Snow stories and the equipment to go with them (contest)


I am in this picture. Somewhere.

When you’re snowbound for a week or better, as in ’77, you remember it. But a lot of snowstorms—even ones that seem spectacular at the time—can fade into the mist. It melts. And all the storms melt together as the years go by.

Recent winters have not been remarkable for big storms. There are two I remember, however. In 2000, the Monday before Thanksgiving, 24.9 inches fell in one day, most of it falling just before rush hour. It took everyone by surprise—by the time we all shoveled our cars out of the parking lots and headed for home, it was too late. Streets were impassable and everyone else had the same idea. It took me 9 hours to make a normally 20-minute commute, and even then I didn’t quite make it. By the time I reached my neighborhood, cars were abandoned in the middle of all the narrow streets and I had to leave mine by the side of the road and struggle home on foot. The next day it was amazing to see the silent streets, cars strewn everywhere. We immediately went to the nearest liquor store and grocery store and stocked up, then played pool at a neighbor’s. It’s nice to be snowed in sometimes.

Photo by Bruce Jackson.

In 2006, we had another early storm, with not as much snow, but disastrous results. It was October, and the trees were still fully leaved. The snow was wet and heavy. Branches broke, trees fell down, and the electric wires went down with them. Half of Western New York was without electricity for up to two weeks, and we lost thousands of trees, which we are still replacing. Arborgeddon, indeed.

I haven’t seen 2 feet of snow fall in one day for some years, and I wonder if I will this winter. It seems so unlikely, but I'm sure there will be enough to need one of these:


The contest!

How about you? Got a snow story? Leave it in comments and you could win either Troy-bilt’s 3090 XP 2-stage (heavy-duty) or the Flurry 1400 (compact for milder climates). Troy-bilt is sponsoring the giveaway, and, as you know, occasionally provides equipment to me for review. I will announce a winner Tuesday, November 23, 5 p.m. EST. 

 I am being sent a 3090 for review, which I am giving it to our neighborhood association for official snow removal. I'll see how it works for that and report.

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regularly radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world,and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at


  1. My family moved from Oklahoma to Minnesota in 1986. The winters were mild, but still brutal for us Okies, until 1991. The Twins were on to their second World Series win, and I felt like I belonged, especially with ticker tape parades in school hallways. That Halloween began with a dusting of snow, and when we woke up the next day it was approaching 30″. Heaven? Delusional disbelief? Yes! Surviving–and enjoying–that snowfall made me a Minnesotan, and my often-ridiculed southern accent seemed to finally melt away inside the cold snow fort we built, which was the size of a small house. Minnesotans, no matter where they end up (like Nebraska), embrace and thrive in the snow–so bring it, Troybilt. Bring me home. Let’s play.

  2. I don’t need a snow blower because I live most of the year in Florida or southern France but your photo title “snowbound in 77” brought back memories. I think that was the year I was stuck at Lake Tahoe with my wife and another couple for a week. Not the most pleasant experience. I think that may have been the last time we saw them….oh well……thanks for the memory

  3. A few years back in the middle of a 65 degree week, the snow started around 3pm. By 4 everyone in the office was outside in their sandals cleaning cars off with whatever was on-hand. The late roses were dutifully holding up a few inches by the time I’d reached home to find a warm welcome of extended family that had no power at their houses. For three days I got the warmth of family, and the joy of hosting teenagers who’d forgotten their power cords and adults who were weary of sleeping away from their own beds. Everyone else seems to speak fondly- remembering that time as an adventure full of fires and cocoa. I remember escaping outside with my shovel and the few hundred feet of sidewalks and silence, and the back aches.

