With its location on Lake Ontario, Oswego is known for its legendary lake effect snow. And while every year has the potential for mountains of the white stuff, certain years saw blizzards of historic proportions.
Alumni who were on campus in the years 1958, 1966, 1978 and 1993 will never forget how Oswego made headlines around the country and across the globe for the feet of snow that piled up in a matter of hours.
Judy Driscoll Skillen ’61 recalled the snowstorm that greeted students returning from the 1958 Thanksgiving Break. “I was living in Johnson at the time,” she said. “We never went to school that whole week. They airlifted in food.” Other grads tell stories of climbing out second story windows and walking on the tops of cars.
Oswego’s “Big Snow” of 1958 dropped nearly six feet of snow in five days and inspired the late Dr. Maurice O. Boyd, who directed the Symphonic Choir, to pen “Oswego Is Famous For Its Snow.”
The January Intercession of 1966 marked another massive storm.
The Blizzard of ’66, which saw 103 inches fall from Jan. 27 to 31, caused a bit of cabin fever, too. Linda Peters ’66, an Arethusa sister, recalled, ”We got so bored we got some chalk and played hopscotch in the hall.”
The snowfall of 1978 caused Oswego to become the butt of jokes for several nights on “The Johnny Carson Show,” and Carson even showed photos of the famous “snow bar” erected by students on West Fifth Street.
Grads who were on campus in 2004 and 2007 have vivid memories of monumental snowfalls too. From Jan. 26 to 30, 2004, 53.7 inches fell in just 113 hours, causing 966 classes to be cancelled. In February 2007, 72 inches of snow fell over seven days. Oswego was under a state of emergency with classes canceled for three days. The city received mention in The New York Times and alumni from as far away as Asia repored seeing news of Oswego’s blizzard.
Whatever era they graduated, Lakers will always be able to say with first hand knowledge that, “Oswego is famous for its snow.”