The Blizzard of 1978

January 26th, 2011 at 10:20 pm by under Weather

I will be honest with you… I don’t remember the Indiana Blizzard of 1978.  I was only a few years old and I was in Minnesota.  But… if you were old enough to remember it, today was the anniversary of the “perfect storm.”

From the Nation Weather Service:

“When the blizzard ended early in the morning of the 27th, several Indianapolis snow records were set and have yet to be broken. The 15.5 inches of snowfall was the most for a single storm. The 20 inch maximum snow depth during the storm was the most ever recorded on the ground. The 30.6 inches of snow for January 1978 was the most for any month in Indianapolis history. Maximum snow amounts from the storm reached 20 inches over parts of Central and Southern Indiana and up to 40 inches over parts of Northern Indiana.

The weight of the snow caused several factory and warehouse roofs to collapse. The roof of a school near Muncie also collapsed and a Shelby county man was found dead in a snow drift between his house and his office. The Indianapolis International Airport was closed as 350 travelers became stranded in the terminal for three days along with pilots, other airline employees, airport workers, and the staff at the National Weather Service.

Blizzards are defined as storms with sustained winds or frequent gusts above 35 mph combined with considerable blowing or drifting snow reducing visibilities to under a quarter mile for three hours or more. The Blizzard of 78 easily matched these criteria.

Like the “Perfect Storm,” this blizzard began as two unrelated low pressure areas, one in the Northern Plains, the other in the Gulf of Mexico. Gulf moisture and arctic air collided over Indiana near midnight on the 25th as the two systems merged.

On day one, January 25, a heavy snow warning was issued at 430 am and was upgraded to a blizzard warning at 345 pm that afternoon. The day began with five inches of snow on the ground. Only one inch was added by 7 pm, but by 10 pm, snowfall became heavy. Arctic air blasted in just before midnight with frequent gusts above 35 mph creating blizzard conditions. These conditions continued unabated for the next 24 hours.

On day two, just a half hour after the arctic front blasted through, the Indianapolis International Airport was closed due to whiteout conditions. At 3 am, the blizzard produced peak winds of 55 mph. Temperatures dropped to zero that morning. Wind chills remained a bone chilling 40 to 50 below zero nearly all day.

The governor declared a snow emergency for the entire state the morning of the 26th. Snow drifts of 10 to 20 feet made travel virtually impossible, stranding an Amtrak train and thousands of vehicles and weary travelers. During the afternoon of the 26th, the Indiana State Police considered all Indiana roads closed.

Nearly every Hoosier who experienced the Blizzard of 78 has a story to tell. It certainly was one for the records, one to remember for Hoosiers.”

Read more about the Blizzard of 1978 at:  http://www.crh.noaa.gov/iwx/program_areas/events/historical/blizzardof1978/index.php

4 Responses to “The Blizzard of 1978”

  1. Marcia H - Van Wert, Oh says:

    I remember leaving the house to go into town and I came out of the store and it thundered and there was lightning. That is the only time I can remember having thunder snow. We had snow drifts as high as the house (ranch type house)

    1. lewis vose says:

      on day two, my mother had my brother and I go to the store, “witch was on a normal day a ten minute walk”. on this day it took over an hour. ahhhh good times.

  2. David Moran says:

    Hi Jonathan, I enjoy reading the blog. I wanted to let you know that you can see streaming video from live weather events at ChaserTV.com. I don’t know if you’ve heard of this website, but I invite you to check it out. Thanks!

    1. Jonathan Conder says:

      Yes I have… also tornadovideos.net and severestudios.com Check them out!

      Jonathan