Jan 27, 2023 - News

Columbus readers remember the blizzard of '78

A father and son posing for a photo, with dad wearing a shirt reading, "I survived the Blizzard of '78."

Reader Kyle and his father, who "survived the Blizzard of '78." Photo: Courtesy of Kyle H.

It's been 45 years since Ohio suffered its worst blizzard in history. The series of deadly storms brought extremely heavy winds, frigid temperatures and record-high snow drifts.

  • Thank you to our readers who shared their memories of the Great Blizzard of 1978:

Kyle H.: My dad LOVES to tell the story of how my grandfather made him go into work despite the blizzard. It's brought up at every family reunion.

  • He worked at a grocery store and he ended up staying there for three days by himself until the roads were clear enough to get home.
  • He owns a "I survived the Blizzard of '78" T-shirt.

Jamie C.: I was 1 the year of the blizzard. My mother and I weathered the storm in our home without power at the top of a very large hill in Muskingum County.

  • I was sick with a fever and cough and needed a doctor. Multiple family members and friends tried without success to scale the hill in all manner of vehicles.
  • My health condition got worse and finally the Ohio National Guard were deployed to our home for a rescue. I was taken to a local hospital where I was treated for pneumonia. My mom is pretty convinced that the Guard saved my life.
  • As a member of Ohio's COVID-19 pandemic response team, I witnessed our Guard saving many more lives (in ways big and small). I hope that 45 years from now, Ohioans look back and remember that.

Jennifer J.: I was a sophomore in high school in 1978. I had three brothers who all had paper routes (for the Columbus Dispatch, the Citizen-Journal and the weekly Northland News).

  • My parents taught us an amazing work ethic, and as a family of nine, we got those papers out.
  • I remember walking through drifts that were over my waist!

Stacey R.: I will never forget the Blizzard of '78. I was 11 and Jan. 26 was my brother's 18th birthday.

  • I woke up excited there was a birthday (cake!), a snow day, and also our pregnant dog had a puppy overnight. It was amazing.
  • I also remember my dad was already at work, that's who he was. He ran a Sohio gas station at the corner of Broad and Gould Roads and he knew people who had to be out would need gas.

Greg N.: I was 9 years old living in Troy. We had three feet of snow against our front door and couldn't open it for three days until a neighbor with a snow blower cleared it.

  • I walked up snow drifts right onto the roof of our house … The large piles of snow in the parking lots of shopping centers lasted through July.

Rich G.: I was attending OSU at the time. Emerson, Lake and Palmer were scheduled for a concert at the Ohio State Fairgrounds Coliseum.

  • Of course a good friend and I had tickets and we weren't going to miss it for the world … Along with hundreds of others, we stood in line in the cold and wind for at least a couple hours before they let us in.
  • We exited after 1am to be greeted by strong winds and heavy snow … Got home around 2am, awoke to my alarm at 7:30am to happily discover classes were canceled.
  • Life was good that day for a groggy college student.

Jeff K., Class of 1980: In 1978, I was in my third year as a student at OSU. Our dormitory floor, Park 10 on the South campus, had organized a beach party for that Friday.

  • We had to rally fellow students with cars to attain the required beer kegs from the distributor during the state declared emergency.
  • The party was a success, with people showing up in swimsuits, shorts and tank tops despite the outside temperature well below zero. Good times, better memories.

Kevin B.: The night before the blizzard struck was very warm for January, and a storm with heavy rains dumped a deluge of rain on Central Ohio in a brief period overnight.

  • The heavy rains had overwhelmed my neighbor's basement's drainage system and sump pump, and as a result she had about 18 inches of standing water in her basement.
  • She reached out to my parents in a panic, so my family spent hours that morning hauling buckets full of mucky water out of her basement … the weather took a drastic turn, and within hours the blizzard was setting in upon us. I remember that morning very clearly. Our neighbor was forever grateful to my family for literally bailing her out of a very bad situation.
  • Everyone of my generation vividly remembers the Great Blizzard of '78, but not many recall the great flood that preceded it by just a few hours. But I will never forget it.

Michele M.: As a kid, there were lots of happy things associated with the blizzard (no school, the epic snowdrifts), but the thing I remember most was my 11th birthday party being canceled.

  • It wasn't going to be a big affair, mostly a family party, but I was very upset. I thought at least my Grandma should try and come!

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