The Blizzard of 1973



It may seem like bad weather today, but it could be worse. Lots worse. Forty years ago today Des Moines and Iowa were digging out of a massive snowstorm, remembered by many locals as the “Blizzard of ’73.” The snow started on Monday, April 9, and buried Des Moines in 12 inches of snow. Drifts of 15 feet were common across the metro area. Dubuque had a 19.2-inch snowfall. Streets in Des Moines and state highways were littered with hundreds of stranded cars,  there were several power outages in the area and, unfortunately, at least seven people died of heart attacks in Polk County.  In Indianola, babies were born in doctors’ offices because the roads to the hospitals were impassable. Schools, businesses, and even the Legislature were closed for at least a couple of days. A picture in the Des Moines Tribune that Monday showed golfers in short sleeves enjoying the 70-degree weather at Waveland on the previous Friday. The high on Monday, April 9, 1973? Twenty-nine degrees.

41 Responses

  1. I was in 7th grade that year and my dad could not get home from work where he worked in Shipping and Receiving at AMF Western Tool on Dixon Ave. That left mom home with us and the 5 neighborhood kids up the street who’s parents could not get home either. We had 8 kids with our patient mom staying in our home for 3 days. My dad, however was able to get a snowmobile from work and got to my aunt’s on E. 14 and Glenbrook Dr where he stayed until he could get home a few days later. The mother of the family of kids that stayed with us had a deep freeze full of food and instructed her kids to walk up the street and get some out for mom to be able to cook for us. I had a crush on the oldest boy who was my age and thought “hum-this could be OK after all” My mother knew better and put him in the basement.

  2. I was 13 years old I was delivering the Des Moines Register newspaper in West Des Moines Iowa me and my brother and about every tenth house they would invite us in for hot chocolate

  3. I was the Director of Data Processing at Mercy Hospital. I could not get there but I know from stories told at that time, that several doctors used snowmobiles to get to the hospital. You could walk down the middle of Fleur Drive by the golf course because there were no cars traveling when the sun came out the next day. Everything was white!

  4. My baby brother was born on St Pat’s that year and I got a new bike on 3/20 for my birthday…Great day of riding my bike for a couple weeks then the snow came. Tree came thru our picture window.

  5. Remember it well. We lived in Waukee. The wind was so so strong it blew my car sideway on the street one block from home. I went back home after finally getting turned around. Called my boss in Omaha, and he thought I was crazy. After the delivery trucks for the company I worked for (Safeway) got to Stuart could get no further and called Omaha, he called me back and belived me—it was a rough storm.

  6. I had a VW Super Beetle and a pair of jumpers and a spare charged battery. I went around giving jump-starts and taking people places. That bug just kept going. But it was COLD in that thing, the heat wasn’t for spit!

  7. I remember that blizzard, but I didn’t start digging out three days before it happened.

  8. I was also working at AMF and we slept on the stacks of cardboard in the warehouse. The dumbest thing was to even try to go to work that day from Earlham!

  9. I rember it also. I was on the last train that got out of town for the Rock Island going West. Was three days before we got back.

  10. I was 1 Month overdue and had him April 26 1973

  11. Yes I rember that day quite well. We had just moved to Newton. Ineeded to get to work and Bill went to get our sitter and got stuck on first Ave by the West End HyVee. He was stuck there for two days. He walked over to His parents. I was alone with a 16 month baby and no milk.well we had milk but it was outside in the milk box,

  12. I was 6 and I remember sledding down a drift that went over the top of the camper which was made out of a school bus.

  13. Lots of farmers lost lots of new calves during that storm- couldnt get to them.

  14. They used military tanks and snow mobiles to get people to the hospital. The next morning I walked down Hickman to dig out my car that had gotten stuck trying to get up the hill to MLK and there was a tank driving down the center of Hickman!

  15. My son was born on Sunday night April 8th 1973. Brought him home on the 10th.Took us 2 hours from Fairfield to Libertyville Iowa.Dr said I would never have a child.Well God knows!! Boy n 73 n Girl n 74. Best blessing I ever had

  16. My husband and I had begun to build a new house in Coon Rapids, Iowa. The walls for our basement were in place, it snowed heavily, and when it melted, neighbors teased us that we had built a swimming pool there for the neighborhood. We remember that snowfall

  17. My husband, Ted, was on the police force here in Newton and was to work the night shift. Our car was COMPLETLY covered with snow- it looked like a huge snowdrift in our driveway so Ted called in and said that if they wanted him to come to work, they would have to come after him because we were snowed in. It didn’t take long and they came riding in on a snowmobile to take him to work! The next day, we (Ted, Todd, Troy, Tami (3 years old) and I) built a huge snow cave in the yard. No one could believe how deep the snow was that year!

  18. Taking the sled to go get groceries because travel was impossible. Walking by Ankeny high school only to see the drift as high as the 2nd story windows.

  19. I remember that day clearly. My friends and I spent the afternoon shuttling workers from the Oliver Plant home on our snowmobiles. I can still feel going up and over an abandoned car in the street since you could not see a thing. The good thing about the storm is that we got out of school for a couple of days and it extended the snowmobile season.

