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April blizzard of ’73

Posted March 27, 2013 in Community Featured
Tall drifts made for fun climbing after the blizzard of April 1973.

Tall drifts made for fun climbing after the blizzard of April 1973.

It started snowing on Sunday, April 8, 1973. And it was still snowing on Monday, April 9, 1973. And the wind blew hard, at times more than 50 mph. It was the April blizzard of 1973.

It was only 12 inches of snow, according to official reports, but the winds created drifts that were reported as high as 6 feet to 14 feet. It immobilized Appanoose County.

The stores were closed, the highways were closed. The underpass on old Highway 5 near Moravia was packed full of snow and couldn’t be cleared with blades. The mail didn’t go because there were no roads or sidewalks clear enough to approach homes. Funerals were postponed. Schools were closed for the whole week.

The snowplows tried to clear the roads, but the force of the blizzard was too great. Plows were stuck; people were stranded in their cars. People remained where they were, for the most part. Desperate motorists braved the snow to get to the first house they could find. In the rural areas, homes became hotels for stranded motorists. Hosts welcomed the frozen visitors with open arms, put them up for the night on Monday night, and some even still on Tuesday night. They fed them meals and made them feel at home, even though many of these people were meeting for the first time, brought together by the blizzard. Many friends were made.

By Wednesday, the plows were working hard, but highways 2 and 5 were only cleared enough to allow one lane of traffic. In most places the snow was so deep it was described as fence-top to fence-top, and it seemed like a tunnel in many spots where the 10-foot-high drifts were like cliffs on either side of the roadway.

The devastation caused by the blizzard was immense. Farmers lost entire herds of cattle. The cows had, by instinct, sought shelter near a ditch or embankment to get out of the wind, but the snow drifted in on top and buried them, or their nostrils filled with snow, and they were suffocated. People died of heart attacks while trying to dig out of the monstrously high drifts.

Prior to the blizzard, the new Rathbun Lake was already at its all-time highest level, and the restrooms on the beach were partially submerged. The blizzard promised to exacerbate the problem when the snow began to melt. It was April, and warmer temperatures were just around the corner.

That was 40 years ago. Everyone who lived through it has a “Blizzard of ’73” story. What’s yours?

Information submitted by Lisa Eddy, curator, Appanoose County Historical Society, 100 West Maple, Centerville, 856-8040, www.appanoosehistory.com.


  1. We lived in Ankeny then and the snow came sideways for 3 days. Ankeny got the worst of it. Our total was 17″ but it seemed like so much more. There was no snow to speak of in the East side of the house; but walk around to the back and the drifts went up to the 2nd story roof. The farmers lost so many animals, from cattle, pigs, turkeys, etc. My aunt and grandma from California were visiting us and they couldn’t believe it. It seemed forever to clear the high drifts. Babies were born at home and people were stranded on the highways. But Iowans were full of hospitality for those in need and there were many stories of people opening their homes and hearts to those stranded. I no longer have the privilege of living in Iowa, but will always be a proud Iowan.

  2. I was teaching had Seymour & we were trying to get the gym set up for Prom. Good group of kids we had a good time.

  3. I went into false labor with my first baby on April 9th. Thank gosh we didn’t have to go to the hospital…we wouldn’t have made it…thankfully he was born exactly one week later….snow wasn’t a problem by then.

  4. I remember letting my cat outdoors the night before it started, and he
    sat on the steps watching the snow lightly falling. The next morning we couldn’t
    open the front door. Never saw that kitty again, and I looked for weeks.

    • My husband recalls when his daughter, Nikki Lyn was born…I did not know him at the time. He worked at Armstrong and drove to the hospital in a car without snow tires…but, made it there to spend two days and got to know his second child. So many people did not get to their destinations…but, motivation and anticipation won in his case.

  5. We had our horses and two hunting mules thinking they could go where ever they wanted to when the snow stopped.
    Mom and I went out to chore during the worst part, and you could not see the barn. School was out for a week. My older sister and I drove our mother crazy the rest of the week because we fought a lot. We like each other now. 40 some years later.

    I moved to Colorado as a adult. Prayed 18 years for a snow day like that before I got one. By that time I was a manager and had to go in anyway. ;-D

  6. My grandfather called from Denver airport to say it was raining hard there he would be late getting home to des moines. We woke up the next morning to 14 inches of snow, no school for a week. Drifts 12 feet high.

  7. I remember having to walk 10 blocks in snow up to my thighs to trudge to college to feed and water the laboratory rats in the psych department. Roads weren’t plowed. The worst part? Then I had to go back home.

