Fort Erie Facebook group remembers Day One of the ’77 Blizzard


Published January 28, 2022 at 3:14 pm

Right now, a Facebook group based out of Fort Erie is remembering today (January 28) as the first day marking the Blizzard of 1977 some 45 years ago.

Those old enough to remember on the group – “Fort Erie, Our Town” – are sharing recollections of that day.

However, they can do so knowing it won’t repeat in 2022. There’s one missing component. Lake Erie isn’t frozen over, although roughly 57 per cent is as of today.

The key to the 1977 blizzard was that Lake Erie, the shallowest of the five Great Lakes, had been frozen over since mid-December. When the snow started to fall on January 28, 1977, it was accompanied with high winds up to 117 km/h (73 mph).

That meant the massive 25,000 square km of snow built up on frozen Lake Erie – tons and tons of the white stuff – got blown inland towards Fort Erie. With the high winds, it was impossible to tell the difference between the freshly falling snow and the massive amount blown onto the town from the lake.

It simply all blended together. So when it hit the southern end of Niagara first, it was Fort Erie, Port Colborne and Wainfleet that got the first taste of what was going to take over the entire region by mid-afternoon.

The administrator of “Fort Erie, Our Town” Allan Hackett posted a couple of photos from the blizzard this morning, showing two kids on a drift that went up two storeys and other of a car surrounded by drifts, shown below, and did they ever kickstart the memories from many town residents.

“I’ll never forget it!,” said one poster. “We had just moved to the country. My husband was stranded at a farm miles away. I hosted five teenage neighbour girls for three days!” When someone noted that it must have been fun, the poster offered a response that most parents could understand.

“I don’t remember the fun parts. Lol! A little stressful for a 25 year old,” she said, “(I remember) melting snow for the toilet, cooking, husband calling saying he was going to walk home! What was he thinking?”

A St. Catharines resident jumped onto the post, noting, “We got it pretty bad here in St. Kitts. They got it far worse up on the escarpment. I walked into work that day and spent 48-plus hours rotating on and off with one other employee. Only three of us could make it in. It was the A&P at the Midtown Plaza on Welland Ave. We supplied police, military and emergency services. I remember army trucks pulling up and lots of snow mobiles. Very surreal!”

Several other Fort Erie residents remembered being stuck out of town, one for four days. “Oh yes. I didn’t get home from Toronto until Tuesday (February 1, 1977).”

Another resident remembered a very different out-of-town situation that got some laughs. “I was stuck in a bar in downtown Buffalo for three days!” (If you’re going to get stranded, face it, you could do worse.)

Another was thankful for her helpful neighbour who really stepped up. “Not likely to forget. An amazing neighbour took my two children with her four and survived the weekend until I could get home.”

And how high were some of the snow drifts in Fort Erie? Said one, “I was only seven but I do remember sledding down the snow banks at the tops of the telephone poles.” (The standard telephone phone is 35 feet or 10.7 metres high.)

Fond memories now, certainly, though perhaps at little more treacherous at the time.

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