Forty years ago today Riverside, Brookfield and North Riverside were basking in a 65-degree heat wave, the third day temperatures had soared above 60 degrees. That fact tends to be forgotten by some, even people who vividly remember what happened over the ensuing several days.

On Jan. 25, a low front moved into the Midwest, dragging up warm Gulf Coast air, laden with massive amounts of moisture, which hit the Chicago area with rain and 50 mph winds. Over the next 24 hours the moist warm air collided with much colder air and rose above it. Fat droplets of water then began slowly sifting downward. The result was snow-lots and lots of it.

The Chicago area had practically no warning of what would be the largest two-day snowfall in its history. After predicting flurries but little accumulation the night before, the National Weather Service issued a bulletin at 3:45 a.m. on Jan. 26 predicting “up to four inches.”

People went about their lives, that 26th of January, beholding the ceaseless snowflakes with relatively calm eyes. After all, it was only a snowstorm. Chicago had seen plenty of those before, and this one seemed to be shaping up like all the rest had. And so, on that Thursday morning, people went to work and kids went to school, grumbling as they drove or walked to their destinations. And still the snow fell.

There would be no lack of white stuff that morning, however, nor for over a month afterwards. The snow began falling at 5:02 a.m. on Jan. 26, and by the time the general population heard of the revised weather forecast from the newspapers and radio later that morning, there were at least four inches already on the ground.

When it finally stopped 29 hours later at 10:10 a.m. on Friday, northern Illinois lay paralyzed under a thick 23-inch blanket of frozen white powder, blown into drifts as high as six feet by 25 mph winds.

An estimated 75 million tons of snow fell on Chicago alone. Chicago dumped thousands of tons in Lake Michigan and sent many more tons south in empty railroad cars- reportedly to the delight of kids down south who’d never seen snow before.

The National Weather Service declined to officially label the storm a “blizzard,” since, in technical terms, the temperatures weren’t cold enough. It sure felt and looked like a blizzard, though, and it would be just the beginning, part of a larger weather pattern that wreaked havoc with the Chicago area’s daily life for over a month. The “Storm of the Century” was far more than just a two-day event. From Jan. 23 through Feb. 24, Mother Nature suffered from meteorological bipolar disorder, swinging from warm to bitter cold, from rain to snow and from winds as high as 62 mph in the western suburbs.

As Jan. 26 wore on, anyone traveling outdoors felt a growing distress gnawing at the edges of their customary security. When was this stuff going to stop coming down? It was becoming more and more difficult to plod through the snow that did not seem in any hurry to melt. And still, the snow fell.

Many people had commuted to their Chicago jobs, to Cicero, home of the Western Electric plant, and to the Electro-Motive facility in McCook.

Dorothy Peters, past children’s librarian at the Brookfield Library, remembers that her husband “John was pulling people’s cars out of holes while working for the Economy Plumbing Company in Chicago. He had a company truck and was using it to help out people.”

This was not unusual. It was a day when such acts of kindness were common, where people who didn’t know each other helped one another out of distress, or at least tried to. In Chicago, as the afternoon progressed, commuters began to take hotel rooms in the city, despairing of their chances of getting home. Travelers arriving from the airports and trains found themselves having to compete for accommodations.

Students at Riverside-Brookfield High School found it a challenge to get home. Some went home in friends’ cars, some waited at corners for the busses to come. Curiously enough, they did, though not on time. As the busses slowly moved forward their front bumpers plowed through the snow, which wasn’t yet high enough to stop the vehicles in their tracks.

When snowplows cleared streets and highways, gusty winds easily swept the drifting snow back into place.

Cars on the roads and expressways frequently bogged down. Some would be abandoned, and would not be moved for several days. Commuters who got home at all, got home several hours late. People stayed indoors and huddled close to their radios and televisions, getting news of the storm. It seemed incredible that only a few days before, the temperature had been around 60 degrees.

All day long weather forecasters updated their estimates of the total snow to fall. Four to five inches had been the morning prediction. Then, as the day progressed, more inches were added on to this. But the forecasters truly didn’t know when the end was coming.

The total snowfall for that Thursday was 16.4 inches of snow, not counting the drifts, which could be astonishingly high in places. And still the snow fell.

