overview is reprinted from a report by United Press International's
Jay Gibian. The report, entitled Blizzard - An Ohio Broadcast
Special, was issued February 17, 1978. The report was re-typed
here in its original broadcast copy form minus the all-caps rendering,
which is how radio copy used to be typed for easier reading by
the announcer. -- Webmaster.
to see scanned images of the original broadcast copy:
* Blizzard - An Ohio Broadcast Special - UPI
copy page 1
* Blizzard - An Ohio Broadcast Special, continued - UPI
copy page 2
A storm of unprecedented
magnitude....that's 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.
With the assistance
of Ed Degan....a meteorologist at the Akron-Canton Airport's
Weather Service Office, UPI has summarized the development of
On January 24th, two
seemingly unrelated low pressure areas, one in the western Gulf
of Mexico and the other in northern North Dakota, began to develop.
The North Dakota low
was expected to pass north of Ohio, posing no great weather threat
to the state. The gulf low was forecast to move gradually northeastward
toward Ohio. Rain was expected to develop over the state, changing
to snow, as colder air moved in behind the storm system.
On Wednesday, January
25th, all the weather patterns seemed to be occurring as forecast.
The Gulf low moved into northern Louisiana during the morning,
the other system was moving to the east.
Then the first signs
of something ominous began to appear.
The North Dakota low
began tracking more to the southeast and atmospheric pressure,
north of the Gulf low, began to fall rapidly.
It became apparent
to meteorologists that the two low pressure systems were on a
collision course....and that collision would occur over, or very
near, the state of Ohio.
At 4:30 p.m., the Weather
Service issued heavy snow warnings for northwestern Ohio and
a winter storm warning for the remainder of the state.
By early Wednesday
evening, the low from North Dakota was tracking directly toward
Ohio. It then became obvious that a very dangerous weather situation
blizzard warnings for the entire state at 9 p.m., January 25th.
The weather conditions
at this time, however, were misleading....and those conditions
are blamed for many being surprised by the storm.
Rain had spread over
Ohio and temperatures were in the 40s across most of the state.
The wind increased slightly as midnight approached, but conditions
were more typical of an early spring rain storm, than those preceding
Midnight passed, however,
and wind speeds continued to increase.
It swiftly became evident
that a storm of unprecedented magnitude was imminent.
But then the two storms
met and did something that even the meteorologists....who had
expected a blizzard....did not foresee. The two low pressure
centers twisted together....a very rare and dangerous occurrence.
Warm air began to flow into Ohio from the north and colder air
into the state from the south.
The rain abruptly changed
to snow, spreading northeastward and gaining in intensity.
Wind speeds, by that
time, had reached the 70 mile per hour range and gusts of more
than 100 miles per hour downed power lines, billboards, mobile
homes, and tree limbs.
And then the snow....caught
by the strong winds....began to form deep, deep drifts.
An entire semi-trailer
truck was buried in one snow bank near Mansfield. The driver
was not rescued until nearly a week later.
Hundreds upon hundreds
of motorists were stranded in their cars along nearly every highway
in the state. The Ohio Turnpike, for the first time in history,
was completely shut down. Interstate highways were, for the most
part, impassable. Smaller roadways in nearly every county were
invisible beneath the snow.
Visibility was often
reported at zero.
Electric service to
thousands of homes across the state was disrupted. Many persons
were forced to leave their frigid homes.
and danger were, by then, commonplace. Deaths occurred.
Officials urged all
Ohioans to remain at home as temperatures dropped to near zero.
Wind chill factors across the state plummeted to near 60 degrees
In all, 35 persons
died during that storm. Officials, even today, say some bodies
still may be buried in unmelted snow drifts.
The Blizzard of 1978
was, in fact, the worst storm to ever occur in Ohio.