KEY WEST LOU / BLIZZARD OF 1977
Buffalo’s snowstorm dominates the news. Understandable. Six and a half feet.
Buffalo had an even bigger one in 1977. Eight feet plus. Described in inches at the time. One hundred plus.
A three day storm. Biggest ever, before or since.
The snow began falling on friday January 28.
Drifts reached 30 feet in some places. Snow plows were useless. Snow too heavy and deep. Earth moving front end truck loaders were utilized. Brought in from Canada and other U.S. areas.
Snow removal a unique exercise. The front loaders filled dump trucks with snow. Toronto provided 2 huge machines which somehow became part of the dump trucks. The machines melted the snow. The water was dumped into street sewers. The water then ran into Lake Erie.
The process worked till the federal government said stop! Too many environmental issues would result.
By midnight friday, 10,000 cars were stranded in Buffalo. Two thousand on Main Street and eight thousand otherwise on City streets. The stranded vehicles affected snow removal. Buffalo hired 50 tow truck companies to remove them.
Saturday afternoon, dump trucks and payloaders were dumping snow directly into the Niagara River.
President Carter and Governor Carey issued emergency declarations.
The temperature remained a consistent minus 7 degrees Fahrenheit for several days. Winds as high as 51 mph. The winds contributed strongly to the high snow drifts.
On sunday and monday, Buffalo and surrounding communities banned unnecessary travel. A serious banning. Arrests made. Fines up to $500 and 90 days in jail. Necessary. Stranded cars prohibited streets from being cleaned. They ended up being buried under the snow. Could not be seen.
Still snowing on monday.
The sun finally broke through on wednesday February 2.
Schools remained closed till February 14. Closed a total of 10 “school days.”
Besides my research, I have to thank Buffalo’s Fran and Tom Dixon. They lived through the blizzard of 1977 and shared their recollections with me.
This past weekend’s blizzard of no effect as far as the Dixons were concerned. Early reports advised the storm would be 5-6 feet. However, a narrow one in width. The Dixon home was on the periphery. They got all of one inch.
So much for snow.
Key West has a bubba system. Those born in Key West take care of each other. Some families going back 3-4 generations. Bubbas are a closed society. Do business with each other. New residents to Key West have a difficult, if not impossible, time breaking in.
Steve Thompson ran into the bubba system in his early Key West years.
Most of Duval was bordered up in early ’73. A little business on the 200 block was all I could see. I felt lucky to find a location at 208 Duval for my first store.
Key West was just taking off and I couldn’t ask for more. I had a ten year lease and I was happy as could be.
Then they built a pizza place right in front of me. I have to admit it really did suck. But it forced me to find a second spot a few blocks up. It was probably the worst looking building in Key West. When we were finished, it was one of the best.
501 had been boarded up for years and was in bad shape. The landlord said, “Only a 3 year lease, you’ll have to wait.” He wanted to see if I would do what I said I would do. Unfortunately, I think he had some other motives too. He wanted to make sure I would fix his building first.
In my whole life, that decision was my worst. I put in tile floors, sinks, bathrooms, walk in cooler, all to City Code. I installed windows, doors, gingerbread, signs, and I was ready to fold.
The City finally gave me a permit, I was broke and who knows.
B.O. opened a fish wagon across the street with only a hose.
Luckily, the store took off from day one and did very good. My last year I asked the landlord for that extension. He said he didn’t like my manager. He would have to go. I hated to fire him, but I couldn’t say no.
In December, I met my friend Tony in Miami for our annual ski trip.. He handed me a letter from my landlord, and that was just the tip. It said I had two weeks to vacate, there were too many drunks around. I was surrounded by his bars and I didn’t even sell beer.
So that was another lesson learned the hard way. When your lease is up, you are going to pay. B.O. was a bubba and they do whatever they want. I always liked Buddy, but I wasn’t even a freshwater conch.
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