The next morning, Friday, at 10:10 a.m., the snow stopped. A up-to-four-inch snow forecast had, at last, ended with a record-breaking single snowfall total of 23 inches, once again no taking into account the drifts. People put on coats, gloves, mittens ands boots and ventured outside to see what had happened to their world. Or, at least they tried to. Some people were trapped in their houses, by the snow against the doors, and even up above their window sills.

The effects of the snow were unprecedented. Midway Airport closed for three days while O’Hare Airport, which had previously been shut down for nine hours on the Jan. 24 due to fog, was again forced to cease operations and didn’t reopen until four days later, on Monday morning.

The relatively new Eisenhower Expressway system was reduced to a windswept tundra littered with hundreds of vehicles, half-buried by drifts. Snowplows were called in from as far away as Iowa to help clear the crucial artery. But it would be days before many commuters again trusted the expressway as a viable thoroughfare.

Peggy Patino, currently an employee at Brookfield Village Hall, remembers that “I was little when it happened. I remember that snow being up to the bottom or middle of the windows on the first floor. We may have gotten out the front door, which was not the storm side.

People who got out of their houses, went to their garages and found they couldn’t get their cars out. Max Dietrich, of Brookfield, said that there were a “a number of garages (around which) the snow was too heavy, and people couldn’t get the garage doors open, because the weight of the snow on the roofs bothered the ‘tracks’ that the doors were hung on, inside. Some doors were sectional, some were solid. Some that were sectional opened, when whole doors wouldn’t.”

Even when such doors of either kind were opened, the alleys themselves were unnavigable, unplowed. The Brookfield Public Works Department was concentrating on just getting the streets plowed first.

Apparently, they did an excellent job of it, too. The Brookfield Village Board received many letters of “thanks and appreciation to village employees. . . for the fine work in removing the snow during the heavy snow storm.,” as wrote citizen Jill Radke. The village board minutes contain many mentions of commendations concerning this, and even took note on Feb. 13 of a petition bearing 21 residents’ signatures “on the tremendous job done during the snow crisis in snow removal and plowing of streets.”

To back this up is the memory of resident Evelyn Minarovic, who walked to work the next morning down the middle of Fairview Avenue. She worked at village hall in the cashier’s office and, after starting at 8:45 a.m., got there by 9 a.m. Her husband walked with here, as he could not get to his job at the Electro-Motive plant. Still, not all the streets were plowed as quickly as some residents would have liked, but then, these were not normal snow conditions being dealt with either.

Clean streets or not, it wasn’t easy to get around. Dietrich, who managed to get his job as supervisor at Western Electric, discovered, when he got home, snowmobilers racing up and down the alleys behind his home on Custer Avenue. People who didn’t have this or any other form of decent transportation made pilgrimages to local corner stores and found the shelves bare of bread and the coolers empty of fresh milk.

Michael Hullihan, now the public works director for the Village of Riverside, was a 12-year-old St. Mary’s School student when the snow started falling. The snow shut down the school for the rest of that week, which was spent alternately reading books and shoveling snow.”

Snow plows made the streets “just passable,” according to Hullihan, who remembered it was “probably two weeks where you got down to where you could see pavement.”

He remembers heading to East Burlington Street and seeing fellow residents pulling toboggans to the Jewel (now Riverside Foods), to go grocery shopping.

Meanwhile, according to The Citizen newspaper, Village Manager John Cartwright organized “a crew of young men” to shovel snow from sidewalks for elderly and infirm residents. By early February, the volunteers had shoveled the walks at 36 homes.

The next worry was when garage roofs began collapsing from the weight of the snow, and there was concern over the state of house roofs, as well. Clever residents invented makeshift roof scrapers to alleviate the problem. Later, when the snow finally began to melt, the ice jams sent trickles of water inside houses.

It was one of those events that is remembered forever and after by every age group. Children, sometimes shorter than the shoveled-up snow and drifts, found themselves blessed with an excess of building material and soon were making snowmen of gargantuan size, and snow forts of thick impenetrability. A rare bit of fun was found in the act of hollowing out of snow tunnels and caves. Riverside-Brookfield High School students got that Friday off, something that hadn’t happened in many long years. Adults fretted about getting to work, then took out their frustration by wielding shovels. In fact, everybody did this, young and old alike.

Now is the time of the 45th anniversary of the Great Snow of 1967. Like those snowflakes, the years, too, have piled up. Do you remember?

Bob Uphues contributed to this report.