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The Friday Flashback: The Blizzard of '79

By Chuck Sudo in Miscellaneous on Feb 29, 2008 2:00PM

Chicago Transit Authority

We woke up this morning to another fresh coat of snow on the ground. While we're certainly among the ranks of those who just wished this winter would end already we have to concede that we have lived through worse.

When the words "blizzard" and "Chicago" are uttered in the same breath two years immediately come to mind. We weren't born in 1967, but we sure as hell remember 1979 and all the snow that fell months before our tenth birthday. On the night of January 12 that year, the snow began to fall. It didn't stop until 2 a.m., two days later. Over that two-day span, 20.3 inches of snow settled on top of the seven inches left over from a New Year's Eve snowstorm.

By the end of the month, 47 inches of snow had accumulated. When spring officially rolled in, the city had seen a "please let it stop" total of 88.4 inches of snowfall that winter. The roof to our garage on North Lawler collapsed under the weight, we were able to build a sweet igloo in the backyard, and developed a lifelong aversion to fried bologna sandwiches (the only lunch meat the corner grocery was able to keep in stock) and Spaghetti-Os. It was also one of those rare occasions where the practice of "dibs" was worthless; cars could not be dug out of their spots.

Transportation came to a standstill, as Streets and San plows were ill-equipped to deal with the sheer volume of snow - their plow blades were better accustomed to the 8-12" accumulations we regularly see. The CTA outfitted trains with plow blades in order to keep the rail lines clear. The photo above (via) is of "Car 24" ramming through the Davis Street "L" station in Evanston. The Blizzard of '79 wound up dooming the mayoral tenure of Michael Bilandic, who lost to Jane Byrne in the general election that spring.