Excruciating winds, rain, then snow, and a wind chill of minus 70 degrees sounds like Alaska.
However, this was the weather report for the entire state of Ohio on this day, 40 years ago. Reminiscing about this storm, brings back memories for so many people in our local area, as today marks the 40th Anniversary of the Blizzard of 1978. Do you remember where you were and what your situation was back then? Of course, some of you weren’t even born then, but have probably heard about it from parents or grandparents.
Ohio National Guard News released this in commemoration of the Blizzard of 1978: In the early morning hours of Jan. 26, 1978, a severe blizzard struck Ohio, bringing 12-14 inches of snow with 50-70 mph winds and a wind chill of minus 70 degrees.
In response, more than 5,000 Ohio National Guard Soldiers and Airmen were called to state active duty over an 11-day period in response to Gov. James A. Rhodes’ call for assistance to all 88 counties. The Ohio National Guard pressed into service 800 of its vehicles and 45 helicopters to evacuate stranded motorists, deliver supplies and remove snow. In addition, armories were opened to house and shelter those citizens who were stranded or had no heat. The “Blizzard of ‘78” would be recorded as the most severe snowstorm in Ohio history, amounting to almost $210 million in damage across the state.
Here at the office of the Daily Times, some of the older folks, remember being stuck at work for an extended period of time, like John Kelly of circulation. Mark Richard, sales representative says he remembers that he had an aunt die during this time and they wanted to bury her at the cemetery across the road, and that they plowed in front of the house and tore the fence of the cemetery to plow, but then they had to build a fire for the men to dig a grave. Publisher Hope Comer and sales representative Tracy Ison were young, but remember the snow being shoulder and head deep according to their ages. And everyone here and any one who lived in Scioto County then, remembers that school was closed for weeks, which those who were younger at the time, remember sledding and frolicking in the snow, even in what was one of the coldest times in Ohio.
The Great Blizzard of 1978, also known as the White Hurricane, was a historic winter storm that struck the Ohio Valley and Great Lakes regions from Wednesday, January 25 through Friday, January 27, 1978.
Retired Brig. Gen. John S. Martin, Ohio assistant adjutant general for Army from 1991 to 1999, was the commander of the 1416th Transportation Company (Aviation Maintenance) and a full time flight instructor at the Army Aviation Support Facility #2 in Columbus during the “Blizzard of ’78.” In a video released, Brig. General Martin tells of delivering medicine to so many folks in Ohio. And, as if that were not enough, he says that they were transporting the ill and people that needed medical assistance, like dialysis back and forth and that if they had not done this, things would have been even more devistating.
The “Blizzard of ‘78” was one of the most devastating natural disasters in Ohio history, causing massive damage, knocking out power grids and leaving people stranded in their cars and others without heat. The Ohio National Guard was ready to play an integral role in the recovery. The April 1978 edition of the Buckeye Guard magazine, with the cover story entitled “Blizzard Busters,” featured extensive coverage of the ONG’s support to the citizens of Ohio in one of their greatest times of need.
The following is a Headline and text taken from the January 26, 1978, issue of The Portsmouth Times
STORM KNOCKS OUT POWER, PHONES HERE
Below freezing temperatures, gusting winds and more snow hit the Portsmouth area early today causing telephone and power outages and transforming roadways into ribbons of ice. Temperatures dipped as low as six degrees. The wind chill factor produced cold equivalent to 30 degrees below zero. The storm, which began as steady, sometimes heavy rain Wednesday night, has closed many government offices and businesses in Portsmouth and nearly all of the schools in the city and county.
Governor Rhodes declared a state of emergency today as the state was battered by “the worst blizzard in the history of Ohio.” Earlier, Rhodes closed state offices for the second time in less than a week. Offices were closed Friday after a winter storm dumped six to eight inches of snow over the Buckeye State.
This next headline and text is taken from the January 27, 1978, issue of The Portsmouth Times
SOME AREA ROADS CLOSED BY SNOW, ICE, FLOODING
Drifting snow closed many rural roads this morning and slowed traffic throughout the city in the wake of Thursday’s blizzard that virtually paralyzed Central and Northern Ohio and left thousands without electricity. Portsmouth and Scioto County were spared the worst of the storm that Gov. James Rhodes described as the greatest in the state’s history.
An emergency shelter was set up Thursday afternoon in Portsmouth’s Salvation Army headquarters. Many state and county roads in the Portsmouth area are either closed by drifting snow or high water. Roads that were considered risky or impassable this morning due to high water and drifts or stalled vehicles included Lucasville-Minford Road, Old Scioto Trail, Maple Benner Road, Houston Hollow Road, Pond Creek Road, Pollock Road, and Arion Road.
Scioto County Engineer Timothy Thoroughman said that as of this morning, 60 percent of the county’s snow and ice control equipment is inoperative due to mechanical failure. Major Shulte said the Guards were not helping with road clearing operations until the wind dies down. “After the wind stops, we’ll try to clear some primary roads in the county and city. Right now, with the wind blowing, the snow would drift back onto the roads even if they were cleared.”
While most people were tired following last week’s storm, this Blizzard remembrance puts things into perspective. It’s nice to remember, but most are thankful, that it was nothing like the Blizzard of ‘78.
*Some information submitted from the Ohio National Guard News
Reach Kimberly Jenkins 740-353-3101 ext. 1928