The Blizzard of May 1976

Photograph by Flickr user Timo Newton-Syms via Creative Commons

Photograph by Flickr user Timo Newton-Syms via Creative Commons

Just the day before, baby woodchucks had been nibbling dandelions in the yard. Warblers were singing; robins were everywhere, probing for worms. Birches, beeches and maples were in full leaf, and cherry trees let white petals drift gracefully downward, like snow made of white teardrops.

But on the morning of May 19, 1976, folks in the Adirondacks awoke to a blizzard that sent trees and power poles crashing down and choked highways and back roads with heavy, wet snow. Many towns, like Star Lake, had to get their plows out of storage. Dozens of schools were closed. The power was out from Saranac Lake to Malone and Old Forge to Raquette Lake, where Paula Lamphear at Lil and Jerry’s Greasy Spoon griped to The New York Times about the outage, since the bar’s “Open” sign had not been lit since 5:45 a.m. Patrons did manage to get there, however.

In Blue Mountain Lake snow kept falling all day and more than a foot and a half accumulated on what had been a lovely verdant landscape. Adirondack Museum staff, including myself, spent hours knocking snow off branches and trees that were bent to the ground, a task we repeated every few hours. I took a break from the action to schuss Route 28/30 from the museum to town, an exhilarating ride down but a tough slog back up. Old Forge, which routinely racked up 20 feet of snow in 1970s winters, reopened snowmobile trails.

The snow melted within a few days, filling streams and energizing waterfalls across the North Country. Evidence of the unusual storm is gone, the fallen limbs turned to humus long ago. But early this week, when errant snowflakes appeared in the morning air and the High Peaks were crowned with white shoulders, it was easy to think back to the event that brought spring to a standstill with a rerun of winter.


The Blizzard of May 1976
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