  4. The first time this happened was 2002. I went down down that wretched ( rental) driveway and didn’t see the mailbox. Hmmmm. I WAS suprised, where was it? I peered over the railing and there was the mail spread like a small blanket on the fresh snow ( 2.5 feet of snow). I climbed the rail and considered the stump of the post where the mailbox was. Well, I thought, the road looks good for a change, plowed, firm, and clear. The town doesn’t always do such a good job because any resident can go to the town shed and collect as much sand mixed with salt as they can carry away. But, where was the mailbox? It was a big one, shiny, black with three reflectors on each side. The letters and numbers were bright and white.
    So I rang the Post Office. “Alice, do you know what has happened to my mailbox up here on Shagbark road?”
    “Call the town, the plow probably got it.”
    “Hmm, Hello, this is Sally up here on Shagbark road. Do you know what happened to my mailbox? Did the plow hit it?”
    ” NO, Ma’m. The plow did not hit your mailbox. It was the snow. What number?”
    (!!!!!!!!???????? Are there alot of them there? I think.)
    “Yup, we got it, we’ll put it back”
    And they did as good as new, until the next time when the “snow” did a better job and bent the $&$# out of it..
    Now I own a different house in the same town with a better driveway, flat and circular.
    I have another mailbox on the road and it’s snowing, like it does here in the higher elevations
    So I really wasn’t too upset to discover that darn snow had been at it again today.
    Uh, Oh

  5. Growing up in the west, I knew winters of dry powdery snow. We could jump off the second story balcony of our mountain cabin into a 8 foot snow drift and punch out the side in a cartoonish fashion. I remember these mountain snows could be shot up by heavy-duty blowers to form 40 to 50 foot piles in the school parking lots to form minature Alps which we were forbidden to climb or sled on, so we contented ourselves to the 5 to ten foot foothills formed by backhoes around the permeter. So when I moved to New England, I was astounded by how wet and the heavy and wet their snows are. I remember my first storm; it snowed about 2 feet overnight. As I was first out the door to work in the morning, the job of shoveling a narrow path 100 yards long to the sidewalk fell to me. As I took my first, generous cut, the weight of the snow shocked and impressed me; I could barely lift a shovelful of the stuff. It took me 45 minutes to reach the sidewalk. Back west, snowblowers were something of a luxury. After that first eastern storm, I realized they were an absolute necessity. I learned my lesson though. After that, I bought a pair of tall boots and would either forgo shoveling or made sure that someone else got out the door before me. And, as I’ve returned to the west, I’ve learned to be grateful when we have three foot snows. It could be worse. I could be in Vermont.

  6. Ahhh, the winter of 77. I was 10, and we had some sleet on top of all that snow, and it froze everything completely solid. Out came the ice skates and we were able to skate on the front lawns and all the roads, it was spectacular! I believe that we also lost power, but we were not concerned, the BBQ worked so we had lots of steaks for suppers!

  7. Twenty-plus years ago I was living in Northern Alabama. Heart of Dixie, right ? No cold stuff there, right ? Wrong. Not only did we spend a good bit of Fall through early Spring bundled up, we got snow a few times a year, too. Not being in the snow belt, none of the municipalities bothered to invest in any kind of snow removal equipment. We all just hunkered down & waited for it to melt in a few days. February was the cruelest month for this sort of weather.

    My sophomore year of college, I was living with my parents, working two jobs, volunteering @ another. Snow began falling one night & the prediction was for a few inches – enough to shut down the region for about a day. On waking & looking out the window, we discovered 6+ inches of white stuff with more falling. Being the weather geek even then, I was first of my family to venture out into it. That first step past the porch, I expected to sink past the surface. But I didn’t. The surface and all below it was solid, hard, unbreakable.

    This I had to investigate. I dug down to the extent gloved hands could & discovered neither snowflakes nor solid ice, but instead small pellets of ice. And they were more gray than white. It was much later we learned the name of this precipitation phenomenon – graupel, German for “gray pellets”. Somewhere between sleet & snow, it covered the ground for miles & miles. That night, another six inches of graupel fell.

    We had hot chocolate & soup & all manner of warm & toasty meals. Good thing my parents were gardeners who froze or canned everything we did not immediately eat, because grocery stores were closed. Cars couldn’t drive on the stuff to get anywhere; the friction of their wheels melted the surface just enough to make it slick. If the first car made it down a road, the second car found ice for its path.

    We had visitors anyway. Cabin fever sets in quickly in those situations. Our friends would bundle up and hike several miles to come see us, or we’d go see them. We played board games & watched movies. No snowball fights – if we could’ve packed the stuff into a ball & thrown it, we’d likely have killed someone.

