Remembering the “Blizzard of ’78”
If you were living in Michigan on January 26th, 1978, you probably spent a lot of time with a shovel in your hand! We had one of the biggest snow storms to ever hit this area -- it was the "Blizzard of '78"! A low-pressure system moving from the Gulf Coast met with two other low-pressure systems, one from the Southwest and one from Canada, to create one of the worst snowstorms the Midwest has ever seen.
January 26, 1978, fell on a Thursday. The storm started the night before. Schools were closed on Thursday (which was a rarity back in 1978) in anticipation of all the snow. There was no traffic on the interstate for a few days. Many cars had been abandoned on the roads and it took days to get them cleared. The only mode of transportation for most people was either a snowmobile (it was weird seeing snowmobiles going down city streets), or skis. Very few people owned 4-wheel drive vehicles. Radio and TV stations asking for volunteers with 4-wheel vehicles to help transport medical personnel to the area hospitals. Grand Rapids Public Schools remained closed until the following Monday.
WOOD TV 8's Bill Steffen (who was working at WZZM TV-13 at the time) spent several days at the television station without ever leaving. On Bill's Blog today, Bill gave a few details of the storm...
"The Blizzard of 1978 ranks as the #1 snowstorm ever for Grand Rapids and much of Lower Michigan, Indiana and Ohio. The barometer reading of 28.28″ in Cleveland still ranks as the lowest non-hurricane barometer reading in U.S. history. Grand Rapids also set a record barometer reading 28.68″. Grand Rapids had 15″ of snow in about 15 hours (19.2 total). Muskegon picked up 52″ of snow in 4 days. Wind gusts of 42 mph blew the snow off roofs. The storm hit on a Wednesday Night, and many schools didn’t reopen until the following Monday. Some were closed for nearly two weeks. The heavy snow started shortly after 10 PM on 1/25. All air and rail service came to a halt. Seventy deaths were blamed on the storm. The National Guard were called out in Michigan and Ohio. Over 125.000 vehicles were abandoned in the storm. It took 3 to 5 days to move the abandoned cars and open the expressways. After this, we had the coldest February ever in G.R. and the 5th coldest March. Snow piles from the storm lingered into April."
The snow storm is ranked in the "Top 10 Big, Bad Blizzards" by Time Magazine.
The National Weather Service has put together a graphic showing the snow totals from that storm.
Jim Pearson put together a video with pictures from that storm. He selected a great piece of music to go along with it..."Stranglehold" by Michigan's own Ted Nugent...