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Epic Blizzard hits the Panhandle:
March 22, 1957
I was wondering if anyone remembers the snow blizzard
that happened around 1957. It happened in March or April. It was during
the band solo and ensemble contest in Canyon. I was a 7th grader, who
went on the school bus on a Saturday to play my clarinet solo. My
parents drove to Canyon to hear me play. Conditions got to be awfully
bad with the snow and wind. My folks headed on home to Phillips, but the
school busses were stranded. We stayed in the college dorms. There
wasn't any food except the candy vending machines. They were empty by
the time I got to them. I'm not real sure about this detail, but I think
it was the American Red Cross who got some food to us on Sunday. The
only problem was it was chicken, and I didn't like chicken. I gladly ate
it. By the way, my folks made it home safely and got my dog, Sugarfoot,
dug out of his dog house buried deeply next to our house.
[The next 4 memories were prompted by an
email exchange among life-long friends and the webmaster.
To put the '57 blizzard in context see:
- The trip to West Texas [State in Canyon, March 1957]
is a big memory of a lot of snow. I know Mother said later that she said
as we left on the bus that she should have sent me with a coat. Anyway
our meal as I recall it was, fried chicken, chips, apple and a cookie. I
remember looking out of the window at the truck bring the sack lunches
but do not remember who brought it.
- I remember vividly the Blizzard of March 23, 1957. We had finished
most of our performances when the snow began in earnest and the winds
were fierce. It was eye-opening for us seventh graders to be stranded in
a college dormitory [2 to a single bed], though
many girls had gone home for the weekend and those who stayed were tame
by later standards. I believe one of the college girls lent me some
jeans to replace my petticoats.
I think it was the National Guard, or perhaps the Red Cross, who brought
us our first real meal in more than 24 hours, but I remember bologna
sandwiches, rather than fried chicken. It tasted good to me. We were in
Canyon two nights. By Monday morning it was bright and sunny and the
snow melted quickly.
I'd almost forgotten the sheriff's car with the handcuffed criminal, but
now have a hazy recollection. [one school bus stopped to
pull out a sheriff's car that slid into a ditch due to the icy road;
this provided most of us with our first view of a criminal in handcuffs]
More engraved in my memory is the picture in LIFE magazine of the body
of a young Boys Rancher draped against a barb-wire fence. He braved the
blizzard to walk to see his girlfriend, but he didn't make it.
- The snowstorm I remember well. I thought it was UIL
[district contest for band and choir solos and ensembles] because
I was accompanying several soloists. My dress was pink with the
requisite petticoats, and the day we left was filled with sunshine. But
the storm struck, and there we were in the middle of this surprise
adventure. The vending machines were even exciting to me. The storm
roared as the wind blew across the plains with brute force. But we were
safe inside with some great college kids; here we were with borrowed
clothes and a story to tell the ages.
I remember it well since it happened during my first
band contest in Canyon when I was in 7th grade. We left Phillips in short
sleeves with most of us dressed up for either band or choir contest. The
storm hit while we were en route greatly adding to the time it took the
school buses to arrive. The bus I was on stopped to pull a sheriff's car
out of the ditch. I remember looking down and seeing handcuffed prisoners
in the back seat of the car and thinking 'those are real criminals!'.
What we all thought would be a one day trip to Canyon and back turned into
2 nights away from home with no extra clothes, no toothbrush, no food
until the second day except what we could get from the snack machines with
our limited funds in change, sleeping 2 to a twin bed in the dorm
(luckily, the college was on spring break).
When we arrived back in Phillips I remember being amazed that even with
rapid melting, the snow drift in my back yard was taller than the roof
over the bank of garages. I had never seen so much snow!
Paling only in comparison to the 1930 to 1939 Dust Bowl (a period of
such intense heat and drought that the soil turned to dust and blew away,
and millions of people’s lives and livelihoods were uprooted), and the
April 9, 1947 White Deer/Glazier/Higgins Tornado (an F5 tornado one to two
miles wide, causing 68 deaths, 272 people injured, and $1.5 million in
property damage as it destroyed one town completely), the March 1957
blizzard caused widespread destruction and losses. Eleven people died and
countless others were injured. Property losses were in excess of $6
million dollars. Ten to twenty inches of snow fell in the four-day period,
resulting in 30-foot snow drifts in Texas, while drifts in the Oklahoma
panhandle reached 15 feet.
Thousands of motorists and laboring snowplows were stranded and trapped by
the wintery-white mounds. Twenty percent of the region’s cattle stock
perished in the blast. Complete white-out conditions rendered a visibility
of zero in many areas, for endless hours.
Residents of the area
remember the storm well. “I lived in Cactus,” one Amarillo Globe-News
reader shared. “The drifts were so high that one could walk from rooftop
to rooftop.” Another Amarillo native spent hours getting her daughter to
the hospital, only to find no doctors on the premises. A seemingly endless
two hours later, one was able to arrive and tend to the little girl’s
The [Amarillo] newspaper readers who were children at the time remember
things a little differently. One former youngster remembered building as
igloo and riding an old car hood down 3rd Avenue, while her best friend’s
brother pulled them both down “the perfect slope”. “We made tunnels in the
snow . . . it was so cool,” another one shared. But, they went on, “Now
that I am old and have to go to work, I don’t want a big blizzard like
Blizzard of 1957
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