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The Blizzard of 1967

Posted under by Heidi Samuelson

On January 26–27, 1967, Chicago experienced its worst snowstorm on record. The snow began at 5:02 a.m. on Thursday, January 26, and by 10:10 a.m. the next day, a record 23.0 inches of snowfall from a storm blanketed the city. High winds caused considerable blowing, with drifts of 4 to 6 feet widespread throughout the area.

Aerial view of cars stuck on a city street
Aerial view of cars stuck on Greenview Avenue in Rogers Park, Chicago, January 26, 1967; ST-17500889, Chicago Sun-Times collection, CHM

Just two days before the storm, the high temperature was a record 65°F, and the low was 44°F. But on January 25, a cold front moved through the upper Midwest, replacing the balmy temperatures. Dew points in the 50s–60s over the Southern Plains and Gulf Coast states provided ample moisture, while high pressure centered over Lake Superior and southern Ontario kept cold dry air moving over the Great Lakes. That high pressure along with low pressure over the Ohio Valley caused winds to howl off Lake Michigan.

Street view of cars covered in high drifts of snow
Cars covered with snow on Rosemont Ave. looking east from California Ave., January 1967; CHM, ICHi-035577, Howard B. Anderson, photographer

By noon, about 8 inches of snow was already on the ground, and O’Hare airport was shut down. Some schools and businesses released students and employees early, but the commute home was still treacherous. By Friday morning, Chicago was at a standstill—20,000 cars and 1,100 CTA buses were stranded. Helicopters delivered medical supplies to hospitals as well as food and blankets to stranded motorists. At least a dozen babies were born at home, though some expectant mothers were taken to hospitals by sled, bulldozer, and snowplow.

One man pushes a snowblower while two men pull with rope to clean the sidewalk
One man pushes a snowblower while two men pull with a rope to clean the sidewalk after the blizzard, January 1967; CHM, MDN-0000013

By January 28, Chicago had begun to dig itself out. Although CTA buses were operating most lines, abandoned vehicles hampered cleanup, and snow had to be hauled by dump truck to the Chicago River. Railcars of snow were even delivered to Fort Myers Beach, Florida, after 13-year-old Terri Hodson wrote a letter to the president of the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad, having never seen snow before.

Snow being loaded into a refrigerated rail car by a bulldozer
Packing snow in a refrigerated rail car to send to Florida, February 20, 1967; ST-15002021-0012, Chicago Sun-Times collection, CHM

O’Hare finally reopened around midnight on Monday, January 30, but most schools didn’t reopen until Tuesday. In the end, 60 people in the Chicago area died, and there was an estimated $150 million in business losses (equivalent to $1.19 billion today). The snowstorm was likely the biggest disruption to the commerce and transportation of Chicago of any event since the 1871 Great Chicago Fire.


Digging out at Union Station, January 30, 1967; ST-11006892-0020, Chicago Sun-Times collection, CHM, Don Bierman, photographer

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Comments (31)

  1. I lived at Bryn Mawr and Kenmore at the time. My friend came over and we went out. We walked past the Edgewater Beach Hotel to the Outer Drive. We stood in the middle of the Drive and all we could see was snow and bumps in the snow where cars were buried. On the way back we passed a snow drift that was 15’ high covering a bus.

  2. Does anyone remember the WFLD ‘Think Green’ promotional antenna ball to locate your car in the snow? They were so popular that car owner’s used them long after the storm to find their car in shopping mall parking lots.

  3. We lived in Burnham. Dad had to carry me home when school bus dropped me off at approximately 1/2 mile from home. My older brother was stranded at school. He slept on a church pew for three days. Mom got a call from local store about 1/2 mile away. There was a milk delivery truck stranded at the store and the store manager was calling families that had babies or kids under 3 yrs. to pick up what ever they could carry. The deep freezer in our basement was empty since Mom had purchased a half side of beef that she was to pick up on the day the storm started. She couldn’t get to the butcher before the storm hit, so we dug a tunnel in the snow drifts that went from our backdoor, over a fence, to our neighbors backdoor so that we could share food with the neighbor.

  4. I remember a huge snowstorm when I was about 9-10 years old (1967-68) and living in the suburbs of Detroit. Could this be the same snowstorm? We kids had a blast with all the snow (over my head!) but I’m sure it was a real headache for my agents!

