Toledo Talk

Looking for Blizzard of '78 memories

Toledo Free Press is working on a story about the 30th anniversary of the Blizzard of 1978 and is looking for photos and stories from that late-January weather event. if you would like to share your memories of the blizzard, or have photos of the event, please contact us at

Michael Miller
Editor in Chief
Toledo Free Press

created by Fuselighter on Dec 27, 2007 at 10:24:08 am     Comments: 23

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I remember this very well even though I was a teen. My family was at our cottage at Bear Lake, Hillsdale MI for some kind of family get-together. For some reason the adults decided they had to get home rather than stay warm and safe at the cottage. We left before dark.

I remember the snow coming down like as a white curtain and then the wind blowing drifts the size of a double-wide on either side of the "road" we couldn't see to being with. It was frightening for the adults, but I can remember it was kind of a thrill for me being a dumb kid.

By around 10-11pm we eventually made it to US20 (Central Ave. for you city-folk) not far from Morenci, MI when the snow got too deep to continue. There were dozens of cars stranded. It wasn't too long until we started to see these people on snowmobiles going to each car. They were local farmers and townspeople there to rescue us crazy travelers!

We were directed by a man in a snowsuit and Arctic Cat to follow him into town (Morenci) to his mother's home. When we got there, we found about 15-20 other rescued travelers.

The lady of the house had warm soup and cookies for everyone. We spent the night on the couches, chairs, floors - wherever we could find a spot. I, being a kid, thought it was the coolest thing!

The next morning we were invited down the street to the VFW post for a hot breakfast until the roads were cleared enough to move on.

This was the most significant memory I have of that blizzard, not the week off school or playing in the snow. After all, I had an adventure to remember the rest of my life.

posted by FatBabe44 on Dec 27, 2007 at 01:47:14 pm     #  

I've got photos. One of cars stacked on top of each other on Hill ave. just east of Reynolds Rd. and the driver trying to get into the top car. During the storm apparently one car became stranded, abandoned and buried by snow from the storm and snow plow. The second car drove over the top without knowing it and got stuck. I've got another photo of our above ground pool with the top level with the snow. My best memory is of snow mobile grocery delivery relays from a local carry-out (Holland Carry-Out) that never closed throughout the storm or the following days. The old Westhaven Pharmacy located next door got a pharmacist in the second day after the storm. People phoned in their grocery and prescription medicine needs to both businesses. The Holland PD coordinated grocery and medicine deliveries from the two businesses by snow mobile. I also remember that the Village of Holland roads were the only roads that never became un-navigable. They were plowed 24/7 until the storm passed. It was great. Only problem was that you couldn't go anywhere from Holland! The second you came on a county or township road it was impassable with snow.

posted by holland on Dec 27, 2007 at 03:47:20 pm     #  

Michael: What's your deadline?

posted by miked918 on Dec 27, 2007 at 04:57:15 pm     #  

I was 6 during that storm, living in tiffin. My parents have a bunch of pictures with snow up to our windows. I can probably get the pics and scan them for you if your interested.

posted by transcom on Dec 27, 2007 at 05:23:04 pm     #  

I remember snow drifts taller than me in my back yard. My sisters and I digging out holes in the drifts for a makeshift igloo. Walking four blocks to the Kroger store on Broadway took for ever. Only to find the shelves were bare. My father could not get to work and called off. But the Post Office wouldn't have that. They plowed from the Main Post Office to our drive way on Orchard Street and made sure he got to work.

posted by ToledoLatina on Dec 27, 2007 at 05:23:13 pm     #  

I wasn't in this area back then, however I'd really like to get a couple copies of the paper once it's printed. Where can you pick up a copy and when is the eta for publication?

posted by jshriver on Dec 27, 2007 at 05:35:11 pm     #  

BTW would you want some word-of-mouth stories? My fiance's parents told me about their experiences that year, was an amazing storm.

posted by jshriver on Dec 27, 2007 at 05:35:42 pm     #  

We're looking for all stories; we'll hear them and sort them out! Photos are especially important, as we did not exist 30 years ago and all the Associated Press archive pictures are from The Blade.

We'd need to hear from you by Jan. 14, but that could stretch to a few days later.

Here is a link to our distribution sites:

M. Miller

posted by Fuselighter on Dec 27, 2007 at 06:11:13 pm     #  

How bad was it like statistically?