  8. I was a junior at Iowa Methodist School of Nursing. Many of nurses working that Sunday never made it home. Many of them worked 16-24 hours. Our school of nursing dorm became a second home to the staff of IMH. We gave up our beds, shared our treats from home, and helped them in any way that we could. On Monday, our classes were cancelled so that the student nurses could work in the hospital units. The real nurses (RNs) shared our rooms so they could rest and return to the units that evening. It was great knowing that we (student nurses) were needed and we felt like real nurses!

  9. Lived on the East edge of Indianola on Highway 92. I sat up on top of a Caterpillar D6 to guide the way to our abandoned Jimy to rescue our dog. Then turned around and guided the way to clear a path to town sometime within the next day or two. Just barely seeing the roofs of cars or the antennas so wouldn’t plow into them. Had house guests for two days. Never want to go through that again.

  10. I remember it well. I lived on SW 9th Place and the snow completely covered my chain link fence. Some drifts were completely up to the roof of some houses. County Line Road was like going through a tunnel that they talked about – 10′ on each side of the road. No one went anywhere.

  11. We moved from the panhandle of Oklahoma (arid, with mesas and canyons) to central Iowa only two weeks before the storm. My Mom and Dad had been born and raised in Kansas so they were used to being snowed in. I, however, was so mad I call my best friend in Oklahoma and her parents agreed to take me in. It took my parents a full month to convince me to stay!

  12. We lived in Des Moines at the time, not too far from Drake University and had a driveway about 200ft long with 4 ft high sides. It was all downhill so we dug a tunnel through the whole thing and into the street. We were tobogganing for 3 days thru that tunnel. Then the collapsed sections turned into ramps. Remember those days vividly. What a blast.

  13. Stephanie Banks (Henderson)
    April 7, 2015 10:11 pm

    I was born on April 9, 1973 at my grandmothers house in Exline,IA because my mother had no way of getting to the hospital. I had some lovely ladies helping my mother named Barb and Diane until Dr. Jewett could make it to the house on a snowmobile! My mother remembers this day and blizzard like it was yesterday, LOL!

  14. Trudy Hendricks
    April 7, 2015 10:51 pm

    I lived in Cedar Rapids outside the city limits on the West side of town. When we finally were able to dig out and go to school we drove to CR Kennedy and I remember it was like a bobsled trail – snow packed above the car – just a tunnel to drive through.

  15. The storm of storms! In Ames Our Dodge Demon was parked in the driveway. The only part not covered by snow was six inches of the antenna.

  16. The blizzard of ’73 started just 3 days before my sisters 15th birthday. If memory serves me right, we got over 15″ of snow. Many farmers had cattle freeze to death standing up. The milk cows were brought up to the barn ahead of the storm, and my folks had to tie twine to the back step railing, loop it through their belt loops on their coveralls, and carry to the barn. They secured the twine to the barn and followed it back to the house. If it had not been for the twine, they would not have made it there and back. You couldn’t see more than a foot in front of your face. I was a child (just 12) and thought it was the most awesome thing ever! Looking back, it caused a lot of suffering for some very many people. Strange how a child views such tragedy in a completely different way than adults. We spent a week out of school. I remember a guy using a bulldozer to try to clear our road, but literally cracked the blade on that heavy, drifting snow. It was amazing to witness, and I have never seen another snowfall like it.

    • I remember having neighbors with milk cows and three daughters, one with your same name. They gave away milk to whoever could make it to their farm as the milk truck couldn’t make it.

  17. I worked as the office manager at the Ramada Inn (has a different name now) on the south side of I-80 in Newton, IA when that storm hit. The owner’s son picked me up in town on his snowmobile as there were only one or two employees at the Inn who could help all the people that the State Patrol were bringing in from I-80 as they could get to them. We drove on the snow over the tops of cars on the streets and went cross country to the Ramada. We never saw fences, so we must have gone over them, too, as we went across the interstate and to the Inn. I think there was one cook, one maid, the manager and me for a couple of days. The snow was piled at an angle to the top of the power pole outside by the pool! The desk clerks had left a couple of old Reader’s Digests and one miniature size deck of playing cards on the shelf by the front desk. Guests signed up to be called as soon as someone returned any magazine or the deck of cards! We all helped in the kitchen as needed–making beds was not a priority as people pretty much stayed in their rooms all day. When I finally went home–again on the back of the owner’s son’s snowmobile–we pulled a snowmobile buggy behind us to take the cook home. She was a small, rotund lady of native descent, originally from Alaska. As the driver made a sharp turn, the buggy tipped over and the cook fell out. She tried to get up as Steve and I struggled to right the buggy, but the more vertical she got, the more she started to slide down into the snow, so we yelled at her to not stand up, but to try to flatten out on top of the snow and crawl to the buggy. So we were all crawling around and finally got the buggy upright, Loretta back in the buggy, and Steve got us home . All the streets were full of snow and cars were buried in the snow. As city crews were able to get out, they cleared some of the east/west streets. If you needed something–food, prescriptions, etc., you, or someone more able, walked to the open streets and gave their orders to people picking up orders on the cleared streets. Then you would come back later to meet them and pick up your order. People were very kind and thoughtful and this is a storm I will never forget!

