Toledo Talk

40th Anniversary of the Blizzard of '78

In recorded history, this was one of Ohio's most famous storms, and definitely, the best-remembered storm for Toledo. The stories and images from that storm are still amazing.

The Blizzard of '78 that rocked Ohio occurred on January 26, 1978. It's one of the freakiest storms that has ever been recorded in U.S. weather history.

The storm killed 51 people in Ohio. Over some parts of the state, the winds gusted to around 100 miles per hour. Snow drifts buried vehicles and nearly buried some homes.

Some related links:


National Weather Service PDF file titled Winter 2017-2018 Brings 40th Anniversary of the Blizzard of ‘78

The storm itself, in meteorological circles, would come to be known as the Cleveland Superbomb, due to the pressure observed at Cleveland (958 millibars, one of the lowest ever recorded in the United States outside of a tropical cyclone), and the rapid intensification of the low.


Wikipedia article : Great Blizzard of 1978 :

Old content from the Wikipedia article:

The Great Blizzard of 1978, also known as the White Hurricane, was a historic winter storm that struck the Ohio Valley and Great Lakes from Wednesday, January 25 through Friday, January 27, 1978.

The 28.28 inches (958 millibars) barometric pressure measurement recorded in Cleveland, Ohio was the lowest non-tropical atmospheric pressure ever recorded in the mainland United States until the Upper Midwest Storm of October 26, 2010 (28.20" measured at 5:13PM CDT at Bigfork Municipal Airport, Bigfork, MN).

The lowest central pressure for the 1978 blizzard was 28.05" (953 mb) measured in southern Ontario a few hours after the aforementioned record in Cleveland.


Updated Wikipedia article:

The Great Blizzard of 1978, also known as the White Hurricane, was a historic winter storm that struck the Ohio Valley and Great Lakes regions from Wednesday, January 25 through Friday, January 27, 1978.

The third lowest non-tropical atmospheric pressure ever recorded in the mainland United States occurred as the storm passed over Mount Clemens, Michigan, where the barometer fell to 956.0 mb (28.23 inHg) on January 26

Nearby Detroit, Michigan air pressure fell to 28.34 inches of mercury (960 mbar). At around that same time, the absolute low pressure for this storm was measured at Sarnia, in Southwestern Ontario, Canada, where the barometer bottomed out at 955.5 mb (28.22 inHg). Toronto pressure fell to 28.40 inches, breaking its old record by 0.17.


More from the Wikipedia article:

On rare occasions, extra-tropical cyclones with central pressures below 28 inches of mercury or about 95 kPa (950 mb) have been recorded in Wiscasset, Maine (27.9") and Newfoundland (27.76").

The blizzard was the worst in Ohio history where 51 people died as a result of the storm. Over 5000 members of the Ohio National Guard were called in to make numerous rescues.

Police asked citizens who had four-wheel-drive vehicles or snowmobiles to transport doctors to the hospital.

From January 26 to 27, the entire Ohio Turnpike was shut down for the first time ever.

The total effect on transportation in Ohio was described by Major General James C. Clem of the Ohio National Guard as comparable to a nuclear attack.



The following info was copied from http://www.bceo.org/78blizzardrev.html


This overview is reprinted from a report by United Press International's Jay Gibian. The report, entitled Blizzard - An Ohio Broadcast Special, was issued February 17, 1978. The report was re-typed here in its original broadcast copy form minus the all-caps rendering, which is how radio copy used to be typed for easier reading by the announcer. -- Webmaster.

A storm of unprecedented magnitude....that's what the National Weather Service terms the blizzard which whipped Ohio last month. What occurred on January 26th, 1978 in Ohio was not a blizzard. What did occur was even rarer and even more dangerous: a severe blizzard....the worst of winter storms.

The National Weather Service defines a "severe blizzard" as a storm with winds of 45 miles per hour or greater; a great density of falling or blowing snow; and temperatures of 10 degrees or less.

In fact, winds gusted to more than 100 miles per hour over much of the state, with sustained winds in the 45-60 mph range. Record snowfalls were recorded in many areas....and all-time low barometric pressure records were shattered as the intense storm whipped the state.

