Snow returns 45 years after Great Blizzard of 1978

LIMA — History may not have repeated itself Wednesday, but there were certainly mild echoes of it.

With snow starting to blanket the region in the early morning hours Wednesday, the scene hearkened back to 45 years ago to the day, as snow began to cover much of the Midwest, including Ohio, Indiana, Michigan and Kentucky, among other states, in what has since been called the Great Blizzard of 1978.

According to the National Weather Service, things were relatively quiet the evening of Jan. 25, with fog and rain, some of it freezing, covering the area. That precipitation changed to snow before dawn the following morning, with the snow continuing to fall throughout the day and into the next. Accompanying the snow was bitterly cold air and high winds ranging from 50 to 75 miles per hour, causing temperatures to plummet and snow to blow, causing what would become enormous drifts. An article in the Jan. 28, 1978 edition of The Lima News described the event as “one of history’s worst snowstorms.”

“We lived in a mobile home in the country and the wind drove snow through the walls of cupboards and closets,” Barbara Fensler wrote on The Lima News Facebook page. “We were dangerously low on propane gas but did have a wood burner as a backup. I was scared we would be buried in snow.”

While that 1978 storm dumped 11 inches of snow, Wednesday’s event started much slower, with less than two inches of snow to the region as of 3 p.m., according to the National Weather Service. Projection models had the Lima area receiving as much as five inches by the end of the day. This gave the opportunity for children and families to enjoy some time out in the snow, as many schools were closed Wednesday.

The scene was vastly different 45 years ago, as “hundreds” of vehicles were stranded in Allen and Hancock counties as a result of the snow, according to coverage from The Lima News, with the State Highway Patrol having to rescue between 15 and 20 people from stranded vehicles. About 50 members of the Ohio National Guard were working around the clock to help residents in Allen and Putnam counties after a state of emergency was declared, The Lima News said.

“A friend was in the National Guard and running a snowmobile,” Wilma Maryann Freund wrote on The Lima News Facebook page. “He got a call to go to Cridersville, a woman had just gone into labor. … He got her to St. Rita’s in time.”

Power outages were widespread during the 1978 blizzard, as well, with The Lima News reporting several power line breaks due to the severe winds, with 800 Ohio Power customers in the Lima Division left without power as of Jan. 27, and 6,000 total Lima Division customers affected by power outages at some point during that time.

On Wednesday, Paulding Putnam Electric Co-op reported that 131 members in the Fort Jennings area were without power due to auto accidents impacting power lines. As of 2 p.m., the electric cooperative was responding to four accident scenes affecting power lines. All the affected members in the Fort Jennings area had power restored before 4 p.m.

As of 4 p.m. Wednesday, AccuWeather was projecting snowfall amounts totaling 6 to 10 inches in the Lima area by 7 a.m. Friday.