  18. Visiting cousins that weekend south of Iowa City with my parents. I was 17, and the day before the temp. was in the 60’s so my cousin and I were enjoying the weather by shooting baskets across the street from their house in shorts and no shirt. Woke up the next morning with the idea of getting on the road early to make it back to northeast Iowa by mid to late morning. Mother nature had other ideas. Had we not been lucky enough to get behind a determined semi-driver just north of IC, that ended up traveling the same route as we were going to take, I doubt we would have been able to make it home by mid afternoon that day. We certainly would have been stranded somewhere along the road without that semi driver making a path in the snow for us to follow behind in.

  19. My father was on his way to work at Pella Rollscreen from Oskaloosa that Monday morning. Hwy 163 was closed due to jack knife semi. All that day co-workers from Pella talked and visited with my dad and his sister. His car was buried in the snow and he was found frozen approx. 50 ft from a farm house. I was 10 years old at that time. Funny how they say in a situation like this stay in you vehicle.

    • Sandra Fletcher
      April 8, 2018 4:31 pm

      Are you Uncle Stan’s daughter? I was married to Clark Johnston when this happened. I think of him every time someone mentions that storm and other times, too. I was just in Iowa a couple of weeks ago with our son, cleaning out one of Larkie’s buildings.
      Sandy Fletcher Johnston

  20. April 10th 1973 My brother was born that year, i can remember my mother talking about the blizzard and having my brother and how they barely got to the hospital .

    • Sherri garrett
      April 7, 2017 10:49 pm

      An old friend of mine lost his mom..same situatiin. His mom and your dad may have been in the same vehicle. Sorry for your traffic loss so many years ago.

  21. Gretchen Brown
    April 8, 2015 9:46 am

    My husband and I were in Scotland and my mom was visiting. My dad called to wish mom a happy anniversary (as it was their day!) and told us about the snow. Of course we didn’t believe it at first and then yes it did come on the BBC world news.

  22. I remember coming downstairs and the windows were blocked out with snow. We had to dig a tunnel up from the mudroom to get out the house. You could walk from roof to roof. We had a dairy farm north of Manning and had to get up earlier than 4:30 a.m. to herd the cows around the perimeter of the farm because the lots and holding pens were filled. My dad walked into town during the storm and bought a generator so we could milk. Pulled it back to the farm on a little sled. Now that is badass. It took us about a week to dig out. I’ve been in some really bad blizzards and three of the top five were in April.

  23. I was thirteen years old at the time. I recall that we were lucky to loose no cattle as we were able to get our small herd into the barn on our farm. It was the only time during my school years that I was off school for over a week. The road in front of our house in Onslow was closed for over one week. Two snowplows were stuck. The first snowplow was stuck in the 8 foot drift across Hwy 136. The second was stuck after trying to pull the first plow out. The road was finally cleared by a large conveyor style plow brought out on our roads from the Cedar Rapids Airport. I recall how we were not personally affected as we canned our own food (including meat) and still had a wood and coal fired stove where my mother made fresh bread and other great foods from the recipes stored in her head. Like many other life events. This one will be in my memory for ever.

  24. My Dad died that day and I had to watch them take him out of our house by snowmobile. Snow so deep you couldn’t find the cars, they were buried. I was 17 at the time.

  25. Darlene Lubinus
    April 8, 2015 3:58 pm

    We lived on a farm in Palo Alto county and the drifts in our grove protecting the house were up in the tops of the trees. We could walk up the drifts and be on the roofs of several sheds, which we slid down on our “butt bumper” plastic sleds! The school buses wouldn’t come on the gravel roads for weeks and our parents had to drive us to the highway to meet the bus with drifts taller than the vehicles on both sides of the road. Our septic tank also went out that winter and we couldn’t dig it up until things thawed, so we had chamber pots that we had to take out and dump in the snow! I was 10 and it was the best winter of my life!

