THE GREAT APRIL BLIZZARD OF '73!

April 9, 2016

Snow fell Friday in Cedar Rapids and much of my local area. I should have expected it because I was in Missouri and not around to see it. We have a standing joke in the weather office that I like snow so much that it avoids me. Somehow it always seems to find a way to slither around my presence. We now call Cedar Rapids and the surrounding area the black hole of weather due to this unique effect.

Anyway, with me gone Friday it did find a way to snow back home. Here are the observations from noon and 1:00 p.m. Proof to be sure!

While this is late for snow I would not say it is unusual. What is quite rare is the storm that hit on the same date 43 years ago. The blizzard that raged over parts of eastern Iowa and southern Wisconsin April 8th and 9th of 1973 was epic. 70 mph winds and up to 20″ of snow fell on a line from Bell Plaine to Dubuque and completely shut down traffic. Plows had been dismantled and the intense snowfall and winds caught everyone by surprise. The storm would have been spectacular by mid-winter standards but coming in April was a once in a century event and one that I consider Iowa’s perfect April storm. Things had to come together just right for such a late season blizzard. The surface map.

SNOW TOTALS: Some of the totals included 19.2″ at Dubuque (then a record for largest snowstorm on record), 19″ at Grundy Center, 20.2″ at Belle Plaine (the largest total from storm), Waucoma 16″ New Hampton, Harcourt, Elkader and Decorah 15″, Parkersburg and Cascade at 14″, Clutier, Mason City, Shell Rock and Cresco at 13″ Des Moines 12″ (13.8″ for the entire system), Cedar Rapids, Indianola, Knoxville, Creston, Corydon, Northwood and Popejoy 12″, Osage, Fayette, Clarence, Mount Ayr, Zearing and Gilman 11″, Waterloo, Conrad and Hubbard at 10″ Lamoni and Ottumwa 9″. The northwestern and far southeastern counties of the state were spared with little or no snow, (far SE Iowa got over an inch of rain with very little snow).

Here’s a picture from the Cedar Rapids Gazette that I used in my book Superstorms. Blairs Ferry Road is littered with stranded cars with drifts to the roof tops!

Another shot shows the huge drifts that shut down roads.

I was a junior in high school at Iowa City West and I’m pretty sure school was closed for 3 days. I can never remember before or since schools being closed due to snow in this part of Iowa in the month of April. It was amazing.

Soon after temperatures were back in the 50s and 60s and the snow melted and was nothing more than a remarkable memory! Roll 

 

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© 2019 Terry Swails