Thankfully, this winter season has been pretty much devoid of snow in central Indiana, with the exception of one small accumulation and the day, December 17, 2016 that we had ice and Janet fell, breaking her arm. But today marks the anniversary of the largest snowfall in the history of record keeping for a “one day” snowfall in Chicago! And Janet and I both lived with our respective families on the south side when the storm hit – fifty years ago today…
It was beyond description. News reports list it as the worst storm since records have been kept, beginning back in 1884. Official records show that 23″ of snow fell over a period of 29 hours and left more than 50,000 cars and 800 buses stranded on roadways. Kids were stuck in schools overnight as buses couldn’t return them home and parents couldn’t get out to pick up their children at the schools. Airports were closed and it was one of the few times that mail deliveries were suspended. Helicopters transported blood supplies to local hospitals and the storm was referred to as the worst of the century. In fact, that turned out to be true and it will forever be remembered as the #1 storm of the 20th century in the midwest.
Unfortunately, there were also reports of looting and a number of deaths. One man was run over by a snow plow and one little girl was struck by a bullet when she was caught in the crossfire between looters and the police. Twenty six people were killed in the Chicago area and a total of 68 were killed throughout the midwest, many the result of heart attacks resulting from shoveling snow.
I was thirteen at the time and a freshman in high school. Of course, schools were closed and I lived a little more than a mile from where I attended. It was pretty much a straight shot down Western Avenue to Clissold where I attended my freshman year until we moved over to the main campus of Morgan Park for the following three years.
Snow was a pretty common occurrence in Chicago. And one of the good things about growing up in the Windy City is that you learned how to drive in any kind of condition. Snow, rain, wind – it didn’t matter – if you grew up in Chicago, you were confident driving in any kind of weather – and it didn’t matter if it changed in an instant – because it usually did.
I remember shoveling driveways for extra money. Of course, it was all done by hand. And during this particular storm, the drifts were outrageous. It was nothing to walk through drifts that were up to my waist and stranded cars were all over the place. Thankfully, we lived just one short block from Western Avenue and the major streets were plowed before the others so we used the ruts on Western to walk back and forth.
I also remember going to Slezak’s Food Mart a block away to pick up staples to get through the storm. Both my brother, Doug, and I, had children of the Slezak family in our grades. Unfortunately, we also had a neighbor on the next block who had a young child with severe medical issues; she fell seriously ill during one of the storms. I remember them carrying her in their arms down the center of the street to a hospital in Evergreen Park – several miles from where we lived. It’s seared into my memory. The little girl didn’t survive – it was tragic. And I remember how the whole neighborhood mourned the loss of our young friend. She was only about three years old when she passed away.
Back in those days, news didn’t travel as fast as it does today. We didn’t have cell phones and instant messaging. So, many times, we walked all the way to school just to find out that classes had been cancelled. Then, it was the trek all the way home, just to go out and shovel snow halfway into the night. Nowadays, we know pretty much in advance how severe the storms are going to be and the advances in equipment have made snow removal much easier than it used to be.
Whenever I experience snow, I always think about God’s creation and the magnificence of all that He has done. Nature is one of the spiritual pathways by which people connect with God and the changing seasons and weather are clear signs of the omnipotence of the Father. God mentions his creation of snow in several places throughout the Bible. The most notable is in the book of Job. At the end of the book, when Job questions God, He rebukes Job and asks a series of questions of Job. It is quite a riveting section of Scripture.
The verse for this evening is one of those that reflects the power of God. We are told, in Job 37:6, “He directs the snow to fall on the earth and tells the rain to pour down. Then everyone stops working so they can watch his power. The wild animals take cover and stay inside their dens…” That’s true. When the snow falls, almost all of us stop what we are doing and take notice. And even if we really don’t want snow, we usually have to admit that it is beautiful! My encouragement tonight is that God created everything and although we may not understand His ways, there is a purpose for everything. My prayer is that from time to time you will reflect on the awesome nature of God’s creation – and maybe even recall some of the times in your own life when you saw the majesty of God exhibited through weather. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…