Blizzard of ’78April 12, 2012
From a local newspaper in 1978:
On January 25-27, a tremendous blizzard struck Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, Illinois and southeast Wisconsin. One to four feet of snow fell, along with temperatures near –10 degrees Fahrenheit, wind chills of up to –50 Fahrenheit, and winds of 50 to 70 mph, which whipped up drifts as high as 25 feet. Over 70 deaths occurred from this storm as it tracked from the Mississippi River to Lake Huron.
A storm of unprecedented magnitude was the description the National Weather Service used for the blizzard. In some areas, winds gusted to more than 100 miles per hour, with sustained winds in the 45-60 mph range. Record snowfalls were recorded in many areas and all-time low barometric pressure records were shattered as the intense storm whipped the Midwest. A federal state of emergency was declared.
We were completely snowed in with four feet of snow outside each door and huge drifts as far as the eye could see. Seeing wasn’t so easy, however, as the white snow covering everything made distances difficult to gauge and sun shining on the drifts was blinding.
Everyone pitched in. People power was the most used asset during that time frozen in temperature, frozen in movement. People began to dig out of their homes to the center of the streets, and then began to connect to each other until we had a narrow pathway to the highway, one block away. The Civil Defense was using every front-end loader they could find to dig a path down the highway. People pulled out cross-country skis and took off looking for groceries or for people who may have needed help. It wasn’t unusual to see skiers with shovels and backpacks on their backs.
“Blizzard babies” were born with all kinds of stories to tell about how their mothers were transported to the hospital. A woman I knew was picked up on a snowmobile and taken down her street, placed in the bucket of a front-end loader to be raised over a large drift, carried in the bucket of yet another front end loader to another snowmobile awaiting her on the highway, and then onward to the hospital.
The mall down the street opened up the bakery, the butcher shop, and the drug store to aid the workers. Since I was the only one able to make it to the bakery where I worked, I went for the duration of the emergency. We had fun at the mall roasting beef and turkey and Swiss cheese on hard rolls in the bakery oven. They were appreciated by the Civil Defense workers, police, EMTs, and ambulance and snowmobile drivers, and anyone else who had been out digging, digging.
We passed out blankets and many of the mall workers stayed with the emergency workers on the mall floor. We felt as if we had done something important. We helped. Grandma Beanie told me that friends from a nearby gas station came to the house to eat and take breaks from their snowmobile rescue missions. Delivering food and water and rescuing people stranded in a wide variety of situations, they were some of the many who helped our city climb out from under an incredible burden of snow and ice. The piled up snow didn’t completely melt away until the end of April.
Two days after the snow finally stopped falling the city began to move again. It was a little like molasses in January, but moving, and after those same two days people were proudly wearing I Survived the Blizzard of ‘78 sweatshirts.
Human resilience—ain’t it grand?