    Do you know how long it takes to clear 12 inches of not-exactly-ice from hundreds of miles of roads ? Two weeks – and that does not include melting, just physical removal. Eventually, good ol’ boys with backhoes & bulldozers were using the daytime warmth to help in clearing roads & parking lots. I remember piles of ice in the mall parking lot – melting a bit during the day, but re-freezing at night – until Easter or later.

  8. I was in Clarence Center, NY for that still-talked-about Blizzard of ’77. But Clarence was different. It contained the lot where the county snow removal equipment was kept. So all the roads in town were kept clear, but there was too much snow and wind for the crews to keep up with the roads leaving town. They were completely impassable. So we stayed in our own winter wonderland of isolation – for weeks, it seemed.

    In March of 1993 I was in college in Virginia, headed home to visit my parents in Saratoga County, NY. The train (10-12 hours worth) was cheaper than an airplane, so I reluctantly chose that method of transportation. Good thing, too, as a freak late snowstorm hit the mid-Atlantic, closing all the airports. My train left Charlottesville early in the morning, on time, and plowed through the snow to NY. Had to change trains in the city, and the snow was so bad we weren’t sure if the next train was even going to leave. It eventually did, and chugged north. And the snow kept falling. Eventually the train stopped. One stop and a mere 20 miles from my destination, but the train could go no further. Everybody off. Except we couldn’t go anywhere. All the roads (and bridges across the Hudson River) were closed. We convinced the people in charge to let us back on the train, where we spent the night. By morning the highways and bridges were open, but local roads were not. My parents spent the early morning on the phone with the town and told their sob story of their teenage daughter being stuck on the train – couldn’t they please get their neighborhood plowed? The town obliged, and sent a plow to lead my dad out of the neighborhood and to the highway. 27 hours after I got on the train in Virigna, I arrived home for “spring” break.

  9. When I was quite young, our town was snowed in. The delivery trucks could not get to the grocery stores. We could get to them, but there was nothing perishible there, such as bread, milk, fresh fruit and veggies. Mom bought yeast and we made bread. I loved this. Fun to make (for me, probably a real pain to my mom with all my help) fun to eat. Been a dabbler in bread baking ever since. We had canned goods because my parents always bought in bulk and were always prepared. They took the Boy Scout motto very seriously. Since we could not get any milk, Mom made powdered milk. It was AWFUL. Didn’t matter how much chocolate Quik you mixed in or how cold it was, it was yuck.

  10. I have many fond memories of sledding, building snowmen, snowball fights, and best of all snow days growing up in CT, but the one that stands out the most in my adult mind is the Blizzard of ’96. I was all of 21 years old and working at my first grown-up, but very junior, job as an administrative clerk — that’s one step below the receptionist in case you were wondering. I was still living at home and commuting the 10 miles or so to my office. You become inured to the weather forecasters predicting huge snowfall when you live in southern CT because you seldom see more than a few inches and most of us can deal with that, but this storm hit overnight and it hit hard. We woke up to several feet of snow and it didn’t show any signs of letting up. I couldn’t see my car let alone the street. Just then the phone rang, it was the president of the company paying me $7.25/hour. “Hi Heather, we’re calling everyone at home to let them know we’re closed today.” I just said okay, thanks for letting me know, but I was thinking: Really? The governor has declared a state of emergency and ordered all non-essential workers to stay off the roads. I really thought that I was going to make it in today. Of course, if I had Troy-Bilt Flurry 1400 to dig out my car and the 10 miles of roads to the office I might have!

  11. Heather, one thing I remember about the 2000 storm is that our office should have closed much earlier than it did–if it did. I was new at my job, then, and felt I shouldn’t leave without a general authorization. Now, though, if I see a good-sized storm building and know it will cause problems on the road, I am out of there, regardless of what anyone else does.
    I still kind of blame myself for not having the chutzpah to leave earlier–would have saved myself a 9-hour ordeal.

