Weather Facts about the Blizzard of 1978
Learn about these two big stormsThe Blizzard of 1978 has some pretty interesting weather facts. Learn about the two great blizzards that hit parts of the Midwest and Northeast.
When people talk about the Great Blizzard of 78, you usually have to clarify exactly WHICH blizzard you're talking about. You see, during that year, there were two major blizzards that everyone remembers. There was a blizzard that struck parts of the Ohio Valley and Great Lakes during January 25-27. There was also another blizzard that struck parts of the Northeast from February 5th - 7th. Let's start off with the Midwest blizzard.
Blizzard of 1978 (Midwest)
The blizzard that struck the Midwest in 1978 is one which many people will never forget. It was just one of a few storms that winter which brought tons of snow to many parts of the eastern US.
The storm was caused by two low pressure centers phasing together creating a unique situation in which the storm "bombed out". It's pressure measured in at 958 which was a record for a non tropical system up until another midwestern storm that hit in 2010.
Snow amounts were anywhere between 1 and 3 feet and hit states like Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, and Kentucky. As you know, blizzards have strong winds, and this blizzard was no exception. Strong winds up to 70 MPH created huge snow drifts that covered cars and trapped many people on highways. Places were shutdown for days and the National Guard were called in to help stranded people. In Ann Arbor, the University cancelled classes for the first time ever. In Traverse City, Michigan, nearly 22-28 inches of snow fell. Pretty crazy! I'm a snow lover and all, but I've never experienced a storm like this, not to mention the storm also caused loss of life.
Blizzard of 1978 (Northeast)
Just a few weeks later, another great blizzard would hit. This time it was the Northeast's turn. It was a classic Nor' Easter that dumped tons of snow on many cities in the region. Like the storm that hit the midwest, the pressure and winds of the storm were similar to that of a minimal hurricane at times.
Image by martin.jessica
Cities like Boston received record snows at around 27 inches and other cities broke similar records. People were caught off guard and some people were stranded on the highways and on other roads (see my winter safety tips section). People froze to death in their cars on the freeways, and thousands of other were stranded in their homes. Even schools in New York city closed for the first time ever. However not only was there heavy snow for over 30 hours, the high winds caused a lot of coastal damage.
Unlike the blizzard in the Midwest, this storm presented a whole new set of problems because like most Nor Easters, the storm sits right off the coast. The high winds and high waves (the storm hit with high tides) washed many homes out to sea. The storm caught many of the weather offices off guard and with many skeptics about the weather, much of the public was caught off guard as well.
Once the storm hit, people were trapped, and many people resorted to using cross country skiis, snowmobiles, and sleds to get around, rescue people, and bring supplies where they were needed. Overall it caused over 1 billion dollars in damage with over 100 people dying directly from the storm or situations caused by the storm.
Both of these storms will be ones that people will never forget.
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Lightning strike on the Renaissance Center
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