  26. Katina Davison Palen
    April 8, 2015 4:00 pm

    I was born at home in Moulton, Iowa due to the storm. Being the first born, my parents (mom) had to brave the storm in a very unique way! The roads were impossible. There was no way we could make the trip to Centerville to the hospital! April 10th, and my big grand entrance into the world!

  27. I watched it on television while at home in Des Moines. There wasn’t much to see outside the windows–they were all covered with ice. Needless to say, within a few days, we took a family drive down the road across an old iron bridge over the Des Moines River near Polk City and we could see where that snow had gone–the water level was almost up to the level of the bridge deck. For the rest of the spring (and into summer–there were heavy rains as well as well as the runoff) we were following the news about flooding in the Des Moines area, throughout the state and indeed in the upper Midwest. What a year!

  28. I had just finished the midnight to 8 shift at the local police dept. I had just finished the late Saturday night patrol reports and left the P.D. around 8:30 a.m. Sunday morning April 8. I looked up into the thick gray skies and saw a snow flake. The guy I was with said “it’s snowing on the 8th of April, we should remember this”. What a profound statement that turned out to be. I went home, went to bed, woke up around 3:30 Sunday afternoon and thought why is the room so dark. When I staggered out into the front room still groggy from sleep I looked outside and woke up very quickly. I had never seen what was going on outside. The wind was atrocious. One side of the house you could see green grass, the other side of the house the close line had disappeared.

    When midnight Sunday night came, I went to work by climbing over snow drifts for a block and a half and meeting up with the patrol car down on highway 5, where one lane had been cleared. I was briefed that this storm was statewide and it was the worst in a hundred years. I was told that the only traffic open was one lane on 5 and one lane on 34. So, patrol Sunday night/Monday morning was spent in the P.D. waiting on emergency calls. Fortunately, there were no fires and people acted with common sense. Neighbors helping neighbors with food and care in neighborhoods we couldn’t reach. It was a storm for the ages. Lots of livestock lost. The storm was something I never want to see again in my lifetime.

  29. i was a senior at Luther College. I was with a group from the campus congregation who were in Osage or Nora Springs on Sunday for a youth event. Headed back to Decorah in the afternoon. Just as we were getting up to speed I fish-tailed out of control on the ice and ended up in the ditch, but the ditches were wide and flat there. When I slowed down I started to get stuck so kept up my speed and while in the ditch was passing cars still on the road. Pulled up on to the highway on the shoulder at the next crossroads for a rest of the heart and prayer for the rest of the trip. Much slower the rest of the way. Dropped students at the dorms and kept on going to my parents home between Clermont and Gunder where I lived that semester while I was student teaching. Got home before dark but was bucking snowdrifts the last 20 miles. We were snowed in for as long that time as any other time that I remember except perhaps in the late 50’s.

    • I was a senior in college, too, driving back to Dubuque from NE Iowa (about 90 miles) on Sunday. White-knuckle driving! The radio kept playing this Jackson Five song with lyrics of “melt my heart like April snow.” When I got back to campus, everyone on my floor was gathered in one of dorm rooms and their jaws dropped when I walked in because it was such a blizzard. It was an unbelievable storm, cars in the ditches, the road barely visible. Yikes! If it happened now it would be recorded better, with cell phone photos from everywhere in the area posted on Facebook. It was pretty amazing. Alas, no Facebook at that time. (No home computers, either!)

  30. I was still a newlywed and back then birth control was delivered through the mail, no mail for several days therefor on Jan. 2 1974 we had a daughter! I do remember several people walking to town to get groceries, lots people on snowmobiles and tractors delivered stuff to the country.

    • That is hilarious! I guess my parents can’t say that because my brother was born Feb 1st 1974. However, my mom has said that she thought she was waay overdue. (He was almost 11 lbs)

  31. Tammie Vogeler
    April 8, 2015 10:31 pm

    I was born 5 days before the blizzard. I was brought home the day before, I remember my dad telling me he had to walk 4-5 blocks in waist high drifts (always thought he was pulling my leg) to get my formula. He was always said he was thankful that I didn’t come during the storm.

  32. I can remember hearing about this as I was growing up. My brother was born in 1973, and I remember my parents talking about how they were going to work in Pella, and their was so much snow, cars in ditches and some cars caught under the snow, that know one knew where people were and that it took days for people to get out , and shovel out , shifts for work was closed for a week or more, because no one could get out. I was about 5 years old doing that time.

