The closer that we approach the Christmas weekend, the more it looks that we may have the whitest Christmas that Southwest Michigan has experienced in many Yuletides. The latest forecast calls for windy and snowy conditions, beginning Friday.

In fact, it may be a downright blizzard, with heavy snows and winds gusting as high as 50-60 MPH. This winter blast could bring temperatures dropping to the lower 20s with wind chills near zero. This brings to the minds of many Michiganders the blizzards of 1967 and 1978. 

It was the Blizzard of ‘67 that rocked my world as a co-meteorologist for my 8th-grade science class. Mr. Caldwell had asked our class for two volunteers to act as class meteorologists, collecting data, and then writing up a weather report for the class each day. The volunteers would start class by first going to the playground, for around 15 minutes, collecting data. With this data, a weather forecast would be created and presented before our fellow science classmates.

All it took was a quick glance at my buddy Danny "DogBoy" Castle, and instantly our arms shot up with frantically waving hands. With a stroke of luck, DogBoy and I were selected. It was the beginning of a “perfect storm”. We could escape the classroom, and have fun using our barometer and other gadgets, plus DogBoy could grab a quick cigarette. It went well for the first couple of weeks, but then disaster struck. 

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The weather for the past week had been unseasonably warm, with temperatures in the 50s. Our forecast, for January 26th, 1967, was calling for more of the same. Little did we know that around 30 inches of snow would fall over the next few days in the vicinity of our Galesburg-Augusta Jr. High science classroom. It was either that forecast or the lingering smell of tobacco smoke on DogBoy’s jacket that lead to the relieving of our duties as budding meteorologists. 

The main thing that I learned from that blizzard, is that you had better be prepared to be homebound for a few days. The small motel, next door to my home, was putting up National Guardsmen who had been stranded by the storm, which they had been deployed to save us from.

Sure, many of us feel that the local weather geeks on TV are just crying “The sky is falling!”, but if things escalate to a full-scale blizzard, you might want to have a few items on hand to brave the storm. Just think back to the Ingall family and their plight that Laura recounted in her book “The Long Winter”. You don’t want to be grinding wheat in a coffee grinder to bake bread on the wood stove. 

Here are a few items that should be stocked in your pantry if a winter storm slams into your neighborhood. 

A Few Items and Tips Needed To Brave A Winter Storm 

  • A Flashlight: Remember, high winds are expected if this storm hits. Your power may be out for who-knows-how-long. 
  • Batteries: Your wireless radio, flashlight or cellphone will be useless without a power source. Power packs are a great resource. And don’t forget about that power-pack jump starter for your car. Many of them have USB ports to charge your phone. 
  • Wireless Radio: It may be your only link to the latest updates.
  • Blankets: Yep..it's a no-brainer. 
  • Gas Powered Space Heater: Most folks don’t have the trusty wood stove. And make sure you have plenty of fuel. Just don’t leave the stove unattended or near the drapes. 
  • Backup Power Generator: They may be pricy, but will be your best friend in a blackout. 
  • Three-day Supply of Non-perishable Food: Stock up on canned soup, oatmeal, and veggies.  
  • Three-day Supply of Water: Once the pumps go out, your city water tower only has so much water. I suppose if things come to the worst, there will be plenty of snow to melt (if you have a gas stove). 
  • Matches or Bic lighters: You will be needing them to fire up that gas range in the kitchen because the electronic igniter will be history. And let’s not forget that trusty camp stove or grill. 
  • Non-Electric Can Opener: Well, you’ve got all those canned goods. Can you now open them? 
  • Pet Food and Supplies: Make sure Rover and Kitty don’t start eyeing you after not eating for three days. 
  • A Bag of Sand: You might need traction if you manage to dig out the driveway. 
  • A Snow Shovel: Who woulda’ thought? 
  • A Full Tank of Gas: Make sure the vehicle is fueled and ready to go! I would also park facing the street. 
  • Don’t Park on City Streets: Snow plows are going to be blazing through your neighborhood (hopefully). Many cities forbid parking on city streets during snowstorms. 
  • A Fluorescent Foam Car Antenna Ball: During the ‘67 and ‘78 blizzards, only the very tip of a vehicle’s antenna could be seen. Cars were struck by snowplows. Following the Blizzard of ‘67, many service stations were giving out fluorescent foam balls that were about the size of a golf ball, that could be placed on a car’s antenna. The balls would have the logo of the gas station imprinted on them, and the bright fluorescent pink balls were a hit