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Cleveland Relives Massive Blizzard Of 1978

Weather Winter Weather

Cleveland Relives Massive Blizzard Of 1978

It was 40 years ago that Ohio experienced one of its largest, most powerful storms in its history. The blizzard of 1978 remains an infamous week even in a state whose history is sprinkled with lots of snowy narratives. There were abandoned cars lining the roads and power outages for many days and an aftermath of dangerously low temperatures threatening the lives of many who were trapped in snow walls and unable to get to areas with power.

The night of January 25th was a rainy one and many of Cleveland’s residents turned into bed, looking forward to sleeping well with the pitter-patter of rain drumming off their rooves. But on January 26th, a new situation developed which featured two days of powerful 80 MPH winds and treacherous snowfall and a massive near 40-degree drop in temperatures in less than six hours. Cleveland would end up with 7.1 inches of snow while other portions of the state used feet to gain measurements. Also known as the “white hurricane,” much of the state, Cleveland included, were frozen in and left searching for power and heat. Making things worse, the wind chills plummeted to -100 (yep, you’re reading that correctly). Wind speeds of 110 MPH were recorded over nearby lake Eerie.

Over 100,000 Cleveland residents lost power. The gnarly wind speeds shut down the airport. At 80 MPH, that’s over double the amount of wind required to be a technical blizzard. Learn more about blizzard conditions. Cleveland’s two-day ordeal was ripe with complete whiteout conditions as a result of deep snowfall and incredibly powerful winds. A blizzard does not require that snow be falling, only that it be falling or already on the ground. The blizzard of 1978 met all the conditions of a massive winter storm and blizzard in almost perfect fashion. The barometric pressure reading of 28.2 is a record for Cleveland and the state of Ohio; this severely low pressure contributed to the blizzard of 1978’s unique ability to become a powerful and organized winter storm. The lower the pressure of hurricanes and winter storms, the more organized and potent they can become. The blizzard of 1978’s barometric reading remains a record in the United States for all storms not classified as a hurricane. The low pressure created a massive, uncanny instability in the atmosphere that took the state by literal storm.

On January 27th, Cleveland’s Plain Dealer cover showed the city of Cleveland to be a grim dystopian shell of itself.

blizzard 1978 cleveland

Over the course of two days, 51 residents of Ohio died. The White Hurricane remains one of the most powerful winter storms to ever hit the state of Ohio. In this day and age, a storm of this magnitude would be considered a rare “mega-storm” by meteorologists. Most every freeway in the state was shut down, the storm’s ongoing winds and snowfall made clearing paths impossible. The heavy snow created structural compromises in buildings and homes, many rooves completely collapsed.

The storm would also travel east into New England and Boston.

blizzard of 1978 boston

By Jim McDevitt Photographer. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – This media is available in the holdings of the National Archives and Records Administration, cataloged under the National Archives Identifier (NAID) 6277820. CC

The storm brought 33 hours of heavy snow the Northeast, which is unprecedented even today.

When the media pitches you that today’s weather is “far worse” than days of past, you might want to direct them to this video. Remember, the blizzard of 1978 still holds weather records in barometric pressure and wind chill. And moreover, this was during an era that many were pitching the concept of “global cooling.”

Debates aside, this was an extremely powerful storm that in today’s modern world, would equally, if not more, match its destruction potency levels. Most areas are more populated than before and although many structures are built with more sophisticated architecture, many are certainly not. We have more homelessness than ever before. There are more people driving on the roads at more times throughout the day and night. In general, a storm that features -100 wind chills, feet of snow, and 80+ MPH winds would devastate any modern society it hits.

Being prepared is of the utmost importance. Back up generators, survival water filters, blankets, food storage, should all be adequately stocked up if you live in areas where winter storms can reach you (that’s most of you, by the way). The longer you are tasked with going without power, the more exposed you are to the elements. Being a prepper isn’t a full-time job, its just the act of taking simple, economic steps that give you and your family the best possible chance of survival if SHTF happens.

Here’s a link to other famous blizzards in history.

Author: Jim Satney

PrepForThat’s Editor and lead writer for political, survival, and weather categories.

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