  33. Ron Swearingen
    April 9, 2015 6:36 am

    In Marion we had power outages and subzero weather along with the drifts. My brother and I were happy. There was no school. Also imagine that 10 and 12 year old boys could now slam dunk on their basketball hoops because of the drifts. Somehow I don’t even remember having to shovel afterwards. Maybe that’s what caused my Dad to finally break down and get a snow-blower.

  34. I remember it well i went to work monday morning, at the air base at Ottunwa air base and by noon the company told us we could go home, so i did. My wife was dew to have our first child any time, but he waited. We had an old 8 n ford tracter to clear the trailer park that we lived in. With the help of the resedents we got it cleared in two days. Some drifts were as high as the cars, worst snow storm i have ever seen, and i am 73 years old.

  35. I was on leave from the Army that weekend and was staying at my wife’s mom and dads home.We got up that Monday morning to a picture I have never seen in Des Moines,and I have lived here all my life.We decided to walk to her sisters house which was 5 blocks away and that was almost a mistake.Brutal condition.Well we made it there thanks to our young age,but later that day I received a phone call from my brother that our father had tried to drive home from work and had gotten stuck 3 blocks away from our house and from there tried to walk the rest of the way.He made it to the house even after several neighbors had seen him walking by and tried to get him to stop and come in.Anyway he made it home collapsed on the front step and died of a massive heart attack.Needless to say no one could get to the house to retrieve his body until 8 or 9 hours later that night when a half track from the national guard made it through.A day I will never forget.Our poor mother would go into the bedroom and just lay with him.I wouldn’t wish a day like we had that April 9th on any one.We still think of you Dad and we all miss you

    • Uncle Tom, I was looking for Grandpa’s WWII Army Records when I got side tracked by looking into facts about the blizzard that took him. It was good to read your memories and combine them the memories that my mom would tell me about. Thanks for sharing that, you never know who you will touch with your words… Xoxo Kylea

  36. Yes, I remember this blizzard very well.

  37. Cathy Ralston
    April 9, 2015 4:30 pm

    I missed SENIOR SKIP DAY!! We had it all planned and then everyone missed school for a couple of days because of the storm. BUMMER!!

  38. I was a sophomore at Moulton-Udell high school and remember the blizzard
    well. There were 2-babies born in Moulton during the storm in homes. I remember seeing a road grader drive by our house taking a nurse down the street to one of the babies.

  39. we lived in the country and had livestock to feed. The snow drifts were up to the top of the buildings and the top of the fences. The cattle could have walked over them but they couldn’t get out of the building. My dad would take the snow blower and blow a path one half mile to the highway and then he’d have to blow the path open again to get back home. We didn’t have school the whole week. I remember the road grader had to hit the drifts several times to open up the road when the wind finally quit blowing.

  40. Kris Scheppler
    April 9, 2015 10:09 pm

    I was in 9 th grade at Central Junior High. My brother was senior at AHS…my parents were away on a warm weather vacation with friends. My brother and I decided to throw party. Who checked the weather forecast in those days? Many people ( the number varies depending who you speak to) spent the night at our house that night. The owner of the Ames McDonalds was on the trip with my parents and he heard we were snowed in and sent a guy ( driving a Chevy vega) up to deliver 30 egg mc muffins , hash browns and juice. We were so happy to have food.

  41. Scott Anderson
    April 10, 2015 10:16 pm

    I turned 11 that year. My birthday is the 10th. I grew up on a farm southwest of Vinton, with the house surrounded by evergreens on the north and west sides. My father had taken out one of those trees the year prior, and that tree was north of the house. Our lane is about 2/10th of a mile from road to buildings. After the storm ended, there was a good 8ft high snowdrift in the lane north of the house. That wind came through the opening of the missing tree and dropped right in the lane. Uncle Warren started at the road with the snowbucket. Dad used the skidsteer, and tractor snowblower, and started clearing the building area. After a full days work, they met at the snowdrift. That was a bunch of snow for an 11 year old! And I was out of school for my birthday to boot!

  42. The 9th was my 9th birthday. I was in Iowa City hospital & had an operation that day. The phone lines were down and the hospital forgot it was my birthday. I had my nurse move my bed and IV’s out of the unit & into the hallway in front of the elevators. My nurse sat with me for a couple of hours until my parents were able to get a call through saying they couldn’t make it. Worst birthday ever!