Was it bad because everyone was walking around trying to look like they were extras in the "Citizen Cane" of its time, Slapshot? It's probably the only formal hockey instruction anyone needs.

I went skiing and snowboarding once in a blizzard. It was way more fun. The snow Jesus makes is way softer/forgiving than fake snow/softened ice that some off-season carnival ride operator makes with a machine. Jesus was looking out for all us sinners that weekend.

Snow is probably one of the greatest inventions ever.

posted by charlatan on Dec 27, 2007 at 09:16:00 pm     #  

Holland: I was living at the Stairs Apartment complex on McCord Rd., right beside the fire station, in Holland during the Blizzard of '78.

I don't have any pics from the storm, but if anyone has scanned shots that can be posted here it'd be an eye-opener for anyone who didn't live through this thing. Stories are fine but its the photos that really tell the story.

posted by McCaskey on Dec 27, 2007 at 09:29:28 pm     #  

I was a freshman in high school. My parents were out of town so I was staying with my 20's something sister and her husband in the apartments southeast of Reynolds and Glendale behind the old Dominic's.

At some point early in the blizzard when it was getting really serious, but not yet a total shutdown, me and my brother-in-law put chains on his van, picked up a couple of kegs from a distributor and delivered them to a party at UT that one of his co-workers was throwing. We saw it as an important and heroic humanitarian effort - and barely made it back to the apartment.

Then the next day I went out alone to explore. I made it all the way across Reynolds and through the Southwyck parking lot over drifts that were taller than me. There were alot of abandoned cars buried in the lot. I got up to the entrance south of the movie theater and found that the door was open. So I wandered around the completely emtpy mall by myself - literally the only person in the building. It felt like I was the last person on earth.

I spent the week outside the whole time. The isolation, the cold and what it takes to travel through snow like that started what became for me a life long fascination with alpine climbing.

posted by babbleman on Dec 27, 2007 at 11:59:04 pm     #  

Apparently before 4wd, FWD, and 0 degree outerwear. It doesn't seem like that much snow at all. I would call it a light dusting.

"About 100,000 cars were abandoned on Michigan highways, most of them in the southeast part of the state."

State City/location Amount (inches)
OH Dayton *12.2
MI Detroit 8.2
MI Flint 9.9
MI Grand Rapids 19.2
MI Houghton Lake *15.4
IN Indianapolis *15.5
IN South Bend 36.0
MI Lansing 19.3
MI Muskegon 30.0
MI Traverse City 22-28

If I can get some pics from some relatives, can I photoshop myself in a speedo hamming it up? ToledoFree Blade won't care?

The only thing I know about the weather is that it used to kill more people in wars than anything else. And now it plays a pretty kick ass defense in the NFL when pressed for duty.

posted by charlatan on Dec 28, 2007 at 01:36:40 am     #  

Charlatan, are you on acid?

posted by McCaskey on Dec 28, 2007 at 01:47:20 am     #  

I 'survived' two Blizzards of '78. I was home on winter break from college for the Toledo blizzard. Aside from losing power for a short time, I thought it was great! I remember my Dad, brother and I walking to the Schorlings grocery store by UT and everyone was out walking or X-country skiing. Not a car in sight.
I had plane reservations on a flight out of Toledo to go back to school near Boston on that Sunday following the storm. We lived in Ottawa Hills so our streets were plowed and the main streets were passable. We got to the airport which was packed with people who'd been stuck for days. My flight just happened to be the first one to leave the airport since the blizzard and since I had a reservation, I was on it! What luck!

I got back to school and the NorthEast/Boston had a HUGE blizzard in February. I think Toledo's blizzard had about 18" of snow; the NE blizzard had about 32" of snow! The college I was at shutdown for the first time ever (by order of the National Guard). It was great -- nothing like being at college with all of your friends and no classes. What a party!

All in all, best winter I've ever had.

posted by surfer341 on Dec 28, 2007 at 09:41:08 am     #  

When sites like Wikipedia give snowfall amounts for certain storms, it's not really reflective of the full impact.