  12. We had one snow fall in the early 80s that I hated! My husband had flown east to be with his sick father (and have a lot of fun with his siblings!) The snow started and we got about 6 inches the first hour and it kept on all day. I called my husband every hour to complain (who was going to clean my long drive?) My new metal shed collapsed from the weight of the wet snow too. We got about 20 inches total and a neighbor came over and did my drive for me.:)

  13. Growing up in Chicago meant winters with snow that never stopped us except the blizzard of ’67. I was doing my Psychiatric training as a student nurse and was stranded at the Psych hospital for the weekend. The day staff had left but the next shift never made it to work. Four students and one nurse ran the place for three days.
    Now that I am retired a snow blower would really save my back shoveling this winter. Thanks for offering this great give away!

  14. “It could be worse. I could be in Vermont.”

    I am in Vermont, and my family is in the mountains in Colorado. But we can make MUCH better snowmen and snow forts, SO THERE!

  15. Winter of 77, fond memories.
    The roads were closed and the only moving vehicles were oil trucks that lumbered along silently but surely. A bunch of us inebriated youths of questionable intelligence would grab on to the back bumper bar and would slide along for the ride until we could not hold on for any longer ( or perhaps we inhaled too much exhaust fumes and dropped off half conscience from lack of oxygen)
    That was the same winter that we ice skated on the Charles River from Cambridge to Waltham and back again.
    A few years later I was off to California, never to experience snow like that ever again.
    I can still remember the exhaust fumes like it was yesterday.
    Fun times.

  16. In college, I remember there was a blizzard and we were stuck in our dorms for days. It led to many card games and fun antics. I miss a good snow storm.

  17. Snow stories? Living in Niagara Falls, where do I start, but wait, you already talked about the biggies. I was not here in New York for the Blizzard of ’77, but, I have heard this story from just about everyone I now, even two and three times. It is a snowstorm that will never be forgotten and I now feel as if I have lived through it.

    I have an aged Toro blower and I can not even get the thing started in winter. Lucky for me, since I have to shovel, my drive is only 70 feet long.

    I do have pictures of some pretty high snow banks that I shoveled. How it was accomplished is still a mystery to me.

  18. It’s not supposed to be like that for me even in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina. It snows. The snow is supposed to melt within three days. We get to go, “Oh how pretty” then quickly move on.

    The winter of 2009 was a rude awakening. On December 18th we got 18 inches of heavy wet snow within 24 hours. The trees were bare. The conifers and pines were not. The heavy snow snapped limbs, cracked whole trees in half or pulled the evergreens from the ground. Later it looked as if a hurricane had gone through. The power went out for four days and I was trapped without even a proper snow shovel to clear the 200 foot long gravel driveway.

    Without power I have nothing. No water from the well. No heat from the furnace. No refrigeration of the food supply and after a while no ability to flush. It kept on snowing and it stayed cold. There was no meltage.

    I spent my days chopping wood and keeping a fire going in a horribly inefficient for house heating fireplace from the time I woke in the morning until bedtime. A gas stove meant at least I could heat food now stored on the deck in snow drifts. It kept on snowing and it stayed cold.

    Normally I could expect that a snow on the 18th would have let me leave for Christmas in Florida by the 22nd no problem. There was no meltage. I started shoveling the drive of the now hard crusty snow on the morning of the 24th with a flat headed shovel. Six hours later I made it through.

    It stayed cold and it kept on snowing all winter. I did not see the ground for over two months. There was a snow pack in the mountains of North Carolina last winter. It’s not supposed to be like that for me. Our first snow of this season on November 5th was six inches. It melted thank goodness.

  19. Yes, the winter of 77 I was working at an automated laying facility. Think 60,000 chickens producing almost 60,0000 eggs a day. The birds still needed care, the eggs still needed processing, so the boss sent a manure truck into town to pick up a skeletal crew and some groceries. We spent three days snowbound in the country, sleeping on the floor of the manager’s house. It was fun… the first time. When the following winter looked as threatening, I quit.

