f/8 and Be There
Fred Lynch

Past Pics: Blizzard of '79

Posted Sunday, February 22, 2009, at 5:30 PM

A National Guard driver offered a ride outside the Salvation Army building in the 200 block of Broadway. (Southeast Missourian archive)

Where were you 30 years ago? I was taking pictures of the Blizzard of '79.

With Cape Girardeau shut down by two feet of snow, I was able to "get to work" with transportation provided by the National Guard.

Here are some snow scenes from Feb. 25-27, 1979.

Following is an excerpt from a Southeast Missourian story, Oct. 4, 2004:

The headline on the Feb. 27, 1979 issue of the Southeast Missourian was 3/4 inches tall and read: "New yardstick, blizzard of 1979." The entire front page was blizzard coverage.

Missourian executive editor John Blue captured the essence of the disaster in just a few sentences: "Say nothing more about the snow of 1917-1918," he wrote. "Hereafter the yardstick will be the Great Blizzard of Feb. 25, 1979.

"Researchers and reporters, delving into the weather records hereafter will use this as their reference point -- and what a point it is. Never, at least in recorded city history, has there been anything like it.

"Cape Girardeau is paralyzed. Nothing moves but emergency vehicles and a few with four-wheel drives authorized by police. All others are subject to arrest.

"Grocery stores, doing a rush of walk-in business, are running out of bread, milk and other staples. Businesses are shut down. There are no burials -- the bodies are being held until the weather moderates.

"Everywhere there are snowdrifts, man-made or nature-made. The man-made ones are a canyon down the streets, allowing one-way traffic for police and other emergency vehicles. The nature-made ones are drifts six and eight feet high. Cars are buried."

A National Guard road grader plowed snow on Broadway across from the telephone building. Shakey's Pizza Parlor is on the left.

The awning at Howard's Athletic Goods on Broadway collapsed from the weight of the snow.

Traffic moved at a snail's pace along Interstate 55.

Burton Davis removed snow above Zickfield's Gift Box on Main Street.

Good Hope Street was one of the last areas cleared of snow after the blizzard.

The blizzard left many homes without power and heat in Perry County. Sgt. Roy Jerrolds carries Alyssa Webb, 3-month-old daughter of Kathy Webb, who steps over the fence. The flight took them to shelter at the Perryville armory.

A National Guardsman drove through a Cape Girardeau neighborhood where walking was the mode of travel.

Here is a link to another story on the blizzard from Feb 25, 2004.

Click to read the entire story by John L. Blue of the Great Blizzard of Feb. 25, 1979.

Here is a comment from Mark Litherland:

I remember this storm and my brother and I are actually in the picture. (My brother, Timothy is the little blond boy and I am standing next to him helping the lady across the sidewalk. My Father (The Salvation Army Captain), my brother and I walked about three miles to get to the Citadel and open it up to serve those in need. Good Memories!


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  • Mr. Lynch,

    Please post more of these blogs! One can learn a lot about Cape Girardeau's past with pictures.

    Just think how neat it would be if all of the Missourian's pictures were electronic and available online in a sizable database.

    -- Posted by isobar on Wed, Feb 25, 2009, at 9:09 AM
  • Fred these pics are awesome -- I seem to remember having more snow than what your pics show. But, it has been 30 years!!!

    -- Posted by TommyStix on Wed, Feb 25, 2009, at 9:34 AM
  • In the Zwickfields' picture: Wonder if Mr. Davis made it through the job without a mishap? Why do I ask?

    Take a look at the UNDER-side of that roof, directly underneath his LEFT foot. If he made it, he was one lucky son-of-a-gun...!!!

    I remember that night it started, on a Sunday, I think? Well, I definitely remember HOW---with a THUNDERSTORM! And by morning, our lower-story windows were the neatest whiteboard you could ever ask for, from the inside!

    -- Posted by donknome-2 on Wed, Feb 25, 2009, at 11:56 AM
  • I was 7 years old and remember that I couldn't walk through the snow unless someone else made tracks...and then it was not easy. I also remember my uncle digging everyone out with his backhoe, and leaving HUGE drifts for us to play in.