With the assistance of Ed Degan....a meteorologist at the Akron-Canton Airport's Weather Service Office, UPI has summarized the development of that storm-of-storms:

On January 24th, two seemingly unrelated low pressure areas, one in the western Gulf of Mexico and the other in northern North Dakota, began to develop.

The North Dakota low was expected to pass north of Ohio, posing no great weather threat to the state. The gulf low was forecast to move gradually northeastward toward Ohio. Rain was expected to develop over the state, changing to snow, as colder air moved in behind the storm system.

On Wednesday, January 25th, all the weather patterns seemed to be occurring as forecast. The Gulf low moved into northern Louisiana during the morning, the other system was moving to the east.

Then the first signs of something ominous began to appear.

The North Dakota low began tracking more to the southeast and atmospheric pressure, north of the Gulf low, began to fall rapidly.

It became apparent to meteorologists that the two low pressure systems were on a collision course....and that collision would occur over, or very near, the state of Ohio.

At 4:30 p.m., the Weather Service issued heavy snow warnings for northwestern Ohio and a winter storm warning for the remainder of the state.

By early Wednesday evening, the low from North Dakota was tracking directly toward Ohio. It then became obvious that a very dangerous weather situation faced Ohioans.

Forecasters issued blizzard warnings for the entire state at 9 p.m., January 25th.

The weather conditions at this time, however, were misleading....and those conditions are blamed for many being surprised by the storm.

Rain had spread over Ohio and temperatures were in the 40s across most of the state. The wind increased slightly as midnight approached, but conditions were more typical of an early spring rain storm, than those preceding a disaster.

Midnight passed, however, and wind speeds continued to increase.

It swiftly became evident that a storm of unprecedented magnitude was imminent.

But then the two storms met and did something that even the meteorologists....who had expected a blizzard....did not foresee. The two low pressure centers twisted together....a very rare and dangerous occurrence. Warm air began to flow into Ohio from the north and colder air into the state from the south.

The rain abruptly changed to snow, spreading northeastward and gaining in intensity.

Wind speeds, by that time, had reached the 70 mile per hour range and gusts of more than 100 miles per hour downed power lines, billboards, mobile homes, and tree limbs.

And then the snow....caught by the strong winds....began to form deep, deep drifts.

An entire semi-trailer truck was buried in one snow bank near Mansfield. The driver was not rescued until nearly a week later.

Hundreds upon hundreds of motorists were stranded in their cars along nearly every highway in the state. The Ohio Turnpike, for the first time in history, was completely shut down. Interstate highways were, for the most part, impassable. Smaller roadways in nearly every county were invisible beneath the snow.

Visibility was often reported at zero.

Electric service to thousands of homes across the state was disrupted. Many persons were forced to leave their frigid homes.

Suffering, discomfort, and danger were, by then, commonplace. Deaths occurred.

Officials urged all Ohioans to remain at home as temperatures dropped to near zero. Wind chill factors across the state plummeted to near 60 degrees below zero.

In all, 35 persons died during that storm. Officials, even today, say some bodies still may be buried in unmelted snow drifts.

The Blizzard of 1978 was, in fact, the worst storm to ever occur in Ohio.


Other links:

created by jr on Jan 26, 2018 at 09:12:44 am
updated by jr on Jan 26, 2018 at 09:23:04 am
    Comments: 22

source      versions      2 people liked this


Comments ... #

I got up that morning and left for work. Don't remember if I even knew a blizzard was hitting. Got on the Expressway at Ottawa River road and there was only 1 other car and a Semi on the road. The road was 2-3 inches of ice with potholed of road showing. By then I knew this was dumb and got off at Manhattan and went back home. When I got there I put the car in the garage and went into the house just as the power went off Crawled back into bed until 12:30 and the power came back on. I lived on the bus route back then and was able to get out the next day and drive around and got some great pictures. Back in those days I had 8.5 inch wide studded snow tires and could go almost anywhere.

posted by OldTimer on Jan 26, 2018 at 01:36:29 pm     #  

I remember waking up Thursday morning and turning on the radio to see if we would have school. We were pretty much inside all day Thursday. I remember going to the front door and having it covered by a drift, all the way to the roofline. The house protected the back yard, so while we had 8 feet of snow in front, we had nothing close to the house in the back, so that was our escape hatch. Friday we started shoveling. In shifts. We started with the driveway and then moved to the street. But by the time we got to the street we couldn't pile it anymore.

