Blizzard of '78: Enough Snow to Bury a House

January 27, 2013; 5:34 PM ET
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Photo of collapsed house in Blizzard of '78 from <a href="http://www.ohiohistory.org/etcetera/exhibits/swio/pages/content/1978_blizzard.htm""target=blank">Ohiohistory.org</a>.

Jan. 25-27 marks the anniversary of the Blizzard of 1978, a storm that dumped up to 40 inches of snow across the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley region.

The snow, which began around 4:30 a.m. on Jan. 25 and lasted until the early morning hours of Jan. 27, severely impacted Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Kentucky.

The snowfall impaired the entire region, seriously limiting travel. The poor conditions resulted in the shutdown of the entire Ohio turnpike, a first ever for the heavily traveled interstate. The Indianapolis International Airport also shut down due to white-out conditions, stranding some 350 travelers for over three days.

The University of Notre Dame and University of Michigan closed for the first time in history.

Those who did not venture out during the storm found themselves digging their cars and homes out from beneath massive snow drifts up to 20 feet.

AccuWeather.com Expert Senior Meteorologist Jim Andrews was in Beaver Creek, Ohio, during the Blizzard of 1978. It was one of the storms that solidified his interest in studying the weather.

"There had already been a string of three storms in the early and middle part of January. At one point, the peak snow depth was 2 feet, setting a record," said Andrews.

Before the blizzard hit, temperatures across Ohio and Michigan warmed up above freezing, so the storm began as a pouring rain late in the day.

"Within an hour, it went from raining to near-zero visibility in heavy snow," recalled Andrews.

"The rest of the night and through the next day, the wind was unbelievable. It howled and the whole house shook. I could barely see anything out the window, including houses right across the street."

"The highest snow drifts were over my head, probably 7 feet high," added Andrews. "Kids were climbing up the snow drifts after the storm ended."

Since the rain that fell at the onset of the storm was unable to penetrate the frozen ground, it seeped onto roadways and froze as thick as half a foot. It was very difficult to clear the thick ice, so travel remained tricky for several days after the blizzard.

The number of days Andrews and other students in the region were out of school was in the double digits.

Photo of the Forest Loudenslager Farm from the Marion County Historical Society.


Photo of massive snow drifts from the Marion County Historical Society.

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