During the winter of 2015-16, the Downriver area was spared the brunt of the brutal snowstorms we had been experiencing the past couple years. We set no annual snowfall records like the 94 inches we received in 2013-14, and we did not have a measurable snowfall of 16 inches as we did on Super Bowl Sunday, 2015.
Those snowfall amounts were among the worst Downriver has seen in a generation. Yet perhaps, due to their recent date, the record books do not trumpet these as being catastrophic.
In modern times, we have been told the winter blizzard of January 1978 was incomparable. Photos taken around the Midwest portion of the United States clearly show snowfall levels which literally shut down entire cities for days on end.
I was seven years old at the time, living in Southgate. It was one of the first times I had ever experienced a power outage. The cold was bitter. We had to go the unsafe route of turning on all the burners on the stove as well as the oven just to keep from freezing. Fortunately my uncle, who lived in Lincoln Park, still had power, and my mother and I spent two nights there.
Family photos taken of my street show snow levels literally dwarfing me. Even had I been my height of today, it may have approached shoulder level, at least.
This blizzard, as well as the Derecho "Green Storm" of 1980 rank among Downriver's most severe weather outbreaks in recent decades. However, I happened upon a couple websites which try to discount the amount of snow that fell. In one instance, the official storm total (by NOAA) listed the Detroit area receiving just 9.2 inches.
That amount is somewhat hard to understand when you compare our total with the amount shown in some of the photos taken around the Midwest. For example, I can understand a nine inch snowfall temporarily disabling some operations at Detroit Metro Airport. But some local airports were disabled for up to three days. Unless they did not have snow plows and de-icers in operation, I don't see how a smaller snowfall total could have affected them that badly.
With the 9.2 inch total being official (apparently), the 1978 blizzard everyone remembers does not even rank in the Top 20 snowfall totals for a day in our history. I've seen some photos of the resulting gridlock, and now I'm wondering how that came to be.
Cars were stalled out everywhere. I-75 was a virtual abandoned junk yard; cars littering the shoulder overtaken by snow drifts, some of which took days to find and recover. Power outages - although scattered - were widespread, and snow days for school kids was the order of that week.
But has the passage of time taught us to stop and rethink? The world looks mighty big in a child's eyes from a physical standpoint. Our 1,000 square-foot house in Southgate looked like a giant castle to me. If I were to visit the same house today, it would looked cramped. That is simply because our perception of vision changes as we get older, and the big things start looking smaller.
Has our perception of the 1978 storm changed as we've gotten older? It may have, but allow me to be daring by saying, "Darn those record books!" It was a big event to us growing up, and will always be with us, in spite of the fact it doesn't "rank."