The Ghost of Snowstorms Past: Remembering The Blizzard of 1978

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The Ghost of Snowstorms Past: The Blizzard of 1978

I was a 21 yr old student at The State University in 1978, in an apartment that was about 600 from the Olentangy River. I that because during the of 1978, when the roads became undriveable, but before realized how much shit was to hit the fan and had a chance to close down, I out on foot from the back of my apt and walked across the frozen scrambled up its west bank the parking lot of Krogers, and bought as beer and food as I could carry. and then retraced my

My roommate had just purchased an of grass the day before, so we had that covered.

The snowstorm came up of quickly, as I remember. There was not a lot of by the local weathermen in the days up to it. On Wednesday, Jan. 25, the weather was mild in fact, especially to what the weather during of that winter had been It was around 40 degrees and rainy. If you to the weather report during the PM news that night and nothing else, you went to bed it to be a little colder the next day some snow. It wasn’t later that night weathermen started noticing the pressure falling rapidly, and realized a significant event was shape.

When it hit, boy did it a blow. It’s the most snowstorm. indeed, a blizzard. I had ever experienced, and nothing I ever experienced since has up to it.

After reading Weatherdude’s about the severe weather for the Southern states, it made me and I thought it would be fun to do a diary this. I’m guessing are many of you who lived through blizzard as well, so there be some good first stories in the comments.

Here is a taken in Indianapolis the day after the hit. It shows how deep the were, and how many motorists stranded and simply abandoned cars. This scene out across the Midwest and Great region. In Michigan alone, than 100,000 motorists their vehicles on that 26.

One of the things I remember about storm was all of the cars that had simply walked away on freeways, major thoroughfares and streets. The snow was very and the winds were so strong and that drifts quickly many of them up and completely them. It was a major complicating for many cities in their to plow and reopen major Those cars had to be removed, or at the very least pushed before plows could through and effectively remove the

Less than two weeks another, distinct Blizzard, hit the New area. It was a double whammy for the and this is one of the more famous taken of that storm’s in Massachusetts:

I’ll try to explain, as I can, how this blizzard was with the understanding that I am no I can regurgitate what I’ve from reading many of the 30 anniversary stories that newspapers published in 2008, as as some of the raw numbers that this storm such an and memorable event. What I however, after reading all of retrospectives, as well as the literally of reader comments that newspaper articles engendered, is how times have changed in the 34 since 1978. That, in ways, is the most fascinating of this story for me. 34 years go by in the of an eye. trust me on this, you whippersnappers. And the societal and technological that have taken since then have, in ways, occurred with rapidity.

As I said in the intro, was to become an epic storm very little fanfare by meteorologists during the 48 hours preceded it. As a result, people caught flatfooted for the most Much of this can be attributed to the more crude weather tools and models that in use then. But some of it can also be by putting the storm in the wider of the months that preceded. The of 1977-1978 was one of the coldest and snowiest (and falls) of the century. of Michigan, for example, had average in the mid to low 20’s during all of January. In South Bend receive 60 inches of snow that and more than 136 of snow that winter. Fort had similar numbers, with avg that January of around 17

So. when the weatherman issued a storm alert the day before, a few inches of snow, there was a sense of stoic resignation and old, same old. The forecasters didn’t realize how bad it was to be, and people at home had grown jaded by what had already a long stretch of cold, weather.

The storm began as two low pressure systems. One, down out of Canada (known as an Clipper), had a huge mass of arctic air that was pouring into the upper Plains and on the wings of a strong jet stream. The began in East Texas and with an equally huge low system pushing wet air from the easterly towards Georgia. not uncommon for two separate systems this to unfold simultaneously the winter. What is uncommon is for to converge, with the upper jet streams syncing in a way that them into one massive system. The weather modeling at the time simply couldn’t that.

By The Numbers

The raw numbers of the of 1978 tell one tale. And a tale worth recounting. By the afternoon/early evening of January 25, in Indiana presaged the scope of was about to unfold. Snow set records that would for more than 30 years. But it so much the amount of snow. it was the that it was driven by such winds. This blizzard has described as a White Hurricane, and no exaggeration. The winds were force. Sustained winds in of 40 MPH. There were gusts measured in excess of 100 The snow didn’t fall in soft, large, wet flakes. It was by high winds. In frigid It was granular. It met the ground in a horizontal and for anyone outside whose was unprotected, it felt like you being sandblasted instead of upon.

