrance of the apartment was almost completely covered. Ironically, that week is my fondest memory of my UB experience: video games, Domino’s Pizza and the company of great friends.

Walter Gajewski, BA ’75

Long Beach, CA

I certainly remember where I was for the ice storm of 1976. It was March 19 and freezing rain brought down trees and power lines all over the city (sound familiar?). Most of the city did not have power or heat and it was cold. One of the few places that did have power was Baird (now Allen) Hall. That’s where I was, along with a large crowd that came to hear the concert featuring UB Creative Associate Donald Knaack. I was reminded of all this recently, while listening to the feature that NPR broadcast as part of All Things Considered. Donald Knaack is now known and highly respected as composer and percussionist “The Junkman” (see www.junkmusic.org).

Jackie (Stott) Forte, EdM ’88

Cicero, NY

In the winter of 1983–84, it snowed so badly that classes were canceled for a few days. We got three feet of snow in 24 hours. Students used cafeteria trays to dig out their cars in the parking lots. Then the trays doubled as makeshift sleds to go sledding on some of the smaller hills on the North Campus. After one day of being stranded in Wilkeson, I was rescued by some friends living off campus. We had a blast hanging out at their house for a few days until UB reopened.

Michael L. Brown, BA ’81

Londonderry, NH

I was a freshman at UB living in Porter Quad (College H) at the Ellicott Complex during the Blizzard of ’77. I remember campus dining rooms ran low on food—everyone was feeling cooped up after several days of just staring out the windows. I also remember that the old “Bubble” (the only gym on the North Campus at that time) collapsed during the storm. After about five days, some of us went outside. Along the way, we mistakenly walked on the roofs of some cars that were buried under snowdrifts in the parking lot. It was quite a memorable way to start my college career at UB.

Kelly (McLaughlin) Becker, BS ’02

Orchard Park, NY

The “October Surprise” happened to be the weekend of my wedding, in planning for more than a year. The rehearsal was Thursday night, so the wedding party was getting in to town as the snow was starting to fall. Travel was difficult, but everyone made it to the rehearsal. That night, my parents no longer had power, and we were starting to realize the full effects of the storm. The next morning, we started to call out-of-town relatives to tell them not to try to get to Buffalo.

After a number of phone calls, we found that the church still had power and the reception hall had a generator. All the vendors told us they would be there. My dress was still at the bridal shop, but they assured me that I would be able to pick it up on Saturday morning, whether or not they had power. We moved the preparations from my parents’ house to a family friends’ house that did have power. The wedding went on almost as planned—most of our friends and relatives were able to make it. The ceremony went wonderfully, and everyone had a good time at the reception. Everything worked out in the end, and my husband and I will have stories to tell for years to come.

Heather (Vinz) McEntee, MLS ’03 & BA ’01

Bossier City, LA

I remember the storm of November 2000. I was in an anthropology class on the North Campus; our professor let us out early because it was looking really bad outside. I was working in the classics department as a student assistant, so I headed over to work. My boss told me to just go home. I lived in Lancaster at the time, so I had a little ways to go. We never got over five miles an hour on the 90. Every time we stopped (which was every 10 seconds), people had to get out of their cars and scrape the ice off of their windshields. Now I live in the Deep South and if there’s even a hint of ice or snow, the entire city shuts down. The people of Buffalo are the strongest people I know. I’m proud to call myself a native Buffalonian.

Emily Patterson Harris, MLS ’77

Tulsa, OK

As a graduate student from Oklahoma in January 1977, I had no context for a blizzard. I was on my way to the library on the Buffalo campus [now called the South campus], and my landlady suggested that I should stay at home. I didn’t listen! I merrily went on my way in my little Toyota. Suddenly, the car just stopped. (I believe it was on Main Street.) At least four men tried to push the car forward, but it wouldn’t budge. They pushed it back to the side of the street, and told me it would be towed and I would have to find it later. Did I then return home? No-o-o. I trudged on to the library. Needless to say, by the time I finished my work, there was no going home—I stayed in a dorm with a friend of mine. When I emerged from the dorm about five days later, my friend was miraculously still my friend, even though we had a huge fight over a backgammon game.

Wayne S. Cook, PhD ’85

Spencerport, NY

During the winter of l977, I was working on my PhD in higher education and had an internship in Hayes Hall in the president’s suite. During the day, the storm continued to get worse and schools, businesses and the university began to shut down. Everyone left Hayes Hall except me, because I was working on a report to the president that had a deadline. At about 4:10 in the afternoon you couldn’t see from Hayes Hall to Main Street, so I decided to leave town. I locked the president’s suite and made my way to the car. As I headed east on Main Street to make my way to Transit Road, police began putting up barriers to block cars from entering or leaving Buffalo. I was, literally, the last car out of Buffalo that afternoon. All traffic behind me had been stopped by the police barricades. After a three and a-half hour ride, I made it to Brockport, New York, where my home was at the time.

Ronald Balter, BA ’80

Brooklyn, NY

In 1977, the forecast was for a large snowstorm that was going to hit the Buffalo area on Thursday morning. I was a freshman living in Goodyear with my first class taking place in Ellicott. Listening to the radio, I learned that everything was closing except UB. Knowing that traveling would be tough, I left early and took the bus to the Amherst Campus [now called the North Campus]. Everyone was complaining that the only thing open in the area was UB—finally, somebody came down and said that UB had closed.

Now what? I lived on Main Street and was stranded on the Amherst Campus. I was not alone. All of us were told to go wait in the student club for buses back to Main Street. While waiting there, a friend arrived who had walked through the blizzard from Fronczak Hall. Eventually, a few buses arrived to take us back. After about a 45-minute trip, my friend and I got off the bus at Main and Bailey. We pushed a car that was stuck there and returned to the dorms and the warmth for the next 11 days until UB reopened for classes.

Don Drazan, BA ’80

Delmar, NY

During the blizzard of ’77, I remember living in Red Jacket Quad, the bubble collapsing and walking along the road from Ellicott to the Newman Center. All you could see through the snow were the tops of the car radio antennas. The most popular political cartoon was the airplane circling over a white background and the caption, “The Search for Buffalo Continues.”

*Responses to a question posed “In My Opinion,” a feature of the monthly electronic newsletter @UB. To subscribe, go to the UB Links menu at www.alumni.buffalo.edu.