Saturday, February 19, 2022

Arctic Blizzards on the St. Lawrence River

Growing up just seventeen miles south of the St. Lawrence River, Lake Ontario, and Canada, arctic blizzards brought an average snowfall of one hundred inches to our area. Winters were long and tiresome, but we didn’t seem to know that wasn’t normal. We built igloos, snowmen, and skating rinks. We did lots of sledding, snowball fighting, and some people even ice fished. That was in the 1970s with warm homes, heated cars, and electric lights. But what was it like a hundred years earlier before central heat, cars, and electricity? I shudder to think of it.

In the 1930s, my mom grew up with no electricity, heat, or running water in their home. Instead, they boasted a snow cave to a double-seater outhouse, a pump for water, and a single wood stove to heat their entire home. But the northern New York winters were just as cold as when I grew up.

Arctic air from Canada moves across Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River picking up moisture that rises, forms clouds, and grows into bands that produce several inches of snow per hour. Wind howls. Snow falls. And hours later, you’re digging out from several inches—or feet—of snow.

How did they do it back in the early 1900s? I can’t imagine, but folks are a hardy lot in the North Country, and somehow they not only survived but thrived.

In 1977, I experienced a “ground blizzard” that is still considered one of the worst snowstorms of all time. I barely made it home from college on January 28, and for four days the wind howled up to fifty mph and the snow fell where several feet of snow already covered the ground. All told, over one hundred inches of snow fell in those four days causing several deaths and lots of damage. Yet I had heat, lights, and television—though a trip to the store yielded a rationed mixture of chick peas and canned spinach.

In the early 1900s, what would it be like to experience such a storm? I can only imagine, but it happened year after year and Thousand Islanders came out stronger and better for the challenges they faced. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons I love and respect the River people.

Lizzy gets caught in such a snowstorm in Christmas Charity. Have you been in a blizzard? I’d love to hear your story. Leave your answer or comments on the post below and join me on March 19th for my next post.

About Christmas Charity:

Susan Hawkins and Patrick O’Neill find that an arranged marriage is much harder than they think, especially when they emigrate from Wolfe Island, Canada, to Cape Vincent, New York, in 1864, just a week after they marry—with Patrick’s nine-year-old daughter, Lizzy, in tow. Can twenty-three-year-old Susan Hawkins learn to love her forty-nine-year-old husband and find charity for her angry stepdaughter?

About Susan G Mathis

Susan G Mathis is an international award-winning, multi-published author of stories set in the beautiful Thousand Islands, her childhood stomping ground in upstate NY. Susan has been published more than twenty times in full-length novels, novellas, and non-fiction books. She has seven in her fiction line including, The Fabric of Hope: An Irish Family Legacy, Christmas Charity, Katelyn’s Choice, Devyn’s Dilemma, Sara’s Surprise, Reagan’s Reward, and her newest, Colleen’s Confession, with Peyton’s Promise and Rachel’s Reunion coming soon. She is also a published author of two premarital books, two children's picture books, seven stories in compilation books, and hundreds of published articles. Find out more at



  1. Thanks for posting, although snow and winter are NOT my favorite things. I've experienced several large snowfalls in my lifetime and the thought of one hundred inches makes me shudder!

  2. Those photos are incredible! We lived in Maryland during the blizzard of 1978, and we got several feet of snow over two days (not sure exactly how much). We had just moved there from northern New Jersey where we often had long, snowy winters. My dad let the snowblower convey with the house in NJ thinking he wouldn't need it in MD. He was not happy having to shovel our very long driveway. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Wow, I love snow, but I can't imagine 100". That is just too much for the Georgia girl. LOL