Muskegon, Michigan, which upon the Lake, registered than 30 inches of snow on Jan 26. many localities were snowfall in excess of 2 inches per and it lasted most of a 24 hour But the snow, being so dry and wind was fickle. some areas were level had vast of area that were barren of snow, because the dropped so suddenly, while it mercilessly in other areas to up to 25 feet. As a result of the sustained the snow was not your usual white drift. It was mixed pine needles, leaves, even bark. and piled up in a mix that left some covered up to their roofline on one and bereft of snow on the other.

The estimate is that some 70 to 80 perished in this blizzard. were, undoubtably, many Ohio alone accounted for 51 of deaths. How did they die? By the count:

22 died while away from vehicles have abandoned.

13 died of their stranded cars, from exposure or carbon fumes.

13 died inside of homes which had lost

2 died when the buildings were inside of collapsed the stress of snow and wind.

1 from unspecified causes.

were almost certainly Unlike today, the deaths to this storm had to meet a standard of causality in order to be to the storm. There were certainly several others who from heart attacks, from shoveling snow their driveways, or from stress related to the storm’s Some probably died due to of existing health conditions went untreated in the immediate of the storm, because of their to leave the house to seek attention.

When the storm unfolded, it with such rapidity local weathermen were In Akron, the barometric pressure so suddenly and so wildly that the that recorded such was unable to capture the full of the pressure drop on its chart It literally went off the chart, and the weatherman had to recallibrate the instrument and a second, double width in order to get an accurate reading. were many weather that measured a drop in pressure of 40 millibars within the of less than 24 hours as the passed through. In Cleveland, the lowest pressure recorded was 958 mb, a record for the US that stood just 2 years ago.

have been other that have dropped snow, but this particular was more than the sum of its parts. It just the snowfall, which was it was the sustained winds, which high, the duration of the event, the temps, the power outages, outages, snow drifts of than 25 ft, the impact upon our infrastructure at the time. It took days to recover from things, and required the National and its, at the time, substantial in terms of equipment and manpower.

But as I the really fascinating aspects of storm or to be found on a more level. One can’t help, reading accounts of the event, but to how such an event might out today. Much has changed.

The of weather forecasting has improved over the past 34 years. A such as this would catch us by surprise again. It be endlessly hyped for 3 days in if not more, in the 24 hour news In 1978 there was no 24 hour cycle. But there were radio stations, which had live staff and deejays. When’s the last time you the AM and FM radio dials on your and tried to find local I remember many of the stations in abandoning their formats and doing nonstop news and service announcements. They almost a lifeline for some

1978 was the dark ages cell phones, remember. In we were all still renting our line phones from Ma whose monopoly wouldn’t be up for another six years. Hundreds of lost phone service to mention power) during the People who got stranded on the road, or at or who sought shelter with were in many instances to contact their family to let them know they okay. Without cell or texting, radio became a of getting word out.

In all of the many first hand posted in comments to news one image that sort of shape for me was that the almost sea that has occurred in the generational and response to events like People woke up that looking outside and said this is going to be bad. And they got the snow shovel clearing the driveway, while in their mind the best way to get to To be sure, this storm down a lot of business and transportation. But I can trudging to the grocery store on and I wasn’t alone. It’s how many people attempted and to make it in to their workplace, it was just what you did. of them made that only to find out when got there that the business was to close, and they had to make it home again.

Schools did but there were thousands and of kids that walked to that day, because was before buses were to take kids in the city to local schools, and there was no or TV announcements about school The kids got up, Mom gave them a hot of oatmeal and told them to up good, and sent them off to Of the 70 people who died in the storm, were kids who perished in the on their way to school.

Now? In Oregon, I think it is into the state constitution in the event of snow accumulations in of 1.5 inches, all private and public close down. 2 inches or and the Governor must immediately federal disaster status. has, all sarcasm aside, a noticeable evolution over the 4 decades in what is considered an risk and inconvenience factor in the of weather events such as I’ll just leave it at

So. where were you in 1978? you in the path of either of those two blizzards, or not yet a gleam in your eyes? Maybe you were on of the of Blizzard Babies born in and November of that year?

AM PT . I want to thank everyone who a story here. it’s fun reading them all and getting a of where people I know by their screen names and over the years were at the

Originally posted to Keith930 on Thu Dec 27, at 03:05 AM PST.


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