Calgary

What Albertans remember of the 1986 May snowstorm that 'virtually paralyzed' the province

This week we decided to look back into our archives at the 1986 surprise snowstorm that hit Alberta hard, burning memories into the minds of many residents. Here's some of their responses.

The surprise storm hit hard and fast, and burned memories into the minds of many

The start of summer was barely a month away, but snow covered much of Alberta 33 years ago. (CBC Archives)

We all know Alberta has pretty unreliable weather, with May already seeing rain, sun and snow this year. 

But this week we decided to look back into our archives at the 1986 surprise snowstorm that hit Alberta hard on May 14. The storm toppled power lines, closed schools and generally made a mess of the highways.

"Until it lets up ... Calgary and southern Alberta will remain virtually paralyzed," CBC reporter David Kyle said, summing up the situation on The National.

So before you complain about the rainy weather we're expecting in the next week, here's a reminder of what that looked like.

Turns out the storm stood out in the memory of many Albertans. Here's a roundup of their responses from our Facebook page.

  • Have your own memory? Let us know in the comment section below

"I remember being stranded in my vehicle on the highway between Balzac and Airdrie. Thankful a complete stranger rescued me from my vehicle and took me back to Calgary. He and his lovely wife took me in for the night ensuring I was dry, warm and safe. I don't even know their names but think of them often with love and gratitude," wrote Kate Kittmer.


"I remember it CLEARLY! I climbed up a snowdrift to look into my upstairs bedroom window, and dug a horizontal tunnel I could climb into, up to my neck, in another one in the backyard," wrote Kevin Ashman. 


"I remember this. Our parents made us walk to school. It was closed," wrote Nathan Erik.


While there were many struggles during the storm, it was also fondly remembered by some.


"My sons made an igloo in the backyard," wrote Rebecca Manlawe Lodhar.


"I remember that we had no power for three days and had to roast wieners on the fireplace and my son and daughter thought camping in the living room was fun," wrote Terry Eldridge Clarke.


"Yep. 55 hours with no power or water, my dad drove the snowmobile into Airdrie and got milk from the Chinese restaurant. He used the tractor to clear our driveway and made the biggest pile of snow ever. But I did have to listen to the Flames play Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final on the radio, I'm thankful for batteries. Best. Storm. Ever!" wrote Megan Raaflaub O'Reilly.


"I had planted all the fields and along comes 10 inches of snow. Two days later we are at 25 C. Best crop ever," wrote Gerry Hand.


There seemed to be a lot of pregnancy stories among the memories.


"I was 7 months pregnant with my first born (Megan) and I had a doctor's appointment. There I was in the middle of the storm in my Daytona (no snow tires) and going on a barely visible track of snow. Young and foolish. When I got to the doctor's office no one was there. The waiting room was empty. Yes, I did get a lecture from my doctor. The wait time was great though," wrote Debra Watt.


"I was trapped on a bus in downtown Calgary and 8½ months pregnant!" wrote Lynda Hayward.


"I am still paying for that storm. We should have named the baby that arrived nine months later Storm, Blizzard, Snow White or May. What is it about May in Calgary?" wrote Cari Middleton.


And it wasn't just southern Alberta.


"Trying to get to Edmonton before my mother died and our plane on Canadian Airlines was snowed in," wrote Liza Bennett.


I was in Red Deer, and we lost power for most of the day. We were really lucky. We had an old gravity furnace, so our house never got cold," wrote Shannon Barritt.


"Was on an exercise in Wainwright, downed power lines across the countryside. Tons of people stuck in ditches," wrote Lamont Rustamova.


There was one Albertan, though, who had some trouble remembering the event.


"I don't, and I was the reporter!" David Kyle wrote on CBC Calgary's Facebook post.

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