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:
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:
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:
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:
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):
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?