Blizzard of ‘78 left area snowblind 35 years ago
The winter of 1977–78 will be remembered by those who lived through it.
Who will ever forget the Great Blizzard of Jan. 26–27, 1978? It was described by then Gov. James Rhodes as a “killer searching for victims,” and by weathermen as the grandfather of all Ohio storms. So much snow was dumped during the winter the vestiges didn’t disappear until well into April.
The first major storm after a pleasant, normal October and November, came on Dec. 5 with high winds. Six inches of wet heavy snow fell, closing plants and schools. The storm continued into Tuesday with more snow and drifting. Thursday brought more snow, and what had been shoveled out before, drifted shut.
The Bellevue Gazette said, “There was only one full day of school that week and that day, Thursday, would have been abbreviated if the bus drivers could have been contacted to pick up the children early.”
The weather moderated and a high of 48 on Dec. 17 was like a heat wave. The rest of the month and the early part of January were normal for the period with occasional flurries and on warmer days, rain.
The second big storm of that winter came on Sunday, Jan. 8, leaving four inches of the white stuff. Roads were snow-covered and slippery with a lot of drifting.
It was Wednesday before outside mail could be brought into Bellevue. Residents were asked to clear their walks for the mailmen, and those on rural delivery were requested to clear a path to their mailboxes.
The National Guard aided in snow removal work in Huron and Erie counties. Snowmobilers on Monday and Tuesday aided Bellevue Police in rescuing stranded motorists.
Many were placed overnight in local homes, but two who couldn’t find a place to stay spent the night in the city jail.
After being closed for three days, schools reopened on Thursday, Jan. 12, and mid-term exams were taken the following week.
At least three more inches of snow was predicted for the night of Jan. 12. Local grocery stores were getting deliveries and people were coming in to stock up on food before the anticipated storm came.
By Saturday morning, Jan. 14, blowing and drifting snow brought warnings from law enforcement agencies to stay home. By 8 a.m. many cars were reported stalled in drifts.
Travelers’ advisories continued through the weekend and more snow swept in on Tuesday, Jan. 17, sending children home at noon from Bellevue and area schools. All roads were reported passable but hazardous with serious drifting reported.
On Friday, Jan. 20, The Bellevue Gazette headline read — “Snow Paralyzes Bellevue Area.” Some streets in Bellevue were becoming narrow because of parked cars and high snow banks. Safety Service Director Tom Swartz said, “We can’t plow where cars are parked.”
On Tuesday, The Bellevue Hospital was reported back to normal after the paralyzing winter storm.
During the storm the corridors were overflowed with patients. The hospital was short-handed. Several local physicians were on vacation while other staff members were unable to get to the hospital. The doctor’s service from Toledo, which helped staff the emergency room, couldn’t get to Bellevue. Local doctors pitched in to help so there would be at least one doctor in the hospital.
At the city council meeting on Monday night, members voted to recommend council pass a resolution for stricter enforcement of the snow ban ordinance by having Bellevue Police pass out more citations.
Safety-Service Director Swartz said towing illegally parked cars was the “last resort,” because there was a shortage of space to store them. Councilman Robert Ladd had said people weren’t cooperating and citizens should be made aware the city was serious about parked cars on streets during a snow ban.
“However, all that had gone before was but a prelude to the “biggie” — the killer blizzard was to strike in another two days, Thursday, Jan. 26,” summed up The Bellevue Gazette.
(To be continued)
Bellevue Historian Bill Oddo writes a weekly column for The Bellevue Gazette.