Wicked Spring Blizzard with 15-Foot Snow Drifts Was 50 Years Ago

(Radio Iowa) Iowans have seen several unseasonable snowstorms this spring, but none of them compare to what’s known as the Blizzard of ’73. It was 50 years ago on Sunday that a monster winter weather system blasted into Iowa. The storm hit on a Monday, April 9th, 1973. Meteorologist Craig Cogil, at the National Weather Service, says the powerful winds whipped up massive drifts that were so deep, they completely covered houses.

“Quite a massive storm that moved across the state, burying many locations across Iowa with a foot or more of snowfall,” Cogil says. “A few locations had the most snow ever, including Dubuque that had almost 20 inches of snow at 19.2.” School was cancelled for several days in districts practically statewide. Many stores were closed and traffic was at a standstill due to the high drifts. State highways were littered with hundreds of stranded cars.

“Around the Des Moines area, a foot of snow was pretty common and heading down to the southwest,” Cogil says. “There were even some drifts that got up to 15 feet, so for April, just an outstanding snowstorm for that time of year.” Cogil says the snow persisted for several days, but disappeared by the end of the week.

“It warms up this time of year pretty quickly, so the snow didn’t stick around too much, but unfortunately, when it was here, it sure caused a mess, shutting down a lot of highways,” Cogil says. “We had reports of at least seven people dying from heart attacks primarily from scooping the snow.” The Friday before the storm, temperatures were in the 70s, as golfers took advantage of the courses in the Des Moines area. The day of the storm, the high only made it to 29. Two weeks after the storm, temperatures returned to the 70s.

(Reporting by Pat Powers, KQWC, Webster City)