Sometime Friday or Saturday we walked down the middle of the main road to go to Kroger with a sled. Seems like we didn't start getting regular cars out until sometime the next week. The guy on our street with a Jeep got it stuck in front of his house and it was in the middle of the street for at least a day. Until the whole neighborhood dug the street out.

posted by justread on Jan 26, 2018 at 03:43:46 pm     #  

I was 19 then, and worked at the mall. I drove an old beat up Camaro. All the stores at the mall started closing early because of the storm coming. I went outside to the parking lot to drive home, and there was my dad, waiting for me in his car.

I asked him why he was there, because I could drive myself home, and he commented that I wasn't going to make it anywhere in that piece of crap I drove.

I remember the blizzard pretty well, but what I really remember is being miffed at my dad because he dissed my car, haha.

posted by foodie88 on Jan 26, 2018 at 04:01:44 pm     #  

I was a patrol officer in Toledo. They sent jeeps and other 4-wheel drive vehicles to pick us up and bring us to work for a few days.

Local car dealers loaned additional 4 wheel drive vehicle to the City for us to patrol in.

After a day or so, the Natinal Guard was brought in and they paired us up, 1 officer with 1 National Guardsman and we patrolled in their jeeps.

Those were some of the quietest days i ever remember working for the Police Department. No one was out moving around, and quite frankly we werent getting the uptick in domestic calls that you would expect when families are cooped up together for so long!

posted by shamrock44 on Jan 26, 2018 at 07:26:39 pm     #  

quite frankly we werent getting the uptick in domestic calls that you would expect when families are cooped up together for so long!

Too tired from shoveling and out of booze. :)

posted by justread on Jan 27, 2018 at 06:43:28 am     #   1 person liked this

More of the latter than the former in some neighborhoods. Ah well as long as there was peace in the valley. Had to make several trips to Lark's IGA on X-country skies and an old Boy Scout packback for beverages. By the second day all that was left was low end/high end... Goebels/Heineken. Milk was not an option so it was wheaties and beer.

posted by Mariner on Jan 27, 2018 at 08:26:22 am     #  

I sure do miss Lark's IGA...

posted by Toledostrong on Jan 27, 2018 at 03:19:50 pm     #  

Both my parents bought "I Survived the Blizzard of '78" sweatshirts and wore them frequently.

I was only 4 (I guess I'm still a young'n on this board), so I don't remember much. But I wish I had those stupid sweatshirts as mementos of my parents. Probably went out in a Goodwill pile decades ago without a second thought.

Strange how the oddest things trigger the warmest memories.

posted by oldhometown on Jan 27, 2018 at 04:48:25 pm     #  

I remember it. I was in sixth grade. My parents bought a "I survivied the blizzard of 78" t-shirts

My mom was 7 1/2 months pregnant with my sister at the time.

posted by jamesteroh on Jan 27, 2018 at 05:22:08 pm     #  

I was in Florida at the time. I watched the news and didn't bother calling home until the entire business was over and done. I later learned that my parents had to have the driveway plowed out with a bulldozer that arrived on a flatbed tractor trailer. The 'dozer did the job, but it wasn't one of those little bulldozers, it was a full sized bulldozer.

Our neighbors had a snowmobile, and Mom went out to the store on that.

posted by madjack on Jan 28, 2018 at 11:40:01 am     #  

I live in Toledo Ohio. I want a bulldozer for a second car.

posted by Mariner on Jan 28, 2018 at 11:43:25 am     #  

There is a lot of bull to doze here.

posted by justread on Jan 29, 2018 at 02:24:00 pm     #   3 people liked this

justread posted at 02:24:00 PM on Jan 29, 2018:

There is a lot of bull to doze here.

and honestly a lot of us are already dozing.

posted by endcycle on Jan 29, 2018 at 04:06:01 pm     #   1 person liked this

I remember when we opened our front door, the drift was halfway up the height of the door. My dad went out through the garage and began digging us out.

We had a corgi dog at the time. Dad dug a walkway for him out in the backyard so he could do his business, but he liked jumping on the snow piles more. Probably the only time in his life that dog felt tall.

posted by Anniecski on Jan 30, 2018 at 09:19:22 am     #  

oldhometown posted at 04:48:25 PM on Jan 27, 2018:

Both my parents bought "I Survived the Blizzard of '78" sweatshirts and wore them frequently.