I think the official snowfall amount for the '78 Blizzard was around 20 inches for our area, but when you factor in the 30-40 m.p.h. winds that came with it, that's where you get the significant drifting that caused the complete shutdown around here for days.

posted by McCaskey on Dec 28, 2007 at 11:35:50 am     #  

From what I remember it wasn't the snow amount that was a factor but rather the wind and temps. We had spots in our yard with 2" and 5' drifts up to our windows. We had to leave because our water pipes froze and the power was out for awhile. My dad worked at 2nd at GE and was stuck there till 10 am the next day.

posted by transcom on Dec 28, 2007 at 11:46:10 am     #  

The Old Farmers Almanac has a nice weather history search feature.

posted by FatBabe44 on Dec 28, 2007 at 12:40:01 pm     #  

The snowfall was preceded by heavy rain with thunder and lightening. The rain quickly turned to ice. The snow fell on top of a solid sheet of ice. This rapid change happened very, very quickly - overnight. I've got to get up in the attic to retrieve the photos.

I also remember seeing a snow mobile parked on the roof of a house on Rt. 25. Guy drove it right up a drift to the roof and left it there. Any of us who travel Rt. 25 understand how the wind can drive snow across that route. The drifts were 20 feet in places.

My Dad was Chief Engineer for St. Lukes Hospital at the time. He decided to get to the hospital to make ensure the backup generators were fully operational just in case. He made it as far as Don's Drive-In restaurant - couldn't go any farther. He spent three nights in a Lazy-Boy recliner in the basement of Don's Drive In.

posted by holland on Dec 28, 2007 at 03:41:52 pm     #  

Holland, see if you can get those photos scanned and posted once you retrieve them. That'd be very cool.

posted by McCaskey on Dec 28, 2007 at 05:26:17 pm     #  

Mom was 6 months pregnant with me when that blizzard hit. Grandpa has told me stories about it and has showed me numerous pictures. Actually he has a whole shoe box full of pictures just from the blizzard.

Dad has also told me stories bout how he had to go help dig out cars from the snow after the roads were some what passable. Even found a few people that didn't make it frozen to death in their cars

posted by camaroman2125 on Dec 28, 2007 at 07:28:11 pm     #  

I sure do remember!! I had a Jeep and volunteered as an emergency driver. I was called to give a ride to couple of people who were workers at Krogers..the store called the Red Cross, because there were not enough workers to distribute food to people. Well, these two jerks did nothing but piss and moan about why they had to work in this weather-and then DEMANDED I drop them off exactly in the best place possible for them to walk. I did, and then went inside and asked to see the manager--and proceeded to tell her where to stick her next call, after describing the sorry qualities of her employees!

posted by CharlieA-Z on Dec 29, 2007 at 12:12:16 am     #  

I live next to I-280 at Starr Avenue and the most vivid memory I have is the dead silence of the expressway broken only by the occasional snowmobile. It was heaven!!! My hub went cross-country skiing on it!

I remember the thunder and lightniing AFTER it had started snowing. Scared the crap out of me, it was so wierd!

Our street is one block long and deadends above Starr, we NEVER get plowed and we didn't then. We met our best friends when they started to dig out the street and we joined them. No other neighbors came to help. :(

My bro-in law was a Hostess bread delivery guy then and he was on his way back from BG with a load of take-backs. He got stuck on 75 just south of Pburg and he and another guy in a car hiked across a field to some house lights. Turns out this couple had taken in a bunch of travelers so to help out and pay his way for the shelter, my bil and a couple of others hiked back to his truck and brought all the goods they could carry back to the house.

Doesn't anyone remember Mike Morrin, a DJ, can't remember the AM station (WTOL?)? we never lost power so we had the radio on constantly. He made his way into the station and acted as a call-in help center. There was a real estate guy who got into his office at Gio Realty in Sylvania and hooked up with Mike to help coordinate coz he had a switchboard-type system or something, can't quite remember the details. They did a great job for 2 days, getting a volunteer 4WD and snowmobile system set up and running workers to hospitals or getting meds and food to people, stuff like that. I happen to accidently meet that realty guy years later selling cars and he said they got NO recognition for that, but we were amazed and thot they did a GREAT job!

I'll check to see if I took any pics, can't remember that either! ;p

posted by nana on Dec 30, 2007 at 02:02:35 am     #  


In your post above, you mentioned that your dad worked for General Electric. Did you live in Schenectady county ?

My dad also worked for General Electric; we lived in the town of Rotterdam (in Schenectady county). --Upstate New York.

As far as snow accumulation goes, getting 10 to 18 inches over-night in upstate New York was normal. Then a few more inches the next day. That's why I chuckle a little.....every time I hear Toledoans getting all worked up over a snow forecast of 5 or 6 inches.

posted by WalterAnthony on Jan 02, 2008 at 09:07:33 am     #