Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Blizzard of 1978---30 years ago today!

30 Years ago today...The entire state of Ohio, along with northern Illinois and Indiana, and southern Michigan and southeast Wisconsin were hit by the 3 day blizzard known as the Blizzard of the Century.

In 1977 on January 28th the same area was blasted by what we thought was the "storm of the century"...363 days later, 1978 topped it....15 to 35 inches of snow plus 70-100 mph winds, depending on where you were.....well, I was in Wisconsin, northern Wisconsin to be exact, we missed the massive snows, but the wind mixed with 10 or so inches affected us none-the-less.

Patricia and I had moved from Celina, Ohio, to north of Wausau, Wisconsin, in October of 1977....when the January storm hit, she was working at Nationwide Investments in Wausau...I was bartending and working shifts at the Ski Slopes for Marathon County. Knowing a storm was approaching, I took her into work that day with the Jeep Cherokee, her rear wheel drive AMC Hornet was not equipped to make it through heavy snow(although 14 months later it would get me through the blizzard of 79, see "Snow storms I have known from January 3rd this year).

When it came time to pick her up I piled the Airedales, Rags and Max into the Jeep and decided to see how the back roads were, the snow combined with the strong winds were piling up the drifts pretty good, and the cold temperatures made it a dangerous proposition. As I drove down an unfamiliar road zig-zagging my way the 11 miles towards downtown Wausau, I came across a car sitting in the roadway, I went around it and "WHAM" it hit a high drift...which took all 4 wheels off the ground and the Cherokee sat helpless with zero of the 4 tires hitting pavement.

Getting out, I find out the son of a bitch sitting in the middle of the road was a county idiot checking the roads for the schools....he rolls down his window and says..."looks like you're stuck"...."yep", I say...and headed back to the Jeep to see if I could shovel myself I walk back to the car...this clown, with in car two way radio...backs up and takes off....the bastard leaves me in a blizzard, high and dry, with a 1/2 tank of gas, night fall approaching, and two dogs in the this time the temperatures had dropped to about -15 chill factor...what to do?

Having only lived in the area a short while(and of course no cell phones back then), I was not totally familiar with the road, but thought I knew of a farm house about a mile east....I took a chance, wrapped myself up, gloves, wool hat, and my suede winter I jogged east, knowing if I was wrong, I was screwed.

Being in pretty good shape at the time, I made the mile in pretty short order, and there to my delight was the farm house, sitting like a ghost in the blizzard. Knocking on the door the farmer and his wife invited me in...I asked to use the phone, calling Patricia, I told her to get ready to spend the night at the office...because I didn't know when and if I would make it there....after hanging up, the farmer, tells me..."I've got an older tractor that will go through anything, and I've got a chain to pull you off the drift". Within 10 minutes we were heading down the frozen road...him driving, and me standing on the back hitch...the wind was pushing the frozen snow like needles into my cheeks....but I was glad for the ride...we hooked up the chain and within a minute I was off the snow drift.....I thanked him and offered him $20, he refused with a smile, I was one relieved dude as were the dogs....I headed in a straight line for Wausau and picked up my wife, taking the main roads home.

Here was a case of me making a mistake, and 2 strangers, one who left me high and dry, leaving me and my dogs at risk...and another who went the extra mile to help out a complete and stupid just never know.

Sadly as many photos of the 79 storm as I have...I have none of the 78 Blizzard...but since it was much worse in Celina, where mom and the rest of the family still resided at that time, I do have some photos from the DOT files from that was stuck in the house for a week, the schools were closed that long as well...Celina and Mercer County were buried and Ohio had 51 of the 70 storm related deaths nationwide....It was one powerful and deadly dangerous storm.....the above photos show(1) the little town of North Star, south of Celina, buried...(2) The South Bay Motel, 3 miles south of Celina.(3) Looking south from the Celina city limits on US 127.....even the plows couldn't get through this for days....after the storm stopped.


BRUNO said...

Indeed, there's not a much-more helpless feeling than being high-centered on a drift. Sometimes, a hand shovel can help, especially with a Jeep, but usually you're just screwed, indeed!

Many's the time a local farmer has saved someones' ass, when the "authorities" had more pressing matters to attend to. But eventually, as they say---"Every dog has his day"...!

Mushy said...

Luckily the only blizzard I ever experienced was in Tennessee back in '93, and I was home!

That would be some scary stuff man!

~Fathairybastard~ said...

Great story. One dude fucked ya and the other saved your ass. I remember that storm in the news. We had a blizzard in Ft. Worth that year that left us deep in snow for about a week. Last real snow I've seen in the state, not counting the long drive through the pan handle in the early 90s.

And I drove a brown AMC Hornet hatch back in high school. Loved that car, even though it had no power.

pat houseworth said...

Went through an Ice storm 2 winters ago in the panhandle(Texas) taking a 40 foot Diesel to Vegas....the traffic came to a total standstill out side Amarillo...what a mess, slid that sucker over to the side of I40 and waited it out.

Owned 3 Hornet Hatchback...both with Levi seats/package...a 73 that I bought a year after the Air Force...then after buying the Cherokee new, my wife bought another one, a 74 with the same package....also had a 6 wheel drive AMC Eagle, that SOB gave me trasnmission fits.

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Anonymous said...

For my memory of the Blizzard of 1978, I was working at a strip mine in Holmes County, Ohio at the time. Had a farmer come to the house with a snow mobile to take me to get a front end loader to help bring a milk truck to the farm. 5 miles from the farm & 2 days later the milk was dumped into the creek. The truck could not get to the dairy. For the next 13 days we were on the road with front end loaders & dozers, 10 to 13 hours a day to help the road crews get trucks into and out of the farms in the area. FUN TIMES!