Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Think this winter's bad? Think again...

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FOR parka-clad Winnipeggers looking for some cold comfort, consider yourself lucky that we aren't dealing with the March of 1966 that roared in like a lion.

This week's wicked wind chill is nothing compared to what was blowing 45 years ago today, when the city was walloped by a 14-hour storm.

The headline in the final edition of the Winnipeg Free Press on March 4, 1966, said it all: "Wild Blizzard Rakes Province -- Worst in History."

The snow began falling just after midnight on March 4. By morning, schools were closed, as were most stores and businesses.

The city was buffeted by 80 km/h winds that gusted up to 109 km/h. When it was over in the darkness later that day, 35.5 centimetres of snow piled up -- an amount that would not be surpassed until the April storm of 1997 (43.2 cm).

Free Press reporter Raymond Sinclair wrote that an eerie silence descended on the city that day. As the wind howled, the streets were littered with abandoned cars, trucks and transit buses. "The end of the world could well have been this day," Sinclair wrote.

There were reports of eight-foot drifts in Westwood; 1,600 people were forced to spend the night downtown inside The Bay and Eaton's and hundreds more were trapped in the buses stuck on city streets.

Brandon was untouched by the blizzard but, in addition to Winnipeg, the storm also paralyzed Altona, Beausejour and Carman.

The storm provided the citizens of Winnipeg an opportunity to demonstrate their resilience. A network of 50 ham radio operators set up an emergency network to direct delivery of food, medicine and other necessary items by snow machines, tow trucks and the odd car that could move.

Housewives were called upon to prepare food for snowplow operators who worked through the storm and afterwards to return the city to normalcy.

An unidentified man driving a Land Rover is credited with saving the life of a 23-year-old woman, Janice McDonald, who was bleeding badly at her Spence Street home but ambulances and fire trucks were unable to reach her.

City in a fix during the blizzard of '66

 

Mayor Stephen Juba drove through the morning storm in his big Cadillac to the old gingerbread city hall, where he set up emergency headquarters.

Police patrolled the city on snow machines and snowplows.

Flights in and out of Winnipeg International Airport were shut March 4 and didn't resume until the next day.

Two men died from heart attacks as they struggled to walk home in the middle of the storm.

Schools were closed for two days.

The Greater Winnipeg Safety Council launched Operation Snowbound the next day to help the aged, disabled and the sick dig out from under the storm and get supplies of food and medicine.

The cleanup bill was estimated at $1 million.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 4, 2011 A6

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