    The day I was finally released, we had reached Des Moines close to noon. My parents woke me and said they had a surprise. We walked into this building and after being instructed to be very quiet, we were led through the TV noon news studio and to Duane Elliott and Floppy!! He asked me to join them as a special guest. I got to meet and be on the Floppy Show and afterwards I could hardly wait until we got home so I could ask my siblings if they saw me. No! The one day they missed watching was that day.

  43. I lived in rural Quad Cities, but my parents were on a farm south west of Numa. This was the winter that made the decision for my parents to retire and move to Centerville. We had no way of communication with them to know if they were ok or not for several days maybe even over a week. They told the story of walking hand in hand on top of fence posts to care for the livestock. They were successful and lucky to keep the cattle walking and they were one of the few farmers that did not have any losses of animals. They got very little rest. My uncle lived with them, but worked a night shift in town and was unable to get home for several days and when he did he walked several miles in very deep snow. I was so thankful they survived.

  44. Helen Masimore
    May 17, 2015 10:01 pm

    We had been to Moulton and Centerville to visit my mother in Hospital. It had begun snowing on the way home but made it home o.k. The next day I got up & noticed there was quite a lot of snow, and didn’t bother to turn on TV or radio, just got in the car and drove to Preferred Risk where we started work at 7;30. I got to the parking lot, started to pull in and got stuck and noticed then that there were no cars in parking lot. Couple of guys from work came and pushed me out and told me they were closed for the day, which was apparently on the radio. I got started and decided I wasn’t going to stop at stop sign onto Ashworth Rd, (no cars coming of course), and just kept going and made it with 1 and a half blocks of home before I got stuck. Was not fun walking on home, although not that far. The irony of it all is that we had had studded snow tires on which were supposed to have been taken off April 1st and I suddenly remembered that on Saturday and had them taken off so I wouldn’t get a ticket. I could probably made it home if I hadn’t done that. Once it stopped and the my boys had cleared our driveway, they spent the next few day taking their shovels and shoveling driveway. I don’t really want to see that again.

  45. I had turned 12 that March. I lived with my Parents and Brother on my Grandparents farm 2 1/2 miles west of Woodward. My Father worked for the railroad then and was out of town. My Brother was spending time at a friends house. I don’t recall how long we were snowed in. But I do remember that my Mother who was diabetic had run out of insulin. We could call no one to do an emergency delivery as the party line was down. I walked that 2 1/2 miles into town stopping at the few farm houses in between to get thawed out. Without them I surely would have froze to death. I remember every time I took a step my leg would go through the snow up past my knee. Made for a difficult walk. But I made it to town and the pharmacy and purchased Mom’s insulin. Hearing of my peril a gentleman offered me a ride home on his snowmobile which I readily and thankfully excepted.

  46. Carolyn Farrell-Moody
    March 11, 2016 9:06 am

    I was stranded at home in the country with my sister I believe. My father got as far as our home town of Lacona about 3 1/2 miles away with my two younger siblings. Our farm house was good sized, so since we had no electricity, I blocked off part of it with nailing blankets over the doorways to keep the other side warm from our gas cooking stove. It could be lit with a match (no electronic starter), and we were actually quite cozy. This heated an oversized kitchen, office area, bathroom and utility room. We slept on the kitchen floor at night; during the day we played ping pong on our kitchen table, solitare with a deck of cards and read magazines. We had kerosene oil lamps for light at night. The phone line was still working, so we had contact with whom ever we choose to speak to. The county maintainer took about 4-5 days to clear the gravel roads so people could get moving again. The snow drifted so high in places especially over the roads. We always had plenty of food in the house especially in the winter time. Survival kicked in and we did just fine. I’ve lived in Iowa all of my life and that was the worst snow storm I’ve lived through.

  47. My maternal grandmother died on April 6, 1973. My husband & I drove from Iowa City to Carlisle, IA, on Sunday, April 8, for the visitation. It snowed the whole trip from Iowa City to Carlisle but not that hard. After the visitation we went to my parents home, which was located on an acreage just outside of Carlisle. The snow kept falling and my husband and father were asked by a neighbor who couldn’t get back home to get their animals (sheep & cattle) into the barn. We were planning to just stay overnight and leave for Iowa City after the funeral, which was scheduled for April 9. But, we were snowed in for three days and the funeral was postponed! My parents had guests from Wisconsin in addition to my husband and me. They weren’t planning on long term guests. Fortunately, my mom had a stocked freezer and another neighbor who had a dairy farm gave us lots of milk because the milk truck couldn’t get to the farm to pick up his milk. My husband & brother walked to the dairy farm through huge snow drifts to pick up the milk.. I think we ate about everything that my parents had in their house. We had some crazy meals. The funeral was rescheduled for April 11. We thought we would have to walk about 1/4 mile from my parents house to the closest highway where we had arranged for other family members to pick us up and take us to the funeral. However, just a little while before we were to start walking the snowplow came through and plowed a single lane through the snow. So, we were able to drive out and get to the funeral home in Carlisle. Although the funeral service was held, we didn’t have the graveside service, as the Carlisle cemetery was still not open due to the snow. Burial didn’t happen until April 13. My husband and I drove back to Iowa City on April 11 after the funeral service. By the time we got back to Iowa City almost all the snow had melted in Iowa City. Our work colleagues were skeptical that we were stranded for three days as the storm was much worst in the Des Moines area than it was in the Iowa City area.

