Thursday, January 25, 2018

40th Anniversary of the Blizzard of 1978

When you ask people about historical winter weather across northern Ohio, The Blizzard of 1978 is at the top of the list. Here is a news clip from WJW FOX 8 from that evening, January 26, 1978. 

The Ohio Turnpike was completely shut down.  The only time in its history!

What most people don't remember is that we had more than 20" of snow on the ground BEFORE the 25/26th BLIZZARD. 

*  We had TWO big storms earlier in the month. 

*  The first blizzard hit on the 8th and 9th.  9" of snow fell between the 8th and the 9th. Wind gusts were near 50 mph

*  We had a 10 day break then 12" of additional snow fell between the 19th and the 21st (storm number two) just five days BEFORE the Great Blizzard.

*  Only 8" of snow fell in Cleveland, 5" in Akron, 14" in Mansfield. 

The National Weather Service defines a blizzard NOT WITH SNOWFALL but with sustained winds of at least 35+ mph for at least 3 straight hours with 1/4 mi visibility or lower. Again, heavy snow storms are not necessarily blizzards

What caused the problems wasn't the new snow but the near hurricane force winds which gusted above 60 mph for almost a day (80+ mph gusts reported in many areas. 100+ mph near Lake Erie). These winds blew the snow already on the ground from the previous snows creating the 20+ snow drifts across the state.

In fact, the snow from the Great Blizzard was nowhere near the top 50 snowiest 2 day storms on record. 

For historical perspective, 18 of the top 50 snowiest 2 day periods since 1940 occurred between 2000 and 2009.