Remembering The Great Blizzard Of 1978

The winters of 1977-1978 and 1978-1979 were among the worst the Tri-State has ever seen. In January 1978, 31.5″ of snow fell in Cincinnati, the most amount of snow in a single month since official records began in November 1870. The second snowiest month on record was January 1977, when 30.3″ of snow fell. With an average temperature of only 11.5°, January 1977 was also the coldest month on record in the Queen City.

Part of January 1978’s large snow total fell between January 25 and January 27 during what many call the “Great Blizzard of 1978″; daily weather records taken at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport show 6.9″ of snow fell in those 3 days:

jan24-blizzarddaily

The snow depth of 11″ on January 27, 1978 ranks as the 24th (tie) largest early morning snow depth in Cincinnati on record; the all-time record early morning snow depth in Cincinnati is 15″ set on both January 15 and 16, 2010.

Blizzard is not defined by how much snow falls but instead by the visibility and wind. A blizzard occurs when the follow criteria are met:

- There are sustained, frequent gusts over 35mph
– Blowing or drifting snow causes the visibility to drop below 1/4 of a mile
– Both of the previous two conditions are met for at least 3 hours

While the snow amounts were impressive during the Blizzard of 1978, the wind speeds, temperatures, visibilities, and duration of blowing and drifting snow was a bigger story. Here are some of the weather observations taken at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport on January 26, 1978:

jan24-jan26blizzardobs

The official early morning surface map on January 25, 1978 from the National Weather Service showed two areas of low pressure in the eastern 2/3rds of the nation; the one closest to the Gulf of Mexico would rapidly intensify 24 hours later:

jan251978sfc

On the morning of January 26, 1978, that area of low pressure was centered near Detroit. This low was among the strongest ever recorded in the United States for a non-tropical system:

jan261978sfc

What did the blizzard look like? Here are some snapshots on January 26, 1978 from the WKRC-TV video archive (shot on 3/4″ tape):

blizzard1978-1

blizzard1978-2

In 1998, the National Weather Service forecast office in Wilmington released a statement that gives perspective on the Great Blizzard of 1978 in Cincinnati: http://www.erh.noaa.gov/iln/PSACVG.htm

The National Weather Service also released a statement putting the blizzard in perspective for Dayton and Columbus. The links to each statement are linked here, respectively: http://www.erh.noaa.gov/iln/PSADAY.htm, http://www.erh.noaa.gov/iln/PSACMH.htm.

What were your memories of the Great Blizzard of 1978?

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9 Responses to Remembering The Great Blizzard Of 1978

  1. David says:

    During the storm of ’78 you could have driven a snowmobile right on to the barn roof at my mother’s…..

  2. Ron Rothhaas says:

    We had 18 inches of snow on the ground at Cheviot 0.9 SSE 10 days before the blizzard. The week of the blizzard was warm with much melting. However, there were mountainous piles of snow and sewers were clogged. There was water everywhere and huge amounts of half melted snow when the blizzard came in with its 6.9 inches of additional snow, wind, and bitter cold. Everything froze, incluing all that water. I have never seen such a combination of water, snow, and bitter cold. Here in the city, the wind and drifting were not as dramatic as in rural areas, but bad enough. After 2 winters of record snows, city equipment was falling apart and the blizzard was a kn ock out blow to snow removal operations.

  3. Linda Moeller says:

    I worked at a Convenient Food Mart. I could walk to work. We were SO busy you couldn’t believe it!

  4. Perry Mattan says:

    I work at WayLo gas station on Springdale road. They had us stay open 24/7 so the people moving Dr. and Nurses around could get gas and anything else they wanted. I remember seeing people playing ice hocky at the coner of Colerain and Springdale in the middle of the road was so sureal. When they made it only 4 wheel and people with chains could be out on the road.

  5. cathy says:

    I was 5yrs old I remember how big the snow drifts were.

  6. Wayne says:

    Wow I was 18 when that blizzard hit Owensboro KY, it pretty well shut everything down but great memories of the fun me and my friends had that winter sure miss those guy’s and thats when I met the love of my life, great to have got to experience it.

  7. Ron Brooks says:

    I remember going outside for the school bus. My school district, Loveland, at the time never closed for weather. I believe that it would have taken a nuclear attack to close the schools.

    The wind was blowing very hard, and the wind chill on exposed skin was so bad you felt as if your skin was on fire. Taking a single breath, your nasal passages froze.

    After a long miserable ride, in a bus with ice coating the inside of the windows, I and my classmates finally made it to the school. Once there we found that the classrooms were freezing. After over an hour plus of freezing, we were told that school was cancelled.

    Of course, we had to repeat the freezing temperatures, with ice on the inside windows, on the bus ride home once again.

    Sometimes stories of “when I was young” are not an exaggeration. I would not wish this on anyone to experience this like I did.

    To this day, I have respect for what nature often brings.

  8. Joe Blow says:

    I remember them sending news reporters to Alaska to report on the progress of the glaciers. They were heading right for us, according to reports. We were fated for another ice age due to all of the pollution in the environment.

  9. Timbo says:

    I remember barely making out the blurry image of my father’s old Chevy Biscayne as he left our driveway for work that morning. I don’t know what he was thinking, but apparently he loved work.
    I also remember walking down the middle of Beechmont Ave. in the middle of the day without a vehicle in sight, and a backhoe digging up the 5″ layer of ice that coated our street a week later.

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