The ABCs of Lowell History: B is for Blizzard

1912 blizzard, north side of Main Street

The Lowell Area Historical Museum is offering a weekly feature to explore local history. This week, museum staff is telling us about some of the major snow events that have occurred in Lowell over the years. To learn more about Lowell history, visit the museum website to explore its collection of local artifacts and records.


Everyone who lives in Michigan knows that blizzards happen. Blizzards in Lowell have been an opportunity for the character of the town to shine.

Snow storms and blizzards over the years have shut down normal life. In February of 1912, a blizzard with fierce winds hit Lowell. It was said that it was one of the wildest storms that had ever hit the town. The storm prevented all the rural mail carriers from successfully delivering the mail. Several were snowed in along their routes. The railroad trains were blockaded or snowbound. No mail or Grand Rapids papers arrived. The wind blew south to north, so that walks on the south side of Main Street were clear, the snow being piled up against north Main Street businesses. When shoveled, the banks were six to eight feet high.

The January 1943 storm obliterated the country roads to the point that rural mail routes could not be completed and school busses that headed out at 2:00 pm. didn’t return until 9:30 pm. There were reports of neighbors plowing one another out with plows pulled by horse teams and people generously hosting those stuck in the snow as overnight guests. One soldier’s visit, Pfc George Sower, grandson of Mr. and Mrs. Wm Thompson, saw 18 relatives come through the snow, even walking when necessary, to visit their soldier.

The famous blizzard of 1978 brought 60 mph winds, 10 foot drifts and days of being snowed in. The barometric pressure was so low that it was below registering. Lowell’s four year old middle school was damaged. The roof collapsed over a hallway in the east wing next to the gym due to the weight of the snow. Hot water pipes were also broken and the building was flooded.

Collapsed Middle School roof

There was no incoming mail received from Thursday until Sunday. No rural delivery Thursday – Monday. In town, the carriers walked. One rural carrier, Bill Condon, from Alton, made it in on his heavy duty farm tractor. Dairy farmers were forced to dump their milk, as haulers could not get to them. People helped each other; Noah Blough cleared more than a mile of Cascade Road with his bulldozer.

The Lowell community came together. People skied into town. Snowmobilers made trips for food. A shuttle service was set up with the help of snowmobiles, four wheelers, and private contractors to get those in need to rescue units. One patient had to be brought by horseback to an area where emergency vehicles could reach him.

In Alto, the Tavern was turned into an emergency center with emergency vehicles bringing in residents who needed help. Stranded motorists on the highway were taken to area homes and the Bowne Township Hall. The Alto Tavern served breakfast to all those in need.

The following year another severe storm not only dumped 18 inches of snow, but it also recorded the coldest temperatures in 28 years. Bud’s ambulance crews noted exceptional cooperation from the community. When the ambulance itself was unable to clear the drifts, four wheel drive vehicles aided the paramedics. The Police Chief cautioned snowmobiles about using city streets. He assured them they would be tolerated as emergency vehicles but their use for racing will net them a ticket and/or impoundment.

While blizzards are a good reminder of how extreme weather can be, they are also good reminders of how community can come together and help one another.

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