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The Cold Truth of the Blizzard of ‘78

The Cold Truth of the Blizzard of ‘78

Kevin Naughton

Winter’s here. That means it’s time for every Clevelander’s favorite pastime: griping about the cold. Before you get too carried away with this proud local tradition, take a second to read about the Blizzard of ‘78, one of the worst – and deadliest – winter storms to ever hit our region.

The blizzard started on Jan. 26 and lasted for two full days. Wind chills reached as low as  minus 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and dropped as much as 40 degrees at a time within hours. Sustained winds of 80 mph were recorded at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, and gusts topped 110 mph over Lake Erie.

Videos online show Clevelanders trying to cross the street looking like toddlers wearing roller skates due to the wind. In a desperate, frustrated bid to get his car unstuck, one unfortunate driver spun his tires so much they caught fire.

A photo in The Plain Dealer shows a couple of resourceful fellows wearing cardboard boxes over their heads with eye holes cut out, but it’s impossible to know whether this was a way of shielding their faces from the icy wind or just an avant garde fashion statement.

The barometric pressure reading of 28.28 inches remains the lowest recorded in Ohio, and one of the lowest in U.S. history not associated with a hurricane. The storm knocked out power in more than 100,000 homes and every major freeway in the region was forced to close, except for I-77.

A state of emergency was declared. Virtually every school in the region had a snow day, although it’s unlikely that the students were out having snowball fights and building snowmen in a storm that was ripping roofs off houses and freezing pipes to the point of bursting.

The snow was no joke; some Northeast Ohioans suffered greatly. A truck driver, stuck in a snowdrift, was trapped for days until he was rescued. A woman froze to death walking walking her two dogs. Altogether, 51 Ohians died during the two-day debacle.

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So there you go. A little perspective for this season of snowy strife, dreaded by so many morning commuters in Cleveland. The cold might sting and the snow might be a hassle, but at least it’s not the Blizzard of ‘78.

PressureLife assumes no responsibility if a worse blizzard hits Cleveland this winter.

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