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Karla Dorman, The StormSpinner

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No Ordinary Blizzard
by Karla Dorman, The StormSpinner   

Last edited: Wednesday, December 11, 2002
Posted: Wednesday, December 11, 2002

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Who remembers the Blizzard of 1978?

A blizzard is defined as a snowstorm of great intensity, lasting three or more consecutive hours, which must have the following criteria: temperatures at 20 degrees or below, winds of 35 miles an hour (or more), with higher gusts, and a great density of falling or blowing snow, which reduces visibilities to 1/4 mile or less.

What hit Ohio (and other midwestern and eastern states) on January 25-27, 1978 was no ordinary blizzard.

It was the "Storm of the Century;" some even called it the "White Hurricane." It was classified as a rare "severe blizzard"--temperatures at 10 degrees or below, with winds of 45 miles an hour (or more), with higher gusts, and a great density of falling and/or blowing snow, reducing visibilities to near zero.

The first signs of impending trouble were two low pressure systems. One over North Dakota, moving south-east. One over the Gulf of Mexico, near the Texas-Louisiana border, moving north-east.

They met over southern Ohio and combined into a massive storm system. Rain was falling over the central and northern part of Ohio, while snow was blanketing the southern portions of the state. The rainfall quickly changed over to snow as the nasty low pressure moved north-northeastward; the snow grew in coverage and intensity as the barametric pressure dropped to record lows--around 28.50 in most parts of the state. Winds increased to a fury--70 miles an hour, with gusts over 100 (hurricane force!).

Forecasters had issued winter storm warnings for Ohio at 4:30 p.m. on January 24, but upgraded them to blizzard warnings by 9:00 p.m. on January 25.

I was living near Mansfield at that time (Mansfield is where I was born; I lived in Ontario). I recall many snowstorms, but this particular one stands out in my memory.

I'd gone skiing that January 25, 1978. It started raining, and rainfall can quickly ruin skiing in a hurry and make one miserable. I was sick of being cold and wet, so I went home. It continued to rain steadily all that afternoon, and when i went to bed that evening, it was still coming down.

At 2:00 in the morning, I was awakened by a loud clap of thunder. I got out of bed (to look outside) and what I saw scared me wasn't raining, it was SNOWING! I'd never seen that before (this phenomenon is called "thundersnow," and usually only occurs when there is a great amount of instability in the upper atmosphere). Then, I noticed the power was out. I crawled back in bed and snuggled up against my twin sister and buried my head under the covers (storm phobic that I am). Finally, finally, I went back to sleep.

When I awakened the next morning, it was still snowing heavily; you couldn't see very far at all. Everything was virtually a white-out. The wind was unbelievable; the snow I could see was blowing straight sideways! The electricity was still out; daddy had put some logs on the fire, so the entire family congregated in the living room for the next couple of days, until power could be restored.

It snowed all that day and part of the next. Classes were definately cancelled, most businesses closed, and even the Ohio State Turnpike shut down--the first and only time in its history that's happened! Daddy put it best: "Ohio is closed." It was, too.

Across Ohio, between 7 and 13 inches of snow fell. Drifts were enormous...a trucker (James Truely) had just dropped off a load of steel at the Fisher Body Plant in Ontario (west of Mansfield; that plant is where Daddy worked) and was heading out of Mansfield when the blizzard hit. The winds blew his truck off the road...he decided to just sit and wait it out. He was found nearly a week later--his rig had been completely buried in massive snowdrifts--alive!

Daddy was a firm believer in shoveling snow with the storm. I HATED shoveling snow, with a purple passion. When Daddy said, "Shovel," I said, "Yes, Sir" (but I won't tell you what I was thinking!). Grumbling under my breath, I'd grab that *blankety-blank* shovel and grudgingly start shoveling. Daddy said he'd give me $5.00 every time I'd shovel...hey, who was I to turn down cash? I don't remember HOW many times I went out in that danged blizzard, trying to clear the driveway...after about the sixth time in an hour (it seemed like it to me, anyway!), Daddy finally conceded defeat and told me to wait until the storm was over.

I wish I'd listened to him and shovelled with the snow...'twas no fun at all shovelling all of the snow after the blizzard ended--the snowdrifts were at least five feet high! (I'm 5'3" tall.)

Oh--by the way, Daddy did pay me. :)

I graduated in 1978. We were only given five "snow days." I missed nearly three weeks of school...I went to a small vocational school waaaaaaayyyyy out in the country, and snowplows couldn't get through the drifts. I didn't think I'd EVER graduate...but I did, although a couple of weeks later than anticipated.

I miss the snow...but don't want to go through another blizzard!

See, I live in Texas now. Been here nearly 20 years. It doesn't snow like that here.

'Course, there WAS that time I was in San Antonio in 1985, and they got 13" of snow...

