BILLINGS — Tuesday’s storm dumped a record amount snow on Billings, but it pales in comparison to the blizzard of 1955. Alice Lyon was just beginning her career as a teacher at Lincoln school at the time. She’s now 92.
“We knew we were going to get snow, but 42 inches. That was a biggie,” she said this week.
The 1955 storm is the biggest April snowstorm on record in Billings. It's one that's not forgotten 67 years later.
The storm began on April 3 of that year and continued for three straight days. Joyce Jensen was in the fourth grade and remembers it well.
“I grew up on the 1100 block of 31st and I remember looking out the window for three different days and it was snowing so hard that there was no way to see the houses across the street,” Jensen says.
The late Allan Downs was a local chiropractor who documented the storm. The film was later donated to the Western Heritage Center.
It shows what was then rare color footage of the blizzard that paralyzed the city and the surrounding area. Trains were stopped, buses stranded, and roads everywhere impassible.
The Billings Gazette reported snowdrifts as high as 18 feet on the Old Hardin Road.
“It was hugely deep. Forty-two inches is three and a half feet. I’m only five feet tall and I wasn’t five feet tall as a fourth-grader. My husband’s aunt would not let his cousin outside because she was afraid that he would fall in a snowdrift and they would never find him.”
Another thing both ladies remember is that they didn’t get a day off school. The storm hit just as the spring vacation was beginning.
“I woke up in the morning-- we didn’t have television when I was in my apartment, so I turned on the radio and thought oh goodness this is going to be a snow day. And then I thought its Easter vacation. We had never had a snow day all those days it was 50 below it seemed like,” Lyon laughs.
It’s another that stands out for Jensen about the storm.
“I was thinking snow day. Oh shoot. It’s Easter vacation, it is a holiday. And in all the years that I taught in Montana and Alaska I never did have a snow day,” she says.
They both have some great memories, though, of a couple of the snowiest days the Billings area has ever seen.