The blizzard of 1977 was a deadly blizzard that hit the western areas of upstate New York as well as Southern Ontario from January 28 to February 1, 1977.
Daily peak wind gusts ranging from 46 to 69 mph (74 to 111 km/h) were recorded by the National Weather Service in Buffalo, with snowfall as high as 100 in (254 cm) recorded in areas, and the high winds blew this into drifts of 30 to 40 ft (9 to 12 m). There were 23 total storm-related deaths in western New York, with five more in northern New York.
Certain pre-existing weather conditions exacerbated the blizzard’s effects. November, December and January average temperatures were much below normal. Lake Erie froze over by December 14; an ice-covered Lake Erie usually puts an end to lake-effect snow because the wind cannot pick up moisture from the lake’s surface, convert the moisture to snow and then dump it when the winds reach shore.
Lake Erie was covered by a deep, powdery snow; January’s unusually cold conditions limited the usual thawing and refreezing, so the snow on the frozen lake remained powdery. The drifted snow on roadways was difficult to clear because the strong wind packed the snow solidly. In addition to the roads becoming impassable, motorists had to deal with vehicles breaking down due to the combination of very cold temperatures, very high winds and blowing snow.
In the hardest-struck areas, snowmobiles became the only viable method of transportation. In western New York and southern Ontario, snow which was accumulated on frozen Lake Erie and snow on the ground at the start of the blizzard provided ample material for the high winds to blow into huge drifts – see ground blizzard. The combination of bitter cold, high winds, and blowing snow paralyzed areas affected by the storm. Lake Ontario rarely freezes over, which meant northern New York had to deal with considerable lake effect snow, which, when coupled with the existing snow cover and wind, created paralysis.