  48. Carol Ward- Widger
    December 18, 2016 5:05 am

    I lived in Runnells, east of Des Moines. 9 th grade at Southeast Polk . My parents always worked at their drugstores so it was the first time ever we were all snowed in. we kept warm with the fireplace and played games. I fed and watered my horse and played cowboys and indians falling off into drifts with my friends. Snow was up to the second story, but the sledding, riding, and spending time with my family has stayed with me for years. Our good neighbors Jim and Norma always made sure we had what we needed. I live in Branson now but I will be an Iowan forever in my heart. I miss those winters and good Iowa people. Country living in Iowa can’t be beat.

  49. That was the blizzard that prevented the Des Moines Register from being distributed to towns for delivery; I was then a delivery lad in Monroe in Jasper County. I recall that the delay was a full two days, and that Iowa DOT asked a local farmer to rescue some of their equipment and help clear highways near there because he had a super-massive all-tripled-wheel drive tractor.

  50. I was an eleven year old paper boy in Urbandale at the time. I still remember having to deliver two papers at the same time the next day. It took over twice as long as normal trudging through the drifts. However it was a blast! Some of the drifts were up to the eaves on the houses. Of course I had to do this after having played outside the whole day before. My brothers and I built a maze of tunnels through our back and front yards. It was the only time that I remember the snow being deep enough to build tunnels in our backyard. We dug until our hands were numb and our pants and arms soaked. Back then our snow gear consisted of black rubber buckle-up galoshes and we wore two pairs of pants. Goretex, thermaloft, ski pants, and sweat-wicking cold gear didn’t exist. Who knew!

  51. Marie Magnelia
    March 15, 2017 5:29 pm

    RE the Northeast storm of March 2017: Reminds me of a horrible blizzard in Iowa in April 1973. It had all of my mother’s extended family (father, sisters, BIL’s, cousins, and us trapped in Des Moines for days. Unfortunately, there was a mix up with the reservations. While my grandfather and the Jones were trapped at the Holiday Inn downtown , the Robisons and Ivys were trapped at an outlying HI. We were all there to honor my grandfather for his years as an Optometrist. He was 85 and no longer practicing. I was only 9, but I think it was a lifetime achievement award. Big enough for us all to go to see him get the award. My mom and her sisters wore long gowns. I’d packed spring clothes for the trip home. The banquet was lovely. The next day, when we couldn’t leave, my dad said “I’m getting us all together!” Another guy in the hotel restaurant said “good luck, fella! Here are the keys to my 4 wheel drive jeep!” The Ivy and Robison adults played lots of Bridge. My Ivy cousins and I played whatever games we could make up. When the roads were finally cleared, my dad went out to clear off the car. We also had to clean out the inside! The snow had blown in through the floorboards and vents. When we finally left, I counted 114 (or was it 144?) jack-knifed semis along I80 between Des Moines and Amana, IA (103 miles). On the remaining 65 miles to Davenport, IA, I don’t believe a saw one truck off the road. I, personally, had a blast! The Robisons had traveled from Rockford, IL. The Ivys had come from Rochester, MN. The Jones and my grandfather had come from Davenport, IA.

