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). [ [http://www.crh.noaa.gov/dtx/stories/blizzard1978.php 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. [ [http://www.crh.noaa.gov/dtx/stories/blizzard1978.php 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. [ [http://www.bceo.org/78blizzardrev.html 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.

Impact

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.

Quotes

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 [http://www.crh.noaa.gov/dtx/stories/blizzard1978.php] "

Notes

References

* [http://www.crh.noaa.gov/dtx/stories/blizzard1978.php "A Great Storm is Upon Michigan" The Great Blizzard of 1978]
* [http://www.authorsden.com/visit/viewarticle.asp?AuthorID=5240&id=8203 "No Ordinary Blizzard"]
* [http://dept.kent.edu/ksutop_story/archive_98/980121_blizzard_of_78_shmid.html "Remember Blizzard of Jan 26, 1978 Weather Historians Recall Blizzard of Legend"]
* [http://www.ohiohistory.org/etcetera/exhibits/swio/pages/content/1978_blizzard.htm "1978: Statewide Blizzard"]
* [http://wbgu.org/community/documentary/Blizzard/index.html "The Blizzard of '78"] , WBGU-PBS local documentary


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