Reader Reviews for "No Ordinary Blizzard"

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Reviewed by Terry Auflick (Reader)
I've had a computer for 15 years now and apparently I'm still computer illiterate. It took me 45 minutes just to get a membership and find out how to post a comment on this article. Yeessh! Anyway, I remember the blizzard of 78 very well, I lived in Mansfield OH at the time. I was twenty years old and worked in Ashland OH for Mansfield Packing Co. I got up and looked out side and thought they'd plowed me in and I was ticked that I was going to have to shovel just so I could go to work. Turned out after climbing out the kitchen window, ( which was the only way out of the house since both doors out of the house were buried by snow) that it wasn't just a snow fall it was a snow bombardment. Well, later that day me and several other guys who lived on the street walked up and down checking on the seniors who lived there. Making sure they were ok and if they needed anything. We got quite a grocery list and rounded up several sleds and trudged through the waist deep snow to Krogers about 2 miles away. Took us about 5 hours and $200.00 to get everything and then get it to the right people. It was a bad storm but it brought out the Amish in us, even though we weren't Amish. We each were bound to help our neighbors come hell or high water. By the way, I hear winter is going to be on a Tuesday in Texas this year!
Reviewed by Teresa Gillespie (Reader)
I was a junior in HS living in Elida (Lima). I, too, remember the snow going sideways, walking up drifts to rooftops and shoveling. I didn't get paid, but my dad insisted I keep ahead of the storm, too. That didn't happen. I remember lots of grilled cheese & tomato soup. Now I'm living in the Coachella Valley of Southern California. The temp today is 115 degrees. (still better than snow)
Reviewed by Dave Winget (Reader)
I have a Picture of my dad taken a few days after the storm. Standing on a snow drift. Touching the top of a telephone pole! We had just moved into a newly built house the previous October. We lived out in the country and there was nothing to stop the wind. We had snow in our attic, the wind was so strong, doors and windows on the west side of the house were froze shut and could barely kept the snow out. The lightning was green. The most amazing thing...we never lost electricity. I think the Ice Storm of 2005 may have been worse.
Reviewed by Sandi Layne
Karla, I remember that during that snowstorm, or shortly thereafter, my cousins from Ohio came to visit us in Southern California to escape the snow! :-)

That was when I met these cousins for the first time, so it was a fun time for us!

Thank you for the memories!
Reviewed by Cathy Montgomery (Reader)
Karla, I've lived in Texas all of my life and never have experienced anything like this. Your writing made it so real to me, though! Great article!!
Reviewed by Robert Blackwell (Reader)
That was my senior year in high school, in Columbus. Coming off of what happened in '77, that was something!
Reviewed by Elaine Carey
Wow! I was in PA at the time, and did this article ever rock memories! Your vivid telling took me back. I'm sitting in air conditioning, but it feels like frost now!
Reviewed by Basit Ghafoor
Thanx for sharing it with us, please drop over my page and give ur comments too.Take care and lots of love.
Basit Ghafoor
Reviewed by v
I remember that blizzard well. We lived on a farm out in the middle of no where. We had snow drifts that where over my daddy's head! We had to take our horse to the main road, that was as far as daddy could get his truck, and put supplies in duffle bags on the horses backs. It was the best winter ever, I would live it over again. We had a blast.
Reviewed by Dale Haynes
boy do i ever remember that one! i was 9 yrs old when that hit and i remember having so much snow in mansfield that we were actually digging tunnels through the front yard all the way down the street. thamnks for the memories and i am writing this as i sit in D.C. in feb 2003 while we are having a blizzard out right now as i write. we already got 17 inches in two days.
Reviewed by Floria Kelderhouse (Reader)
Thanks for the memories.. I for one will never forget it...I had never in my life seen so much snow..even to this day..Floria
Reviewed by Monette Bebow-Reinhard (Reader)
Nice job! I felt myself suffering along with you! And I'm in Wisconsin, so I know snow. Nice writing!
Reviewed by Jill Eisnaugle
Gotta love Ohio in winter. NOT!!!!
Your friend, fellow Texan and also former Ohioan. Jill
P.S. I remember a lot of those cold Ohio winter. My how I don't miss 'em!
Reviewed by Bill
Karla, I live in Galion,Oh., and I lived through that blizzard. I went to bed that at 11:PM, it was raining and 45 degrees. At 4AM I heard a loud roar. I looked out the window and could nothing but white. The BLIZZARD had hit.I couldn't get out of my house for three days. The drifts went right to the roof. I hope I don't see anything like that again.
Reviewed by mz kimi
chilling, baby!
Reviewed by Tricia Martin
oooh, no thanks Karla. I lived in WA did my fair share of snow and blizzards and can very much relate to your feelings of shoveling snow! Although, thundersnow I've never seen. That would be, in a way, neat to see ONCE. lol.
Reviewed by Michelle Kidwell Power In The Pen
brr I cant even imagine anything that cold, I guess I'm just spoiled by California lol! Great write, ty for sharing this memory.
Your Friend In Cali
Reviewed by Karen Lynn Vidra, The Texas Tornado
i remember that danged blizzard too. i don't think i will ever forget it as long as i live! thanks for bringing back the memories! (makes me miss ohio, though...but i DON'T miss the blizzards! :) ) compelling write about an unforgettable event in weather history! love, your twin sister, karen lynn. ((((HUGS)))) :)
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