Great Blizzard of 1978

Great Blizzard of 1978

The Great Blizzard of 1978 was a historic blizzard which struck Ohio Valley and Great Lakes from January 25–27, 1978. The 28.28 inches (958 millibars) barometric pressure measurement recorded in Cleveland, Ohio remains the lowest non-tropical atmospheric pressure ever recorded in the mainland United States.

Meteorological synopsis

Late on January 24, the surface maps revealed a moisture laden Gulf Low developing over the southern United States while a separate, and unrelated low pressure system was present over the Upper Midwest. In about 24 hours, the merger of the subtropical (containing a wind max of 130 knots) and polar (containing a wind max of 110 knots) jet streams would lead to an unusual convergence of these two low pressures over the Ohio Valley, known as "phasing". Such a phenomenon usually leads to explosive development of the surface low and the Great Blizzard was no exception. The low over Gulf States underwent bombogenesis as it moved rapidly northward during the evening of January 25 (record low pressures were logged across parts of the South and Mid-Atlantic). [ [ NWS Detroit/Pontiac - The Great Blizzard of 1978 ] ] Bombogenesis events require a storm's central pressure to drop >24 millibars in 24 hours; the Great Blizzard deepened by a remarkable 40 millibars in that span of time. [ [ NWS Detroit/Pontiac - The Great Blizzard of 1978 ] ]

As the storm headed for Ohio, this resulted in a "storm of unprecedented magnitude", according to the National Weather Service, who categorized it as a rare severe blizzard, the most severe grade of winter storm. Particularly hard hit were the states of Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and southeast Wisconsin where up to convert|40|in|cm|0 of snow fell. Winds gusting up to convert|100|mph|km/h|0 caused drifts that nearly buried some homes. Wind chill values reached convert|-60|F|C|0 below across much of Ohio where 51 of the total 70 storm-related deaths occurred. [ [ BCEO - Blizzard of '78 Review ] ] The lowest atmospheric pressure ever recorded in the United States, apart from a tropical system, occurred as the storm passed over Cleveland, Ohio. The barometer fell to 28.28 inches (958 millibars) on the morning of January 26. Nearby Detroit, Michigan fell to 28.34 inches.

The absolute low pressure with this storm was picked up at Sarnia, Ontario at around the same time, where the barometer bottomed out at 28.21 inches (955 millibars). Toronto fell to 28.40 inches, breaking the old record by 0.17. Canada did not escape the wrath of the storm as blizzard conditions were common across southwestern Ontario. London was paralyzed by convert|16|in|cm|0 of snow and winds gusting to convert|128|km/h|mph|0. The storm initially began out as rain but quickly changed over to heavy snow during the pre-dawn hours (as arctic air deepened ahead of the storm) leading to frequent whiteouts and zero visibility during the day on Thursday, January 26.


The Blizzard was the worst in Ohio history where 51 people died as a result of the storm. Over 5,000 members of the Ohio National Guard were called in to make numerous rescues. Police asked citizens who had four-wheel drive vehicles and snowmobiles to transport doctors to the hospital. The entire Ohio Turnpike was shut down that day (January 26) and most of Friday (January 27).

Michigan Governor William Milliken declared a state of emergency and called out the Michigan National Guard to aid stranded motorists and road crews. The Michigan State Police pronounced Traverse City, Michigan "unofficially closed" and warned area residents to stay home. Classes at the University of Michigan were canceled for the first time in its 140 year history.


C.R. Snider, National Weather Service Meteorologist in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on January 30, 1978 commented:

"The most extensive and very nearly the most severe blizzard in Michigan history raged January 26, 1978 and into part of Friday January 27. About 20 people died as a direct or indirect result of the storm, most due to heart attacks or traffic accidents. At least one person died of exposure in a stranded automobile. Many were hospitalized for exposure, mostly from homes that lost power and heat. About 100,000 cars were abandoned on Michigan highways, most of them in the southeast part of the state."

"I tried to drive, every time I went one foot forward I was pushed back fifteen." -A statement describing how strong the wind was even after the snow stopped.

nowfall totals

The following table displays selected U.S. snowfall totals during the January 25-29, 1978 time period.

"*Total data for a 24 hour period."

"Source: National Weather Service Detroit/Pontiac, Michigan [] "



* [ "A Great Storm is Upon Michigan" The Great Blizzard of 1978]
* [ "No Ordinary Blizzard"]
* [ "Remember Blizzard of Jan 26, 1978 Weather Historians Recall Blizzard of Legend"]
* [ "1978: Statewide Blizzard"]
* [ "The Blizzard of '78"] , WBGU-PBS local documentary

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Blizzard of 1978 — Two major blizzards occurred in the United States in the year 1978:*The Great Blizzard of 1978 which struck parts of the Ohio Valley and Great Lakes on January 26 *The Northeastern United States blizzard of 1978 which affected the northeastern… …   Wikipedia

  • Great Blizzard of 1888 — This article is about the blizzard in the eastern United States and Canada. For the blizzard in the Great Plains in the same year, see Schoolhouse Blizzard. Great Blizzard of 1888 Surface analysis of Blizzard on March 12, 1888 at 10 p.m …   Wikipedia

  • Northeastern United States blizzard of 1978 — This article is about the storm which affected the northeastern United States. For the blizzard in the central United States that year, see Great Blizzard of 1978. Blizzard of 1978 Maple Street in Woonsocket, RI Storm type: Winter storm …   Wikipedia

  • Great Lakes Storm of 1913 — Konvergierende Systeme bilden eine November gale Daten Bildung 6. November 1913 Auflösung …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Great Lakes Storm of 1913 — The Great Lakes Storm of 1913, historically referred to as the Big Blow , the Freshwater Fury or the White Hurricane , was a blizzard with hurricane force winds that devastated the Great Lakes Basin in the Midwestern United States and the… …   Wikipedia

  • 1978 — This article is about the year 1978. Millennium: 2nd millennium Centuries: 19th century – 20th century – 21st century Decades: 1940s  1950s  1960s  – 1970s –  1980s   …   Wikipedia

  • Great Lakes Blizzard of 1977 — The Blizzard of ‘77 was a deadly blizzard that hit Buffalo, New York and the area around it in New York and Ontario (and to a lesser extent, surrounding regions) from January 28 to February 1, 1977. Daily peak gusts of 69, 51, 52, 58 and 46 miles …   Wikipedia

  • Blizzard of ’77 — Schneeverwehungen erschwerten den Verkehr in Teilen New Yorks. (Aufnahme vom 7. Februar 1977). Der Blizzard of ’77 oder auch Great Lakes Blizzard war ein meteorologisches Ereignis in Nordamerika. Bei diesem Blizzard, der vom 28. Januar 1977… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Blizzard of 1977 — Snow drifts made travel difficult in parts of New York (February 7, 1977), shown is the city of Buffalo …   Wikipedia

  • North American blizzard of 1947 — Great Blizzard of 1947 Storm type: Winter storm Formed: December 25, 1947 Dissipated: December 26, 1947 Maximum amount:* 26.4 inches (67 cm) recorded at Central Park in Manhattan …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.