Owego · Weather

Remembering Owego 20 Years Later: The Blizzard of ‘93

It’s no secret that it snows in Central New York. Trust me, it snows. A lot.

I would say that 1993 was no different, but for sure it was. To those of us in Binghamton and surrounding cities (including Owego), March 12, 1993 was a 43-inch drift of pure disbelief.

My memories of this day are vivid even now. Those of us that were at the paper when the storm started ended up being the team to head out and gather anecdotes, see what we could see – which, honestly, wasn’t much as the snow blew around us. A state of emergency was declared, as I recall, so when we were done writing that night, we had no choice but to walk through the desolate streets of Vestal, NY (where the paper was situated) and stay at the local Best Western.

Then, as our supervisors said later in a memo to our Executive Editor commending our efforts, “returned to work wearing the same clothes with unbrushed teeth” and did the whole thing again. (Reinforcements could not get to the paper, as the roads were still horrible.)

When I got back to my car the next day, it was completely buried under snow. I actually stood on its roof.

Owego was my regular beat, so I went there to assess the situation and came up on the town’s first stop light, which was flashing red. I pumped the brake lightly, hoping to avoid skidding on the snow-covered streets. Instead, as I approached the intersection, I and my car proceeded to do a complete 360-degree slide and ended up facing the same direction I’d been heading before coming to a stop. (Luckily I was only traveling at about 15 mph, so I didn’t have far to go.)

The hilarious part, though, was a family sitting at the light in an SUV across the way. The five or six people in the car applauded my efforts. Highlight of my day.

Owego looked more like the moon that day. No one bothered to even try and shovel it. Ploughs were running up and down the streets but finding room for all that snow was near impossible. (I think they eventually put it in the Susquehanna, but don’t quote me.) Mostly, they served to pack the snow down more tightly on the roads; they were unable to scrape down to the pavement in most places. None of the sidewalks were clear, so the hearty souls that had cabin fever and had to get outside – kids, dogs, reluctant parents, etc. – walked in the middle of the street.

Eventually, of course, the town dug out, schools reopened and things returned to normal (though the drifts hung around for a VERY long time, as you might imagine). Though I went to Syracuse University and had become quite accustomed to these “large weather events,” I’d always been ensconced on “The Hill” and didn’t have to deal with them like a “real person,” the way Owego residents always had. I didn’t have to drive anywhere, I didn’t care whether schools were open or not, I didn’t have a driveway to shovel and I didn’t worry about stockpiling my pantry because Marshall Street was a short walk away.

The people of Owego were (and are) used to such disruptions. Just another day in Central New York.

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