Clark County residents recall the 1978 blizzard

A scene from the Great Blizzard of 1978, whose biggest snowfall came on Jan. 26, 1978. CLARK COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY

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A scene from the Great Blizzard of 1978, whose biggest snowfall came on Jan. 26, 1978. CLARK COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY

The dates January 25 - 28, 1978 are burned, or should I say “freeze-burned”, into the memories of anyone who experienced the blizzard of 1978. That meteorological nightmare was 43 years ago this week.

The Blizzard of the Century arrived so quickly many did not have time to stock up. At my parent’s farm the blizzard came in with a terrible roar at 3 a.m. and it roared for three days.

The rapid snow accumulation surprised many. The winds were nearly hurricane strength and the drift height was legendary.

Photographer Marshall Gorby was living in Fairborn at the time and remembered loading neighbors into his car to make a grocery run. They figured he had the best car to push if they got stuck. Now that was planning ahead.

ExplorePhotos: Great Blizzard of 1978 in Springfield and Clark County

Mad River Township Resident Doyle Wright also remembers a quick grocery run as the storm began.

“On the day of the blizzard my parents went to the grocery store at Liberal Market (in Fairborn). They said it was freezing in the store because the wind had blown out the front window,” said Doyle.

Getting to the store wasn’t easy.

“The snow was being pushed by the bumper of my Dad’s truck as they went to the store with chains on the truck.”

Doyle’s wife, Laura Berry Wright, a teacher at Tecumseh, was living with her parents Glenn and Judy Berry on Southern Vista near Enon. She was almost ten and surprised to hear that school was cancelled for the next day when she looked outside to see “just a little bit of snow.”

The next morning was a different story.

“I tried to look outside and snow was covering my entire window,” said Laura. “My Dad had to shovel a way out for the dog.”

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In some ways she remembers the storm somewhat fondly.

“We just stayed in the house and played games - running Monopoly and Sorry and Rummy tournaments.

When the winds stopped she climbed to the top of the drift that covered their house.

“I felt like I’d climbed Mt. Everest.”

When the roads were cleared, the tall walls of snow along the roads made it hard to see other vehicles. She remembered that the corner of Stine and Southern Vista had especially high walls. To be more visible to other motorists, her Dad took the flag off the back of her bicycle and attached it to the antenna of the car.

The blizzard was even more difficult for mothers who were home alone with the kids.

“My husband was away on business, snowbound in Michigan. I was at home with our two children ages six and nine,” said Enon resident Betty Stein-Gossman.

“They were both sick with strep throat. The doctor’s office had called to tell me the cultures were positive and prescriptions had been called in to the pharmacy. I walked/waded through knee high snow to the pharmacy, six blocks there and six blocks home.

“As a parent you do whatever is necessary. Later, I wondered how the pharmacists had gotten there and what if they hadn’t been.”

Our optometrist told me he remembered his dad opening the garage door to a solid wall of snow.

“Of course my brother and I tunneled a way out,” he said, then added that that probably wasn’t a good idea.

Many who were kids at that time remember all the tunnels and igloos.

Cliff and Donna Harper owners of Glass Etch Studio in Mad River Twp. had just moved back to Ohio from New York where they had survived that state’s Blizzard of 77. They thought there would be less snow here.

Cliff worked for Floyd Dugan Ford and spent the week after the blizzard helping to dig out all the cars on the lot.

Which blizzard was worse? Donna says the one in New York State, which is hard for me to imagine. No wonder they moved.

Some people working the third shift got stuck at work for days.

Out in the country, I remember people trying to get home from that late shift and getting stranded along the highway. We talked to them on the CB radio which was the only way to communicate in 1978 when the phone lines were down. They were really scared, and eventually snowmobiles took them to safety.

I almost missed the Blizzard of 78.

We were living in Corpus Christi, Texas, enjoying the 80 degree temperatures. Since my husband had to go off on yet another Navy trip and we had a new baby, my parents offered to pay for a flight for the baby and me to stay at the farm for three weeks in January.

Bad timing.

My Mom said there was going to be a big blizzard, but she thought all snow storms were blizzards. I didn’t believe her until I was awakened by sudden hurricane strength winds at 3 a.m. The electricity and telephone went out with the first gust of wind.

For two weeks we all lived together in one room around a big fireplace. Someone had to be awake all night to keep the fire going. We cooked on the hearth using cast iron skillets.

There was a total white out for three days. When it was time to feed the pony, my Dad and sister would tie a length of rope to each other and one would always be touching a building. Later we heard of people having ropes between barns and house so they would not lose track of the buildings and get lost in the fields. I remember hearing of that being done in Iceland before but never in Ohio.

I wanted to help but no one would let me out of the house since I was breast feeding the new baby. I didn’t complain. It was warmer inside.

We dug ourselves out just in time for me to make my flight back south. As I left, I swore I was never coming back during the winter. At least that was my plan, until orders to Wright Patterson brought us here.

I figure that since the Blizzard of 78 was the storm of the century, we have 53 years until the next one. Right?

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