Almost Yesterday: The Blizzard Of '79

Feb 20, 2018

It seems like almost yesterday that Southeast Missouri was hit with it's biggest blizzard of the 20th Century. Editor John Blue of the Southeast Missourian called it a "new yardstick in weather history." To this day, however, residents of Southeast Missouri call it the "Blizzard of '79."

The storm roared into Southeast Missouri on Saturday night and stayed through Sunday, February 26, 1979. A heavy rain turned to snow during the night and deposited twenty four inches of snow in the next fifteen hours. The temperature hovered around thirty degrees, the wind gusted to fifty miles per hour and snow was piled into drifts ten feet deep.

Thousands of residents of the region lost electrical power, I-55 was closed from Sikeston to Perryville for five days. National guardsmen brought in helicopters to serve as emergency vehicles. At Southeast Missouri State University, the snow forced the cancellation of classes for four straight days. Students gathered at pizzerias and bars and soon dried Cape Girardeau of its last drops of alcohol. Growing cabin fever prompted University President Robert Leestamper to announce that classes would be held on Friday, regardless of weather conditions.

The "Blizzard of '79" set many records. John Blue summarized the event when he wrote, "Weather records hereafter will use this as their reference point and what a point it is." It seems like Almost Yesterday.