I was only 4 (I guess I'm still a young'n on this board), so I don't remember much. But I wish I had those stupid sweatshirts as mementos of my parents. Probably went out in a Goodwill pile decades ago without a second thought.

Strange how the oddest things trigger the warmest memories.

I turned 4 in 1978 as well.

I lived out in the country, and I remember people on snowmobiles stopping by to check on us & see if we needed anything.

It was such a novelty to see these people on snowmobiles delivering items from the grocery or pharmacy to my rural neighbors. Probably why it's something I still remember now.

posted by mom2 on Jan 30, 2018 at 01:21:04 pm     #  

At the time, I worked for one of the big 3 car rental companies at Detroit Metro. That Thursday, only 3 of us showed up for the afternoon shift. The airport was closed so no rental cars were coming "home" that evening - normally a heavy check in day. The three of us did the best we could to keep the lots cleared because we knew if the airport re-opened on Friday - the biggest rental car return day of each week - it would be a nightmare. It did and it was.
On Friday, those of us in management were the only ones to show up for work. That was largely true for the other two majors inside the airport. Back then, the big 3 rental car companies were right smack in the middle of the airport just east of the International terminal. All told, about 5 to 6 thousand rental cars came home that day - with not enough staff to get them moved to the remote lots. Abandoned rental cars choked the airport. We found cars in parking structures, the gas station, abandoned in the grassy medians, anywhere a customer could squeeze one in and run to their flight. A few we found weeks later - as the county road crews removed the snow that had been piled stories high.
Much beer was consumed reliving those days in the subsequent years.

posted by Foodie on Jan 30, 2018 at 03:17:53 pm     #  

I turned 4 in 1978 as well.

Did you now? So then, let's see... borrow from the two, and find a scrap of paper because I can't do basic math in my head, so... that would mean that you're kind of young to be bagging your time on TT. You like martinis?

posted by madjack on Jan 30, 2018 at 05:23:03 pm     #   1 person liked this

" I turned 4 in 1978 as well"

I have got a car older than you and its the one I drove in the Blizzard

posted by OldTimer on Jan 30, 2018 at 09:13:39 pm     #  

I turned 4 in 1978 as well.

Jesus, I feel old.

posted by Anniecski on Jan 31, 2018 at 09:29:44 am     #  

Anniecski posted at 09:29:44 AM on Jan 31, 2018:

I turned 4 in 1978 as well.

Jesus, I feel old.

You feel old?! How do you think I feel? I can't understand half of the generation remarks on TT, I'm losing my sight, my hearing is bad, and it's so rare to find a bartender that actually knows that a dry martini is made with gin and not shaken that it's an event worth celebrating.

When bulldogbuckeye said something about Millenial hipster bullshit factory, not only did I not understand the term, but he wouldn't explain it, I couldn't find it on the Internet, and as I write this I am distressingly sober.

That last can be fixed. I guess.

posted by madjack on Jan 31, 2018 at 06:13:37 pm     #  

Madjack

Although I probably surpass just about everyone here in the "old" department, I do understand the whole millenial, hipster and of course the bullshit thing. I am a father to 5 of those critters. They have taken every opportunity to address the many faults of my generation and of course the many superior qualities of theirs. Including putting candy and citrus in their beer and screwing up really good whisky. I was 27 during that blizzard and we lived on Glendale next to the flower shop (Glendale manor). We lived inside the courtyard which formed a large square snow receptacle. Snow up to the tops of the windows. We all struggled to get out of the doors and all of us younger guys spent two days shovelling our way to the parking lot. I had been blessed with my first child in November, a beautiful baby girl who just decided to get married for the first time this past December 2nd. In Jackson Mi. In 18 degree weather and snow. Of course dad and mom drove up from Florida for the occasion. Looking forward to getting home to Florida and warmth we drove back through a near blizzard in Tennessee and Georgia to find it was 32 degrees in Tampa. I climbed into my recliner with a bottle of Middleton Irish and warmed up just fine.

posted by Wydowmaker on Jan 31, 2018 at 07:11:21 pm     #   1 person liked this

Congratulations to your daughter.

posted by madjack on Jan 31, 2018 at 10:38:29 pm     #