  20. Nurses were snowed in at the hospitals. They took turns sleeping in empty beds. Many had to cover two shifts.

  21. Nurses were snowed in at the hospitals. They took turns sleeping in empty beds and working extra shifts.

  22. I was 10 years old. lived in Toddville. I remember my older brothers ran a rope from the house to the barn. We hung onto the rope to find the barn so we could care for the animals. The drifts were over our heads.

  23. I lived in Dubuque at the time. We missed school for three days because the plows couldn’t even plow a lot of the streets. The drifts were too high to plow.

  24. My dad said he could hardly breath outside in the blizzard. When it was over, I could walk out on the snow and sit on the top of our swing set. We walked to my grandparents farm through the field as all the snow filled in the road between ditches.

  25. I remember that day, I was home from work with strep throat, I lived with my grandma. The next morning we opened the front door, we couldn’t open it because the snow drift was so high it covered the whole door.
    But, the back door was fine, no drift at all.

  26. I was 9. Best snow fort South English ever had.

  27. I remember this day very well, my birthday is April 9th. I woke up that morning to hear strange voices in my living room. When I got up my parents were both home from work and there was a couple setting in our living room. They had gotten stuck on HWY 65 which ran through Collins. My parents took them in for a couple of days till they could get to their car and HWY 65 was cleared. My boyfriend had snowmobiles, he came picked me up and we rode around to check things out. I was just a mess cars were just stuck in middle of the streets, drifts were as high as roof tops….it was a birthday to remember for sure!

  28. I was 4 yrs old at the time. I don’t remember it but my parents told it was a big storm. Quite the snowy mess.

  29. I remember that storm, it was to my memory the worse one that I have ever live thru. Thanks for the picture Lori. Bev.

  30. I remember. April 10th was my mom’s birthday and we were having a party. My sister-in-law made it through the snow downtown DM to pick up the champagne cake from Barbara’s Bake Shop. Thanks Linda!

  31. The year I graduated! Had gone to my sisters in West Union for Easter and could not get back home. When we could get on the road it was slow going and the drifts on side of road were higher than the car!

  32. We lived in North Ankeny. The snow was sideways for 3 days. The front of our house had no snow (east), but we could walk to the top of the 2nd story roof in the back, the drifting was so high. I remember a great loss for the farmers of their livestock – from turkeys to chickens to pigs. My son was 3 years old then and I was telling him about it today. He asked me to find something about the blizzard online and I found this site. Nice to remember with others who were there too.

  33. It was 41 years ago.

  34. I was at a friend’s house on 57th St. in Des Moines and decided I was man enough (I was 15, after all!) to walk home to 67th St. during the worst part of the blizzard that evening. Along with the massive snow drifts, it was extremely cold and very windy. It was only a little more than a mile to home but it got to a point where I was a little scared. When I did get home I immediately took a very hot bath. My Mom was stuck at work for 2 days. One hell of a blizzard.

  35. I was a Jr in high school, Guthrie Center. We would go out and sit on top of our light pole with the feet on the snow. We dug tunnels through the drifts that we could walk upright in. We had snow in the yard until mid-June.

  36. We drove to work but 1/2 hour later the road was blocked we and a truck driver and other workers was stranded for three days at our boss”s house !!Farmers finally got through the big drift on highway 30 opened so they could feed the livestock !! When we went home our road wasn’t open yet /there was drifts as high as the houses ! We walked on top of the snow caving in as far as our legs could go and wondered if we were stuck for good !! We had a mile of that type of walking to get to our house !! a sow storm you don’t forget !! Lots of Memories / especially for our kids !! Neomia Hutchins Belleplaine Iowa was where we was snow bound / just1/4 mile from highway #30

  37. Got stared near Elkhart. Rode into town with the oil delivery man who had called for help. It took a road grader to get to us. So fortunate that he rescued me.

  38. I was home from Vietnam and taking some leave before I was to report to Ft Huachuca, Arizona. I was going to leave from Newton the morning after the storm hit. Needless to say I was late getting to Arizona. My Brother, a mutual friend and I were holed up in my Dads basement in Newton. No way were we going out into that mess! Well, we did a few hours into it. We ran out of beer and cigarettes. We hiked up to a Super America that was still open. Bought up some supplies and hiked back home. It was a couple of more days before I could get out of town.

  39. I remember so well. We were living in the country south of winterset. we had a U-Haul and were set to move to California the next day. We had a fourth mile drive and even if we could get to the road we couldn’t get to the road. We had 5 children about out of food and fuel to warm us.I think it was a couple of days before the road grader made it to us so we could leave. Still had a lot of drifts but were able to get on the road to sunny California. We were not sorry to leave that storm

  40. I was 10 years old and lived on Maple St in Des Moines off of E. 14th. No cars running on the streets. Only snowmobiles. Will never forget it:)

  41. I was 10 years old at that time I lived in Carroll and the snow had frozen so hard that our cattle just walked on top of the snow and got out for weeks my father was all over carrol county trying to round them up

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