1978 Ohio Statewide Blizzard

From Ohio History Central
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Cover of the report issued by the office of the Adjutant General of Ohio describing the efforts of the National Guard during the Blizzard of 1978.

In January and February 1978, a series of three storms hit the United States Midwest or the Northeast. These storms were some of the most severe winter events to occur in recent history, and collectively are known as the Blizzard of 1978.

The first storm avoided Ohio, targeting the Northeast. From January 19 to 21, twenty-one inches of snow fell in parts of the region. This was a forty-eight-hour record for snowfall.

The second storm found Ohio in its path. From January 25 to 27, between one and three feet of snow fell in Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Winds averaged between fifty and seventy miles per hour, creating snowdrifts as deep as twenty-five feet. With temperatures already hovering near zero, the wind chill was deadly, reaching sixty degrees Fahrenheit below zero. Thousands of people were stranded in their cars and in their homes. For the first time in its history, the entire Ohio Turnpike closed due to the blizzard's severity. One semi-truck driver was buried inside of his truck by a snowdrift. Rescuers did not discover him for almost one week. Thousands of homes and businesses lost electricity. As the storm moved eastward, warmer temperatures converted the snow to ice, paralyzing the Northeast. Over seventy people died in this storm; fifty-one of the victims were in Ohio.

Approximately three weeks after this storm, a television special titled "Blizzard" aired, describing the storm in Ohio. The program stated:

A storm of unprecedented magnitude . . . that is 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 . . . The Blizzard of 1978 was, in fact, the worst storm to ever occur in Ohio.

The final storm targeted the Northeastern coastline of the United States and occurred during the second week of February. One to three feet of snow fell in this blizzard. Fifty-four people died, and the storm destroyed approximately two thousand homes. The blizzard caused more than one billion dollars in damage.

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