The Blizzard of 1978 – 40 Years Ago

<–click map to enlarge. Saturday is Blizzard Anniversary Day (40th anniversary of the Blizzard of ’78 and 51st anniversary of the Blizzard of ’67 – see thread below). The Blizzard of 1978 ranks as the #1 snowstorm ever for Grand Rapids and much of Lower Michigan, Indiana and Ohio. The barometer reading of 28.28″ in Cleveland still ranks as the lowest non-hurricane barometer reading in U.S. history. Sarnia, Ontario reported a barometer of 28.21″ and Grand Rapids also set a record barometer reading 28.68″. Grand Rapids had 15″ of snow in about 15 hours (19.2 total). Muskegon picked up 52″ of snow in 4 days. The Traverse City area had up to 28″. Houghton Lake and Indianapolis had over 15″ of snow and Lansing recorded over 19″. South Bend recorded a four-day total of 36″. Wind gusts of 42 mph blew the snow off roofs (a good thing). Wind gusts in Ohio topped 80 mph. The storm hit on a Wednesday Night, and many schools didn’t reopen until the following Monday. Some were closed for nearly two weeks. The heavy snow started shortly after 10 PM on 1/25. I measured a snow drift 14-feet high. Drifts in Ohio reached 20-feet. The entire Ohio turnpike was closed as was most of I-75 through Lower Michigan and Ohio. All air and rail service came to a halt. I was at the TV station for 3 days without leaving. One news anchor came to work on a snowmobile. For you weather junkies…this storm deepened 40 millibars in 24-hours – we call that “bombogenesis”. Seventy deaths were blamed on the storm, including 51 in Ohio. At least 22 people in Ohio died outside while struggling through the blizzard. Another 13 people were found dead in stuck cars, and 13 died in unheated homes. The National Guard were called out in Michigan and Ohio and the University of Michigan closed for the first time in 140 years. Over 125.000 vehicles were abandoned in the storm. It took 3 to 5 days to move the abandoned cars and open the expressways. After this, we had the coldest February ever in G.R. and the 5th coldest March. Snow piles from the storm lingered into April. Read more about the storm here in Michigan, in Ohio, cool pictures and more here. Here’s the governor of Ohio’s voice with a little film. Here’s some eyewitness accounts from West Michigan and video of a newscast from Cleveland. Mark sent a link to pics. from Breckenridge. Here’s write-up on the storm from the NWS in Detroit. Here’s Local Snowfall Amounts from the GRR NWS. Also, here’s TIME MAGAZINE’S top ten blizzards of all time. Here’s a nice YouTube video of storm pics. More from NWS on the Blizzard of ’78.

Blizzard of 1978 Benton Township 1 The Blizzard of ’78 kind of made my career. Before computers and mobile phones, people stuck at home had little to do but watch TV. I was there, on the air morning, noon and night. With 800 TV stations and lots of alternative activities, it would be hard to get ratings like that and the name recognition that follows. I was supposed to be at a weather convention in Savannah, Georgia that week. My car was stuck in place, so I walked through the snow drifts into work. We lived off the stale danish and coffee from the vending machine for a couple of days at the station.

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