  5. That snowstorm almost closed many hospitals. I was an intern at CCH on Neurosurgery those days. None of the residents or attending staff made it in. I was certainly frightened that someone might need N/S services. Fortunately patients couldn’t make it in either. I just had to “round” on patients in the ward and then talk to the Chief Resident, Luis Yarzagaray, and follow his recommendations.
    Fortunately no one died on our service those days.

  6. I was a baby when the blizzard hit (I was born in 1964). We lived in Hammond, Indiana and we got slammed as well. I vaguely the deep snow and mother taking me outside while dad was shoveling out our front walk and I fell face down in a snowbank and having to be dug out.

  7. Were the Burlington Northern commuter trains also not running on the 27th? I think I remember my father saying that they weren’t. He worked at Western Electric in Cicero and commuted to work from Western Springs on them. He did not go into work on the 27th. Took photos and shoveled out our driveway.

  8. We lived in the Portage Park area .Remember the weatherman forecasted just a few inches of snow. Woke up the next morning there were snow drifts in our gangway up to the 2nd floor apartment. Walked to grade school for days in snow tunnels. People could only shovel one shovel width on the sidewalks. The snow was shoulder high on both sides of the sidewalk. Cars stuck on every street It was scary but fun!

  9. Remember it well. The drive home from the Midway Airport area to Roseland was terrible. I had to drop off two co-workers in Dalton. The two north streets, Indiana and Halsted were not moving. I remembered a side street and made it home. Some of our neighbors were taking in people who left their Autos on the Dan Ryan. Many on the Calumet Expressway stayed at the local Fire Station

  10. My wife and I lived in Hyde Park that year, at 52d and Blackstone. That first morning, we set out to get some supplies at the grocery. We walked out of the front door of our building to confront a wall of snow five feet high. We got on top of the snow and walked south on Blackstone. We could see the roofs of the cars along the curb just peeking out of the snow.

  11. I was a freshman at the University of Chicago in 1967, living with my parents on the far West Side and commuting to Hyde Park for classes. I had a Bio lab in the old Stage Field labs early on the Saturday morning after the storm. It was too early to phone campus to find out if classes were on, and I dutifully rose early, rode the Lake Street El downtown, took the Illinois Central train to Hyde Park, trudged through the drifts, and arrived at the outside door, only to see a Scotch-taped sign notifying me the lab had been canceled. Reflecting that I should’ve been sensible enough to have stayed home, I simply turned around and returned there–though not without doubts that I had the right stuff to get me through the College. It’s an open question whether it was just the plain doggedness I showed on that after-the-Big-Snow morning that accounted for my getting my U of C degree in the spring of ’70.

  12. I remembered it well. My mother-in-law got snowed in and stayed 5 days teaching us a card game called Kaluki. My husband went to the store with a sled to pull back some groceries. It was an experience not to be forgotten.

  13. My best friend lived on Cornelia at the Addison ramp to the Kennedy expressway. Cars were stalled all over the Kennedy in both directions, but the ramp was clear. It made the best sledding hill!

  14. My sister was caught on a train returning to the University of Michigan and had a several hour wait before she was able to reach school. We lived in the suburbs and people could not use their cars, so they went to the grocery story with sleds. My father was able to walk to the train to go to his downtown office. Students enjoyed the time off from school until we could be plowed; in those days, we almost never had a school day canceled. If one was not inconvenienced, it was a gorgeous scene!

  15. I was 10 years old growing up in Wilmette at the time. It took me 4 1/2 hours to shovel the sidewalks @ our house.
    I pulled my 3 year old brother on a sled walking beside my mother in the middle of the street as we went to and from the Jewel grocery store @ 4th & Linden. That store closed the next year after the Plaza Del Lago store opened.
    Great memories of sledding down “suicide” hill @ the Wilmette Beach right after the storm.

  16. Yup, family including us kids was taking the bus home (151 Sheridan) from downtown. Seemed like a hundred years to plow through the growing mess. Over and over again we pleaded with Mommy to let us get out and walk. She finally had enough and let us go — but only when we reached Diversey which was only a couple blocks from where we lived (Barry Ave). Nevertheless we got home way before Mommy who continued on the bus.