    -- Posted by tinks89 on Wed, Feb 25, 2009, at 1:34 PM
  • Boy, do I ever remember the blizzard. My husband and son were stranded in Cape at my parents house and I was stranded with a 10 day old baby girl in the country with no electricity. Thank the good Lord we had a fireplace and wood stove. We owned a tree service so we had plenty of firewood. My husband had made me a swinging hook on the fireplace to hold a cast iron pot to cook stews, chili, etc. I cooked on that and melted snow for water because our well pump was out because of no power. I always canned vegtables from the garden and we had half a beef in the freezer so food was no problem. Had plenty of diapers for the baby so we made it fine. My husband pushed snow with his pickup for miles to get home to us and then got his tractor with blade on it and cleared all the neighbors driveways. We were surprised to find a package hanging on our mailbox with 20 lbs of Esicar's smoked bacon in it about a week later. It was a great payback for getting his stranded children out of the snowstorm. This is one event I will never forget.

    -- Posted by IBCNU2 on Wed, Feb 25, 2009, at 5:20 PM
  • This was 4 yrs after I moved down south & it was the closest thing to a real snow I've ever seen in Mo , I enjoyed watching people try to drive in it , I even missed two days of work, that was a great winter for weather!

    -- Posted by rockman54 on Thu, Feb 26, 2009, at 7:57 AM
  • anyone remember when "Don said it would" be 1 to 2 inches, and it became more like 21 inches of snow...?!!!! Wow, those black and white photos make it all seem so "old" - like photos from the 1950's...

    -- Posted by jacksonjazzman on Thu, Feb 26, 2009, at 2:27 PM
  • I agree w/ Isobar! These pics are great!

    -- Posted by PeggySue on Sat, Feb 28, 2009, at 1:13 PM
  • Snow WAS a lot deeper than these photos show! In rural SE Missouri, the drifts were 10 feet deep! I, too, was home with a new baby!

    -- Posted by goat lady on Tue, Dec 8, 2009, at 7:16 PM
  • I remeber the blizzard of 1979. My four friends and I were camping in the Qzarks that weekend and we woke Sunday morning to a light dusting of snow. Later that day we drove to I55 and stopped at a resturant where someone told us it was snowing on I55 south of us. All of us were students at SEMO but all from St Louis area and we didn't know if we should go to St Louis or head to Cape for class's on Monday, we headed south and boy was that a bad idea. Five large 20 year olds in a 1963 Ford Falcon for 15 hours was misry. Our progress really slowed just 30 miles from Cape, as the snow blew and started to drift on the interstate, traffic narrowed to one lane at a crawl of about 2 mph. By the time that the sun came up Monday morning we found ourselve about 2 miles from the I55 exit near the hospital. A snow drift blocked the overpass at the exit and no traffic was moving past that exit. We abandond the car on 55 and walked the last 2 miles to our house near the interstate. We had to dig a tunnel to our front door. After we got inside, we heard a rumble outside our house and looked outside to see a tank rumble up our road. The Road Trip from Hell.....

    -- Posted by pickinpete626 on Wed, Dec 16, 2009, at 1:25 AM
  • Enjoyed those photos so much!! I was almost four months preggers in Feb. 1979 and remember that blizzard very well! The night before it was thundering/lightning...a regular thunderstorm. My mother-in-law called early the next a.m. to tell us to forget about church...go look outside! What a surprise that was. Thanks for the memories. Surely there are more photos SOMEwhere out there.....

    -- Posted by Leenda on Fri, Sep 3, 2010, at 9:48 AM
  • I remember the radio announcer saying "if you don't need to go out, stay home." I opened the door and saw only snow going horizonatal about 6 inches away. It continued most of the day. Snow was blown into any crack or crevice. Weeks later, people had ceiling damage because of melting snow from the attic. Couldn't go to work until Wednesday afternoon. Snow drifts were 8 to 14 feet tall and one car width. We were without power just a day or 2. My parents were without power for 7 days almost to the minute. Memories!!!

    -- Posted by GrandPappyC on Fri, Dec 28, 2012, at 2:50 PM