  20. I remember very well the Buffalo 2000 surprise storm that stranded thousands wherever they happened to be on that sunny, blue-sky Monday before Thanksgiving. Roads closed, the NYS Thruway closed, even the Buffalo Niagara Airport closed (and that RARELY happens). Office workers spent overnights where they worked (unless they were fortunate to work walking distance from a bar), kids were left at schools, commuters were stuck on roads that came to a standstill for 30 hours, motorists were stopped dead overnight on the NYS thruway. What I remember is trying to get my daughter out of daycare. It took 4.5 hours to drive a dozen blocks. had I known how difficult the driving was, I certainly would not have used the car. She was two and happily ensconced with the daycare workers that weren’t going home that night, along with a dozen other kids. What I remember best though, is the friendliness and neighborliness exhibited by EVERYONE during that time — volunteer snowmobilers stopping at every car stuck on the thruway to make sure everyone that needed food or insulin or other medicines got what they needed, there were teams of 20-somethings roaming Buffalo’s streets helping push cars to the side of the roads for the plows, restaurants that gave away food & drink for stranded strangers, and every neighbor helped their neighbor keep sidewalks as clear of snow (as was possible.). Debilitating, dangerous snowstorms suck, but also bring out the absolute best in what makes Buffalo a great place to live -its people.

  21. Hey Kate; I salute your superior snowmen and caves. It’s good you have a lot of forest as you need an mountain of firewood to get through the winter. Also, reading my post again, it should 100 FEET, not yards. Again, proofreading is important, and I’m terrible at it.

  22. heheh, I grew up in Vermont and I’m back to living here. I have many snow stories! The most recent being getting to the hospital just before a big storm in order to have my daughter. We had gorgeous views out the hospital windows!

  23. We don’t get much snow in Vancouver, but every once in a while, there’s a big one. In January of ’95 we must have had a foot within a few hours. Everything just stopped. My sister was at work – about a 15 minute drive from our house – and my dad set off to pick her up. Three nervewracking hours later, he returned with my sister and the entire crew of the fast-food joint she worked at. They’d all been stranded by the snow, and ended up spending the night at our place. At least they brought food. 🙂

  24. I remember a winter storm back in the late 70’s that dropped snow or freezing rain for more than a week. Everything was closed and the city had enforced a curfew to keep people from driving on the roads. We were a group of college kids that pooled our resources and kept our spirits up while waiting for the day when it would all be over. On the first sunny day we bundled up and waddled like penguins around the wonderland and ended up at our neighborhood park. Along the way some found flattened cardboard boxes and other such makeshift sleds. My friend and I found an old clear plastic shower curtain which we were convinced could out-perform everything else. The group of us had big plans to slide from the far side of the park all the way back to our street which would only involve dodging a few large trees, a rock wall at the entrance to the golf course and then somehow slalom our way past the duck pond and keep up the momentum until we hit the curb we started out on. It became a contest. It all sounded so simple but once we got onto the frozen fields we realized that climbing that tiny hill was next to impossible with our no-traction tennis shoes, one sliding step forward usually ended up with us sliding two steps back. All the cardboarders gave up and slid around at the base of the hill but my teammate and I eventually made it to the top. After getting everyone’s attention we belly flopped onto the sheet of plastic and very slowly started down the hill. Even people not in our group were cheering as we parade-float waved going past them in a very slow slide (this was on the flat flat prairie after all). After we successfully maneuvered the first couple of turns and dodged the biggest trees we were feeling cocky and started to goof off which only brought more laughs from the crowd. What we failed to notice was that all the terrain sloped gently TOWARDS the pond which was covered with ice but probably not thick enough to skate on. By the time it became clear we were moving way to fast to stop and there are no brakes on shower curtains. Laughing harder than I have ever laughed we slid out over the bent over grasses along the pond’s edge, slid past the ducks and completely across the center of the pond. We hit the far bank hard enough to knock us up into the air. The crowd scamperred to our rescue as we scrambled to get our footing on the slippery shower curtain. We watched in slow motion as the ice beneath us cracked and murky water gushed up under the clear plastic. Our exit from the “sled” was a lot like two cartoon characters trying to climb over each other to make it to the safety of the pond’s bank. Everyone got a good laugh that day and now, no matter how deep the snow is I remember all the tiny (or dangerous) details of that curtain ride before I suggest sliding down a hill “just for fun”.

