The snowstorm predicted for the Chicago area this week has revived memories of the record blizzard that paralyzed the region 44 years ago.
Over the course of 35 hours on Jan. 26 and 27, 1967, 23 inches of snow fell on Chicago, clogging streets, shuttering businesses and paralyzing the city for days. Roofs collapsed. Hundreds of stalled vehicles sat helpless in the streets. Dozens died.
“This storm will take the wind of the sails of grandfathers who liked to say how bad the winters were when they were children,” a meteorologist told the Tribune a few days after that storm.
Even if it doesn’t break the 1967 storm’s record, this week’s storm — predicted to produce at least a foot to 18 inches of snow — could challenge the storm of Jan. 1 to 3, 1999. That whopper dumped 21.6 inches on the area, including 18.6 inches in a 24-hour period, itself a record.
Though that storm arrived on a holiday weekend, it still wreaked havoc on commutes and travel; O’Hare International Airport was virtually shut down, and city departments deployed thousands of workers in 12-hour shifts to clean up the mess.
At the time, the 1999 storm was the worst since Jan. 13 and 14, 1979, when 18.8 inches fell on the area. That storm and Mayor Michael Bilandic's handling of the aftermath were blamed in part for Bilandic's loss to Jane Byrne in primary elections the following month.
The 1967 storm, oddly enough, was preceded by a few days of record high temperatures in the Chicago area. On Jan. 24, temperatures hit a balmy 65 degrees, bringing heavy rains.
Just two days later, on a Thursday at 5:02 a.m., the snow began falling and didn’t stop until almost 4 p.m. the next day.
Tribune stories of the day painted a picture of a city blindsided by the storm’s magnitude.
An article Jan. 28 headlined “Bare heroism and the kindness of neighbors” told the tale of 60 people trapped overnight on a No. 4 Cottage Grove route bus that found itself stuck in snowdrifts near 25th Street and Michigan Avenue.
The bus driver kept the engine running all night to keep passengers warm, but a woman on board suffered a heart attack and died before ambulances could reach her the next day.
The same story told of 1,200 people crowded into a firehouse at 127th Street and Doty Avenue for overnight shelter after their cars had stalled.
A later story on Jan. 30 tallied 39 deaths attributable to the storm, many from heart attacks.
The storm was not without its moments of heroism and even humor.
One story detailed a narrow escape in Harvey when a passerby pulled a woman from her stalled car just before it was struck by a freight train. Another snippet of an article described how a firefighter trudged through snow to reach a heart-attack victim and carried him to a nearby building for medical treatment.
An article published Jan. 29 described how thousands had braved the ice and snow the previous night to get to Chicago Stadium, where a young UCLA center named Lew Alcindor scored 35 points in a basketball game against the Loyola Ramblers.
Even the Tribune’s own efforts were fodder for news, according to a Jan. 29 story headlined “Tribune staff fights storm to print news; long hours devoted to covering top story.”
“The Tribune’s editorial, production and circulation staffs overcame great odds under extreme conditions to publish a dramatic and complete report of the worst storm in Chicago’s recorded history,” the paper intoned. “The story of how the Tribune did it is one of personal deprivation to get the job done, long hours of hard work and reliance on experienced personnel to perform in the face of a record snowfall.”
By the second and third days after the storm, it appeared things were getting back to normal. A story titled "Storm ends; so does aura of friendship" published Jan. 31 lamented the return to incivility on Chicago streets and trains.
“As a car stalled in Sheridan Road near Loyola Avenue, a delayed motorist honked his horn (at it) and yelled: ‘Can’t you see I’m in a hurry to get to work? I’m late already.’ He offered no assistance. ‘You can tell the storm is over,’ said a woman watching the incident.”
So dominant was the 1967 blizzard over previous storms that a meteorologist told a Tribune reporter that “another storm like the one last week may not occur for another 100 years and possibly a lot longer.”
For this week’s storm, National Weather Service meteorologists predict at least a foot and up to 18 inches in some parts of the Chicago area. The storm is forecast to start Tuesday afternoon and continue into Wednesday. High winds are expected to create blizzard conditions.
Will it break any records? Check back for details.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times