  17. In Dolton they let us out of Vanderbilt School 2nd grade way to late. I could barely walk the snow was so high. I walked beside a crying little girl who had lost her shoe in the snow. I made it to Dante Ave 1/2 mile away. I looked down that long street & saw an elderly neighborGus Giometti, friend of my Dads’, waving at me. I remember lifting my arm & falling forward. I passed out. Next thing I knew I was being carried & it was great! My mom opened our front door & Gus yelled, “Got a package for you!” “OMG!! , My Mom said, “I should have never let you go to school! “….ya think?!?!?

  18. I was born on February 1 1967 they took my mom to the hospital in a police car on January 27 because my grandparents were afraid I would be born at home and they had no experience at that we lived at 69 th and wood street in Chicago

  19. I was 16 years old and my grandma was a patient at St Joseph Hospital. She passed away on February 2 and couldn’t be buried for a week because the roads leading to the cemetery were blocked. It was a horrible time for my family

  20. My husband, 3 yea-old son and I (pregnant with #2) had to move that weekend from our apartment at Touhy and Damen in Rogers Park to a duplex in Des Plaines and were distraught when the snow kept coming down. Our movers – two guys with their own little company – arrived right on time on Saturday morning, shoveling their way to our building from the snow-piled corner, carried our things from our third-floor walk-up downstairs and loaded the truck. We followed them in our car to Des Plaines and our home. They shoveled a path to the front door, unladed our things – even taking their boots off when they got inside. They quoted the move at $100 earlier and stuck to their price. All we had to our name was the $100 and a $10 bill, which we gave them as a thank you. We recommended them to anyone we knew would be moving and sure hope they succeeded in their busines.

  21. I was born January 30, 1967 and the same thing happened to my mother as Danny’s mom she had to be taken to the hospital by a police vehicle. I am always reminded of this incredible snow accumulation every year. Chicago is a prepared city for such a snow event. I have read some incredible stories of the mega snow fall of 1967!!!

  22. Snow drifts were up to the roof of our brick ranch in Park Ridge. The bus dropped us off @ Maine South in the morning only to find it closed. My friends & I trudged back home on foot which seemed to take hours! Mom & Dad were able to make it home from work in time as cars were abandoned everywhere. People skiing down the streets, pulling sleds, helping neighbors: our chance to see what life was like in a different era.

  23. It’s a story I tell my kids and grandkids about. Wadsworth Elementary, Griffith IN, decided to let all the kids out in the middle of the blizzard. Basically just open the door and said get home fast. I was only seven and too afraid to go out in a blizzard. My brother’s took off without me, and I knew I would be in trouble when I got home for not being with them. So the principal of the school called my mom and told her to come up and pick me up. We had one car and my dad had it at work. We just lived a few blocks away but she was so mad when she walked up to the school, stuck her head in the door and said come on. But she kept disappearing into the blizzard right in front of my eyes so I would turn and run back to the school. She finally stomped into the school grabbed the top of my hat and dragged me along behind her. I tried keeping up with her but the snow was so deep there was no way. She kept saying follow in my footsteps but those footsteps were about up to my waist. Every time I watch Polar Express, when the man’s on top of the train, I think of Griffith Indiana.

  24. I was in 8th grade in Park Forest and the school closed early, which never happened. I remember the snow being so deep walking home from the bus stop, that I had to lift my legs out, one at a time, to take another step. The snow and wind drifts kept our backdoor from opening and my brother had to dig a tunnel for us to get out! Other kids were jumping off their second story roofs and landing in snow! The streets were closed and used for sledding! What an experience!

  25. I was a nursing student at Roseland Community Hospital in my second year of training. It was an incredible learning experience for me since there was a shortage of staff. I performed front table 7 hour assistance none stop for an MD and patient needing a Carotid Endarterectomy. I was exhausted however gained great confidence having had done it. I was 18. Now a masters level RN for 53years

  26. Lived right next to the Kennedy expressway and we were walking out in the middle of it through the snow. No traffic. Very cool experience, no pun.

  27. We lived in Park Forest and worked downtown at Esquire Magazine on East South Water. I and a friend from work took the last Illinois Central train to make it through to the Matteson end-of-the-line stop. Stayed two days at her place before trudging two miles to ou townhouse. Remember lots of community shoveling and cheers when lifeline roads were connected so side roads were passable. I delivered one of the six blizzard babies in our block that October.

  28. Someone that I know was climbing and jumping from one snowdrift buried car to the next, until he fell through into one of them. It turned out to be a snow-buried convertible parked along Lawndale near Cortland. When the owner discovered it, he probably thought the weight of the snow had done it.

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