  52. Paula McWilliams
    March 17, 2017 6:35 pm

    My brother Gary, his friend Bob, my 2 year old daughter Kim & I were on I-80 traveling from Omaha from a visit to our parents back home to Des Moines on I-80. It was April 8th in mid afternoon when the snow became dangerous. We were rear ended by a station wagon & pulled over to get some ins info. My brother went back to their car when a semi rear ended us & drug us at least 75 ft. up the highway before we came to a stop. Another truck rear ended the first truck and laid sideways along our car. Another truck rear ended the second truck and put us in a rocking chair of semis. We had no idea how far back my brother was, he was no where in sight. Bob said “we’re sitting ducks lets get out of here.” We left the car and tried to get a ride, however most cars were at gridlock. An elderly couple raised their window down to take my 2 year old daughter in for warmth & safety. I think they were scared of us young hippies. They wouldn’t let us in. A car with 2 guys & a girl (hippies) did stop to pick us up. We retrieved my daughter & hopped in the car with them. I’ll never forget the radio was playing ” Drift Away” by Dobie Gray. Along the way into West Des Moines we ran across an A&E milk delivery truck. The driver gave my 2 year old cartons of milk, then a Hiland potato chip driver gave us snacks. Traffic stopped totally in West Des Moines. We climbed the fence in WDM, me first and fell flat on my back in the snow, then Bob who carried my daughter up, dropped her to me & then fell. We ran to the closest house. They took us in & gave us food & shelter. Bob called the police & told them he had to have his insulin & the police came to take us back to my home on the south side. The closest they could get was Army Post Rd. & SW 9th. A very long walk in the snow. It’s amazing that we made it. It sometimes feels like I’m watching a movie in my mind. Over 4 decades later the nightmare has become a victory. A matter of survival with the help of GOD!

  53. I lived in Dubuque at the time of this historic snowstorm. A group of us lived in Ruth and Russel Nash’s boarding house which was part of the 4th Street Artist’s Coop, in what is now Cable Car Square. Some of the residents of 4th Street were skiing down the street. A small group took off on foot to cross the bridge over the Mississippi River to East Dubuque to purchase liquid rations for the duration of the storm. Also there was a game of “Risk” that went on for days! I have lost touch with everyone from that time and place except one or two I have reconnected with. Would like to hear from others who rode out the storm in Dubuque, Iowa, and especially those who might have had a connection with the 4th Street Artists’ Coop and Gallery.

  54. I was a conscientious freshman at Iowa State University in April 1973. I remember trudging through deep snow to get to class, only to find out classes were cancelled. I didn’t realize it was a historic blizzard till later.

  55. The town was shut down no traffic no nothing only form of transportation was snowmobile i remember going to the sheriff’s office and helping do some emergency rides for stranded people it was a snowmobile paradise we enjoyed it for about three days it was a blast

    • Sandra Fletcher
      April 8, 2018 4:49 pm

      John Lukehart from Laurel-Gilman SEMCO? I’m Sandy Fletcher, just enjoying reading through here and you are the second person I’ve run across that I think I know!

  56. Wow. I lived thru it and didn’t remember all those who didn’t. We lived on acreage a few miles S of Knoxville on Highway 5. I moved my daughter and I down to 1st floor to be near the space heater in case we lost electricity and heater fan. We were so lucky not to. I couldn’t see our 3 story barn but was able to get our horses inside and get back to house safely.
    Monday after the snow and wind stopped, I waited for someone to dig me out when I realized everyone had to dig themselves out so I used the snow blade on my Wheelhorse mower and hed dug out the driveway when they opened the highway. I had taken my husband to his tractor/trailer Sun p.m. and he had driven all the way in the blizzard till he went thru a tunnel in PA. By Friday it had warmed up to 70 degrees and so much had melted when he made the return trip.

  57. A group of coworkers and I traveled from Northeast Iowa to attend a conference at the Savery Hotel. Most of us had booked rooms out on Fleur Drive. One guy had a room at the Savery. The snow and wind came so hard and fast that none us could get to our hotel rooms except the guy at the Savery. We slept 11 people end-to-end in that one room. Babe’s restaurant was open so we managed to trudge down the street to eat. Looking back on it, it was pretty fun!

  58. On Friday two days earlier it was in the 70’s in Ames. I rode my bike and played 27 holes of golf. We lived in Pammel Court at ISU and could barely see our car on Tuesday morning.

  59. I was 13 years old when the blizzard happened. We lived just inside the eastern edge of Cedar Rapids. It started during the afternoon of Sunday April 8th. The day before it was 60 degrees, and we were racing bicycles on a vacant lot
    which had a 30 foot high dirt cliff, that was next door to one of our neighbors. Now we were sledding down the hill we lived on top of. I remember going in for supper, and watching The Wizard of Oz. The next morning snow was halfway up our windows, and school was canceled. But my mom didn’t believe it, b/c Cedar Rapids never cancelled unless it really WAS impossible for a 4 wheel drive Blazer to drive 6 blocks to the Board of Education. After 40 minutes of waiting for a bus on a road with no traffic, Mom believed us, and let us go cliff jumping into 10 foot high snow drifts. School was out for most of that week.

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