Commentary: Recent snowstorms bring back fond memories of ‘78 Blizzard

The legendary Blizzard of 1978 was 41 years ago this week. Those of us who experienced it will never forget the “white hurricane” that started on January 25 and lasted for two very long days.

While some folks’ blizzard memories might include marathon games of monopoly or gin rummy, and creative cooking in the fireplace, Rich and Bonnie Hardacre were busy trying to keep their dairy farm going.

Located in Bethel Twp. on New Carlisle Pike, the Hardacre Farm is one of the Clark County Bicentennial Farms. That means that it has been though more than one blizzard. But the Blizzard of 1978 was different from the rest.

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As Rich Hardacre told me, there were snowdrifts that were five to six feet on the north and south roads. East to west roads still had blowing snow and a few drifts which still made travel difficult.

The Hardacres had 80 Holstein milking cows that yielded eight to ten gallons of milk a day each. Luckily the Hardacres had a generator in case the power gave out so they wouldn’t have to milk by hand as they’d had to in a blizzard once before. The 1000 gallon tank had to be emptied and milk had to be picked up every day.

Once the wind stopped Rich set about clearing a way for the milk hauling truck to get from I-70 to the farm. Using a Case tractor with a front loader he physically cleared the route for the semi truck to pick up the milk. From the way he talked, I think he enjoyed that part.

He also enjoyed using his snowmobile to pick up items for people and to deliver a breast feeding mom to her baby who had been left with a relative overnight.

Meanwhile Bonnie took care of things on the home front. She had a two- and a four-year old to keep up with. Luckily electricity was not out, so food was not a problem.

“We always laugh about people running off to buy groceries before a blizzard. We had our own milk. We raised our own beef. I had a large garden and I canned,” said Bonnie Hardacre.

In 1978 Tim Devore was still in college but he was a volunteer fireman with the Enon Mad River Fire Department during the 1978 blizzard.

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Snowmobiles were important to the department that week.

“The firehouse was the command center,” said Devore. “We took snowplows then snowmobiles to Garrison Road to pick up Dr. Vanderglass and Ross Wise, who was one of the snowplow drivers.

Devore remembers not being able to get the plow down Fowler Road and drifts that went over the cars that were stuck. Once again front loaders on tractors had to be used to clear the route.

Luckily the phone service and electricity in the village of Enon also stayed on during the entire blizzard.

Enon’s Elmer Beard did not have it so easy. He was two years out of college and teaching agriculture up north in Seneca County near Tiffin. School was closed for more than a week and the drifts were huge. The area also lost phone service and electricity.

“Drifts were 20 feet tall, at least, in some places,” Beard said.

I know that his assessment is not an exaggeration. Some drifts north of here in the flat lands of northwest Ohio really were that big. How do I know? I was there too.

I experienced the blizzard by accident. We were stationed in Corpus Christi, Texas, in January of 1978 and my parents asked me to come home with our 3-month-old baby for a few weeks while my husband was on temporary duty elsewhere. My folks farm was in a very rural area in Hancock County near Findlay.

I left 80 degrees and landed in Dayton just before a snowstorm . Mom kept telling me a big blizzard was coming and I figured she was panicking again. I was wrong.

A few nights later the blizzard blew in with a terrible sudden roar that shook the windows and doors. For the next couple of days we could see nothing outside that was more than 20 feet away. It was a total white out and it roared like a hurricane.

Electricity went out immediately as did the phones. Neighbors were half a mile away. The only way we could communicate was through the CB radio in the car. On it we could hear stranded people in snowbound cars crying for rescue. That was scary.

People relayed messages by CB and HAM radios and we got word to my husband in Georgia that we were OK.

Dad had no livestock except my sister’s horse. To feed it my Dad and sister tied a rope around their waists so they didn’t get separated going out to the barn. Since I was breast feeding, I wasn’t even allowed out of the house at all. Mom and Dad were well-prepared and we had all we needed during the storm.

Two days later the wind stopped and we opened the door to a solid wall of snow that was imprinted with the door panels. We had to find a door that was open enough for exit. Then we dug down to the other doors. Digging down into the top of a gigantic drift we found our van.

Snowmobile drivers told us that my 80 year old grandmother, a grand lady who never worn slacks, had been evacuated by snowmobile to a house with a fireplace. She talked about it for years.

Once we had dug out, I headed for the airport and Texas, swearing I’d never visit Ohio in the winter ever again.

However, life had other plans.

So here we are in 2019, communicating by cell phones and the internet during this last snowstorm . Our fire and emergency teams kept us informed of Emergency declarations and closures on Facebook. On my phone I watched the WHIO weather maps and our News-Sun website digitally delivered the paper to my hand each day even though we were not allowed to be on the roads yet. Neighbors messaged or called neighbors to see if anyone needed help. What a welcome change from 1978.

No matter what year it is, snowstorm should be taken seriously. Icy sidewalks are still slippery, and Jack Frost still bites. Take good care of yourselves and your neighbors this week.

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