*For previous coverage of the storm, watch the video above.
CLEVELAND, Ohio — Many, if they were alive 45 years ago this week, can remember exactly where they were and what they saw between Jan. 25 and Jan. 27, 1978.
The most devastating winter storm to ever hit Ohio moved in during the early hours of Jan. 26 and battered the state for three days, breaking records and wreaking havoc on the roads, on homes and even in the skies.
“If you lived through it, you might remember the huge snowdrifts,” said Fox 8 Meteorologist Scott Sabol. “We haven’t had wind chills like that since.”
On Jan. 25, it was rainy and foggy, and the temperatures were in the 30s and 40s, according to the National Weather Service. But the storm was intensifying as it moved north from Gulf of Mexico through the south and eventually to Cleveland early in the morning on Jan. 26.
The temperatures fell nearly 30 degrees in two hours.
Check out the full timeline below:
All major highways and freeways, along with most roads, were closed and the Ohio Turnpike shut down for the first time in history. Air transportation was stopped for the duration of the storm.
The snow wasn’t the biggest issue with the blizzard; it was the wind. That was on top of snow that fell earlier in the month.
To watch Fox 8’s own Dick Goddard report on the blizzard in 1978, watch below:
By the numbers
Wind gusts averaged between 50 mph and 70 mph. Peak wind gusts recorded back then included:
- Cleveland Hopkins International Airport 82 mph
- Akron 75 mph
- Columbus 69 mph
- Dayton 69 mph
Official snow measurements ranged from 5 to 15 inches. But because of the wind, huge snow drifts, some between 20 and 40 feet high, covered roads and runways.
“Weeks before…we had 5 to 10 inches of snow from the [storm] on Jan. 8 and Jan. 9,” said Sabol. “We had a week and a half of a break, another foot of snow fell, and that brought the snow cover close to two feet. So we had between 18 and 24 inches of snow on the ground before the blizzard hit. Then the wind picked up, we added 8 inches on top of that, and that’s what caused those snowdrifts of 20 to 40 feet in many locations. Because of snow on the ground, not so much the snow that fell due to the storm that came through Jan. 25 and 26.”
Wind chills extended to -35 degrees, according to Sabol.
By the time all was said and done, 70 people were killed, including 51 in Ohio.
“That January,” said Sabol, “was one of those if you lived through it, if you were around then, it’s something we haven’t seen since.”