Port In a Storm
If you don’t like the weather in Buffalo, wait five minutes.
- Mark Twain
Being in Buffalo this summer I have learned the wisdom of Mr. Twain’s advice over and over again! The weather in the winter, however, appears to be a bit less fickle, but what it lacks in diversity it more than makes up for in intensity! Buffalo holds the record for the snowiest city in the country, maintaining the all-time high for snowfall in a single season with 199 inches (about 16.5 feet!), all of which accumulated during the winter of 1976-77. As a Southern boy, I’ve been more than content to experience the blizzard of ’77, and more recent storms, vicariously through the recollections of our StoryCorps participants. For Buffalonians, though, it appears that the blizzards are much more than just dangerous and inconvenient meteorological occurrences. For the Buffalonians I’ve met, the blizzards are a chance to reassess that which they truly value.
Photo by Laura Snyder
Three generations of one family came into the booth to talk about their blizzard experiences. Alma “Mickey” Tannehill , Sue Tannehill and 9-year-old Hope Kenmore talked about the blizzards of 1977 and 2006. Mickey and Sue talked about the harrowing journey back home from the school at which Mickey was teaching, and being virtually snow blind as they drove slowly, driver door open in order to see the yellow line on the road. Once they finally got home safely after their hours-long snowy exodus they hunkered down for a nice long winter break. Mickey recalled the moment when she realized what a great gift of time the blizzard had given her family, time to be with each other.
Another great blizzard story came from Laura Snyder and Marlana Barry who talked about the blizzard of November 2o, 2000. In less than one day, over 2 feet of heavy lake effect snow fell, stranding hundreds of people across the county. What started as a partnership to navigate the snow-choked streets of Buffalo ended up blossoming into a deeply spiritual friendship that has sustained Laura and Marlana for over eight years. While weathering the storm at a fast food restaurant they recognized the importance of helping others and learned that the gift of friendship can appear at the most unlikely of times.
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