Thursday, January 7, 2016

What Year was the "The Year of the Big Snow"?

Nearly covering the Covered Bridge...

Snow has been scarce this year. And rain has been plentiful!   Take a look at his photograph from last week in Lake of the Woods near the covered bridge! According the the National Oceanic and Atmospheric  Association, on average 13 inches of snow equals one inch of rain. Last week we had  7  inches of rain.  Would we rather have had nearly 90 inches of snow? I think not.

Who Remembers the Blizzard of 1977? 

Snow features prominently in the tales of yesteryear in Champaign County. There were big snows in the 1970s, with blizzards which closed the University of Illinois in 1977 and 1978. 

In 1977-78 there were a record breaking 18 winter storms as opposed to the normal number of 4. In Illinois alone, there were 62 recorded deaths and more than 2000 injuries and in some areas over 120 days of snow cover of an inch or more. 

Wolves in the Snow

In fact that year was compared to the worst winter ever recorded in central Illinois. One famous family had a tough time when they settled here.  Abraham Lincoln, his father, stepmother, and step siblings came to Macon County in 1830 and were there to experience the winter of 1830-1831, the winter of the “Big Snow” or the “Deep Snow.”  In that year, freezing weather was unrelenting throughout the winter, three to four feet of snow and ice covered the ground, settlers and  small animals alike became trapped in the snow and fell prey to wolves.  

From Frozen Feet to Mother's Joy!

The Lincoln family, as did many others, ran out of food and had to ask neighbors for corn to live through the winter. Abraham Lincoln himself got seriously frozen feet and a neighbor treated them with a liniment of goose grease, skunk oil and rabbit fat.   Ewww? Goose grease was a popular treatment for all sorts of ailments and complaints in the 19th century so much so that it was later bottled and sold under several names: one of the most popular, Mother's Joy!

Weather events today are still measured by the severity of these winters. Please comment on your worst winter ever! Or best...winter tales are fun to hear.  

Thanks to comments on Facebook we invite you to enjoy this documentary about that winter in Central Illinois.  Called An Illinois Winter, it was created by students in the Department of Geology/Geography and the Department of Communication Studies at Eastern Illinois University in 2006. Enjoy!

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