On this day in 1966 Winnipeggers were wallopped with one of the biggest blizzards in the city's history. 

Environment Canada says that in total 35.6 cm of snow fell with winds blowing at 113 km/h.

The entire city was paralyzed for two days. Many people were stranded throughout the city.

The Mayor at the time, Stephen Juba, had warned people to stay home. Those who didn't heed the warnings were left stranded, with many people sleeping in department stores in downtown Winnipeg. 

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Winnipeg historian George Siamandas writes that "Thousands of people were stranded at City Hall and at Stores like Eatons and the Bay. And 1,600 people were reported stranded at Eatons and the Bay. Eatons looked after 700 of its own staff and 400 customers. The women slept on the 9th floor and the men on the 7th. Fifty hockey players from Winnipeg neighbourhoods were stuck in Lorrette."

City buses had been shut down by 11 a.m. as the roads quickly became impassable. 

A black & white photo shows people getting into sleeping bags on the floor of a department store.Simpson Sears employees bed down for the night in the shoe department on the main floor. (Winnipeg Tribune/University of Manitoba Archives)

Environment Canada says that all highways in the region were closed and the airport was closed to all flights.

The blizzard lasted a total of 20 hours, with the Winnipeg airport reporting at the time zero visibility for 14 hours straight.

Rob Paola is a retired meteorologist and reports on his blog that blizzard conditions began around 2 a.m. He says that some portions of the Red River Valley were hit by blizzard conditions for up to 36 hours.

Police even delivered a baby in the North End of the city. Officers were able to get to the parent's home in a front-end loader, according to Siamandas. "Constables Mills and Const Martin both described as 'family men' took instruction from a doctor over the phone and helped mother, Mrs. Herbstreit, with the delivery of her baby boy," Siamandas writes. "An emergency call found a doctor located four streets away who went over finding mother and child to be just fine."

There was only 30 cm of snow already on the ground when the blizzard began and flooding that year was minimal.

The 1997 blizzard on April 5 saw more snow fall with 43.2 cm. 


This story was originally published on Mar 04, 2019.