BY MARGO BARTLETT PHOTOS COURTESY DELAWARE COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY
STORM OF THE 40 years ago, the record-setting Blizzard of ’78 crippled the Midwest
or most Ohioans, the ﬁrst sign that something unusual was happening on that night 40 years ago was the shriek of a ﬁerce, unrelenting wind.
In the late evening of Jan. 25, 1978, a low-pressure system from Canada met another low-pressure system from Texas. Such storms approach from opposite directions several times each winter, according to the National Weather Service. Usually they miss each other. This time they collided, causing what has come to be widely known as “the storm of the century.”
Immediate and devastating Six Midwest states were clobbered with high winds, heavy snow, and wind chills of at least 50 degrees below zero. Gusts of 69 mph were recorded in Dayton and Columbus; Cleveland noted a gust of 82 mph. Four states, including Ohio, activated the National Guard. Thousands of electric customers lost power. According to the Jan. 27 Delaware (Ohio) Gazette, a spokesman for Delaware’s Rural Electric Cooperative (now Consolidated Electric Cooperative) said most of the outages were from “wires being blown together and then short-circuiting.” Falling poles, downed lines, and fallen trees added to the problems. Rural Electric crews “fought the cold and winds through the night to restore electricity,” the Jan. 27 Gazette reported. Then-manager L.D. Ziegler told the newspaper that linemen were having difﬁculty getting to problem areas: “Everywhere we go, we have to have a grader in front of us,” he said.
Widespread hardship The combination of snowplows and gusting wind built up piles of snow as high as 15 feet high in some areas of Ohio during the record-setting Blizzard of 1978, 40 years ago this month. Many roads were impassable for days afterward, while residents had to move into shelters because of widespread power and water outages.
OHIO COOPERATIVE LIVING • JANUARY 2018
Across Ohio, thousands of motorists were stranded in snowbound cars; 22 people in Ohio died after they walked away from their immobilized vehicles. The Ohio Turnpike closed for the only time in its history. Thousands more were evacuated from homes without heat or electricity. They found shelter in churches, schools, and armories.