  25. I remember the Blizzard of ’77 – my husband and I were living in a 600 sq foot house (2 bedrooms, living room, kitchen and ONE bathroom) and my inlaws and brother-in-law got snowed in with us for five days…(remember – one bathroom, and cooking for my mother-inlaw!) Oh yes, and three smokers.
    Now I am a widow, still live in northern New York – and my current house (which is larger) is only separated from the neighbor’s by the width of the driveway, so I have to carry the snow across the street to the empty lot. A snow blower would really help!

  26. March 2nd, 2009 was supposed to be my first day at the new office. It had snowed overnight – about 8 inches, which here in Northern Virginia means everything comes to a stop. But my new office was still open. The roads weren’t cleared, so I couldn’t drive and the buses weren’t running. I really didn’t want to call in on my very first day. So I dug out my old cross-country skis, and got 5.5 miles of exercise on a beautiful winter morning on my way to work. I made an interesting first impression at the office! A year and a half later, I’m still known as “the one who skied to work.”

  27. Growing up in New England brings so many fun snow memories up, from the fresh-snow-&-honey drinks we’d make as kids to the cross-country-skiing commute we’d make as adults during blizzards to get across the Boston Common and reach work. I moved away for 10 years, but moved back recently and have to share last year’s story. When driving down our very steep CT driveway on the way to collect my daughter from nursery school last January, our station wagon decided to take on a life of it’s own in a foot of fresh powder. With a steep cliff to the left and a recently landscaped hill on the upper right side of the drive, the car’s bonnet nosed its way uphill while the rear of the car quickly spun out. The car firmly wedged itself an inch between the driveway-lining boulders (placed there by the previous houseowners after a similar incident) with a precision that could only have been matched by a military helicopter airlift. I wish I could share a picture here!! After much local debate by the old codgers from town, we agreed to try ever so slowly to rock it back and forth to free the metal beast. It took over an hour but we did it, and I got to bond with my community in a way that the elements uniquely provide (even my neighbor graciously offered to collect my pre-schooler). Being away, I deeply missed the 4 seasons and couldn’t be happier to be back!

  28. These stories are great, and they make me look forward to the quickly approaching winter season with just a bit more appreciation. We’ve had our share of major snowstorms where I live, but what these stories and the contest most reminded me of was a typical mid-winter evening at our place.

    The snow is falling, perhaps has been all day. My partner and I get home from work and one starts dinner and one gets the job of clearing the driveway. If I’m lucky, I get to bundle up and head outdoors. With outdoor lights blazing and the headlight on our snowblower pointing the way, I spend the next half-hour or so walking slowly up and down and around our driveway while our old dog lays in the snowbank and licks the snow.

    Once the driveway is cleared, and the snowblower put away, I stand for a moment in the sudden quiet, admiring my handiwork, then look upwards to watch the snowflakes drift down through the lights. Absolutely breathtaking.

    While there may be beauty to be found in shovelling a driveway by hand, I would love to be able to give my brother and sister-in-law the winter ritual that a snowblower provides.

    Thanks for this contest and the snowy memories it evoked.

  29. No one mentioned the “Big Snow of ’50. Thanksgiving day was a beautiful sunny day and warm enough to wax my sister’s new car she purchased a few weeks before. After our turkey dinner. the five of us in our family waxed the new car. We put it in the garage and didn’t see it again for a couple of weeks. That night and the next day it snowed over two feet and the wind drifted the snow up over the front doors. We didn’t get the car out for a couple of weeks. I was in college at the time and it didn’t open until and week after the scheduled time. Even at that we followed an auger type snowplow for the last ten miles. Never saw a snow that bad since the ’50 snow.

  30. One blizzard I recall not so fondly was in ’93. There was so much snow and when the wind got into it – forget it! – no one was going anywhere. That was especially true for my dog, Buddy. Somehow we got the door open but the snow was way too deep for my sheltie. He stood in the doorway, looking kind of panicky, if dogs can look that way. We quickly had to do a bit of shoveling so he could at least turn around. He generally liked the snow, but that was just too much for him!

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