SEVEN HILLS, Ohio (WJW) — Light snow falling outside of David and Sandy Tarzanick’s Seven Hills home in late January sharply remind them of 1978 and the blizzard that almost killed them.
Forty-five years ago, the just-married couple traded their jobs in Cleveland for a life on the open road, after buying a semi to deliver freight. They figured it would be an easy way to see the country and make a living while spending time together.
“We wanted an adventure, so we thought, ‘Here’s an adventure.’ We wanted to go cross-country,” Sandy said.
While en route to make a delivery in Indianapolis, the couple decided to park for the night in New Point, Indiana, on Jan. 26, 1978.
They pulled into a familiar truck stop to grab dinner. They remember watching the local news, which reported light flurries and a cooling trend. The couple then set their truck cabin up for a good night’s rest.
“Overnight we felt the wind shaking the truck,” David said. “Then a little later, the engine started to sputter.”
When they looked outside their cab, they found blizzard conditions, with winds near 100 mph. Snow was piling up fast.
“Eventually, the engine died — just completely died,” David said. “We knew we couldn’t sleep in a frozen truck.”
After making a final effort to restart the truck, they abandoned their prized possession and livelihood to find shelter inside the truck stop, where a group of six strangers offered to share a room with them during the storm.
“They took two beds and slid them together and put Sandy along the headboard perpendicular to the mattress,” David said. “I was next to her and the other three guys were next to me.”
If they declined the invitation, they would have slept in a hallway or on the floor somewhere. Sandy said all through the night they could hear the winds howling through the brick building.
“We were very grateful to those drivers to share their rooms,” she said.
The storm raged on through the night and all through the next day. Blowing and drifting snow buried their truck and stopped all traffic. People had to be rescued by emergency personnel on snowmobiles. They remember 70 people died as a result of the storm, nicknamed the “White Hurricane.”
Over the four days they spent inside that truck stop, they scraped by with what little money they had for food, which eventually ran out at the restaurant. They also had family wire transfer them money, because that ran out too.
Once it was safe to go outside, the Tarzanicks worked to dig out and repair their truck, which needed new fuel filters and a jump. They recall it was encased in snow and took hours to uncover.
“Finally got it going and we were so happy to hear that motor running again,” David said.
That sound meant they survived a storm that they easily could have died in.
“The whole thing was quite an ordeal, but we were happy to survive it,” Sandy said.
David continued trucking for 25 years, but Sandy decided she had enough trucking experience for one lifetime and opted for a career in insurance. Both are now retired.
They said they will never forget the Blizzard of ‘78.