Storm that caused the president to declare 7 counties federal disaster areas

Randi MannDigital Reporter

The storm claimed the lives of 29 people and 20 animals.

This Day In Weather History is a daily podcast by Chris Mei from The Weather Network, featuring stories about people, communities and events and how weather impacted them.


The blizzard of 1977 hit western New York and southern Ontario from Jan. 28 to Feb. 1. Whenever something is called "the" anything, it's going to be significant.

The snowstorm was so significant that the president declared seven counties federal disaster areas, which was a first for a snowstorm in the United States.

The stats of the storm kind of paint the picture, but not as much as this picture.

A house almost completely buried in snow in Tonawanda, New York (January 30, 1977)

A house in Tonawanda, N.Y. Jan. 30, 1977. Courtesy of WAJWAJ/Wikipedia/CC BY-SA 3.0

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The storm began on Friday, Jan. 28, bringing daily peak wind gusts that ranged from 74-111 km/h.

The winds came with more than a chill, making it feel like −51 outside.

It had already been a snowy season. In November, 31.3 inches of snow fell, December saw 60.7 inches, and the first 27 days of January saw 59.1 inches.

Because of the persistent snowfall, a National Guard unit had already been called to assist with snow removal.

The heavy snow and strong winds created a zero-visibility environment for the first 25 hours of the storm.

The extreme conditions left thousands of people were stranded in office buildings, schools, and factories. Cars were stalled everywhere. Six homes were burnt down because firefighters couldn't get equipment to the scene.

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A massive snowdrift that was typical of the Blizzard of 1977 traps vehicles inside the tunnel under the Buffalo Airport runway at Aero Dr. and Amherst Villa Rd.  Courtesy Gary Kogut, NFTA

Snowstorm traps vehicles inside the tunnel under the Buffalo Airport runway. Courtesy of Gary Kogut, NFTA

For the first time in 143 years, the Buffalo courier express was unable to publish its morning paper.

Federal officials took over snow removal operations. Over 500 national guards aided in snow removal. The snow removal cost around $20 million.

Snow fighting equipment - 1977 NFTA Report

Snow fighting equipment from a C-5A at Niagara Falls International Airport. Courtesy of Wikipedia

There are 29 deaths associated with this storm. People were found frozen in their half-buried cars. Over 20 animals perished died at the Buffalo Zoo.

To learn more about this disastrous storm, listen to today's episode of "This Day in Weather History."

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Thumbnail image: New York on February 7, 1977. Courtesy of NOAA