Saturday, February 5, 2011

Records Records Everywhere

Is it a Blizzard Dad? Oh those winters of 1977-79. Those were the good old days of winters being like winter. I remember the winter of 1977. I was living in Hampton,  IL as far removed from civilization as a boy just transplanted from the center of the city in Springfield. Living on the bank of the Mississippi River was cool for like a few weeks. After that you realized just how isolated it was. And nothing isolates like a winter storm. But luckily, one weekend in 1977, my Dad was in town staying with us. I remember it snowed like crazy--not the record we all remember, but an incredible amount of snow none the less.

It was a Saturday morning, and like any Saturday morning in January, I had basketball practice at St. Mary's school in East Moline. St. Mary's was a unique school. It sat on the middle of 13th street hill. This hill was incredibly steep, as are most hills that create the Mississippi River valley. My Dad and I, both troopers, headed out to the basketball practice. The roads on Highway 84 were bad enough, but soon enough, we got to the hill.  My dad and his little Mercury Bobcat hatchback, I with my basketball in hand made the turn from 17th Avenue to 13th Street. And we slowly attempted to head up a snow packed hill, the first car to do so since the snow began falling. That little Bobcat's wheels spun and spun, snow flying from under the wheels to reach the hood and windshield of the car. As we traveled at a rate of about 3 feet a minute, I looked over at my dad and said, "Do you think it's a blizzard Dad?" He laughed and laughed, "I think it's worse than a blizzard" he said. My dad, being my dad, could have let me out at the bottom of the hill and walk the half-block up the hill to go to basketball practice. But Dad, either out of the goodness of his heart or because he wanted to see if he could do it--climb his Mt. Everest, (I've made the personal decision Dad did it for both reasons) made the turn and drove all the way to the door of St.Mary's. All along Dad kept saying, "There is no way they are going to have practice today." I kept saying, "But Dad, I won't play in the next game if I am a no show at practice."

We finally reached our destination to find a white 8 1/2" X 11" paper saying "Practice canceled due to Snow." If the lack of snow tracks and cars on the road couldn't confirm this already--that note did. My Dad smiled and said, "Oh well, it was fun getting here." This story would forever be etched in my Dad's memory--one of his happiest memories. When we'd visit, he'd almost always revisit this memory--it was a good one that has been forever stored in my memory.

Winters would continue getting worse and worse. Finally in January 1979 we received "The Big One!" 18.4" of snow from January 11-13. It was a mess! Those old cars with rear wheel drive cars couldn't  maneuver the roads in that snow depth. Cities didn't have as many snow plows as they do today. Cities shut down. We didn't have 800 satellite t.v. channels. We did have about 30 cable channels...but we had board games, cards, music, and the companionship of family. We survived and had fun doing it. School was canceled for 3-4 days because of it. I gained an enthusiasm for winter weather that winter season. I didn't want snow of 2 or 3 inches. I wanted it nice and warm...or blasted with a blizzard. If you have to endure winter-do it big!

This week we had "Blizzard Watches" for 2 days prior to the storm. Lately, storms have been fizzling out before they ever reach their potential severity. Not this one. And I knew it. My enthusiasm for weather has evolved into at home meteorology. There are so many tools to use to track the storms via the internet. The computer models all indicated this was "The Big One!" I think some local weather forecasters had a hard time forecasting that much snow. They may have been overcome with recent storms from the 90s on, that just didn't materialize to the fullest potential. But this storm had all the makings for being big. A huge amount of moisture, a terrific snow to liquid ratio, and a favorable track for blasting the QCs with record snow falls. On Monday morning, I forecast 16-20 inches for the QC area...more specifically said I thought the QC Airport would receive 18.9 inches. We received 18.4" tying exactly the three day winter storm of Jan. 1979. We also set a record of 16.7 inches of snow in a 24 hour period--the most ever. The shoveling would prove brutally difficult but that is a story for another day.

And through it all I kept hearing my voice "Is it a blizzard Dad ?" Irony?? well the Blizzard of 2011 ended on February Dad's 75th Birthday! Happy Birthday Dad..and the answer to my question has always been--YES!

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