CLEVELAND (WJW)– It’s been 44 years since a series of three winter storms, collectively known as the Blizzard of ’78, battered much of the Midwest and Northeast.

The second blast, from Jan. 25, 1978, to Jan. 27, 1978, caused widespread devastation in Ohio. The high winds created massive snowdrifts, closing schools, shutting down businesses and bringing transportation to a halt. It took several days for the region to recover and the storm killed 70 people, including 51 in Ohio.

“Weeks before, we had 5 to 10 inches of snow from the (storm) on Jan. 8 and Jan. 9,” said Scott Sabol, FOX 8 meteorologist, who was 4 years old at the time of the blizzard. “We had a week and a half of a break, another foot of snow fell, and that brought the snow cover close to 2 feet. So we had between 18 and 24 inches of snow on the ground before the blizzard hit.”

“Then the wind picked up. We added 8 inches on top of that. And that’s what caused those snowdrifts of 20 to 40 feet in many locations. Because of snow on the ground, not so much the snow that fell due to the storm that came through Jan. 25 and 26,” Sabol said.

Interactive timeline of the Blizzard of ’78:

The National Weather Service had predicted two systems: a storm gradually moving north through the Ohio Valley and low pressure bringing cold air from the north. As it became more apparent the two systems would collide over Ohio, weather officials started warning residents of the dangerous storm.

Snowfall was difficult to measure because of the high winds and all the snow that was already on the ground. Official measurements ranged from 5 inches to 15 inches, but some snowdrifts topped 15 feet to 25 feet. Wind gusts averaged between 50 mph and 70 mph, and wind chills extended to -60 degrees.

Peak wind gusts:

  • Cleveland Hopkins International Airport 82 mph
  • Akron 75 mph
  • Columbus 69 mph
  • Dayton 69 mph

While life was slowly returning to normal in Ohio, a third devastating snowstorm hit the Northeastern region of the U.S. from Feb. 5 to Feb. 7. More than 2 feet of snow fell in Boston. The storm was blamed for about 100 deaths and injuries to thousands across New England, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.

  • A National Guardsman checks a stranded car Feb. 9, 1978, in Hampton, N.H., after the Blizzard of '78 to see if anyone was trapped inside. A winter storm combined with high tides flooded the New Hampshire.
  • A giant loader dumps a load of snow into the first of a line of waiting trucks as snow removal operations continued in Hartford and throughout Connecticut, Feb. 8, 1978. A monster snowstorm dumped as much as 20 inches on the state Monday and Tuesday.
  • A giant loader shovels a load of snow for waiting trucks as snow removal operations continued in Hartford and throughout Connecticut, Feb. 8, 1978. A monster snowstorm dumped as much as 20 inches on the state Monday and Tuesday.
  • A front end loader is parked outside the giant U.S. Air Force cargo plane from which it was unloaded at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Ct., as the first plane load of U.S. Army personnel and equipment arrived, Feb. 9, 1978. The Army detachment from Ft. Hood, Texas, will aid in clearing away snow from the blizzard which hit Connecticut earlier in the week.
  • The first vehicle rolls out of a giant cargo plane as U.S. Army troops from Ft. Hood, Texas, arrived at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Ct., Feb. 8, 1978. The Army detachment has been sent to assist in snow removal operations following the blizzard which hit Connecticut early in the week.
  • This message was dug out in the snow on the surface of a lake in Montville, Connecticut, Feb. 8, 1978. It asked for Gov. Ella T. Grasso's help in the state's snow emergency. The author of the message was unknown, but it got across to the governor who saw it as she flew over the lake on a helicopter tour of eastern Connecticut.
  • Cars and trucks stranded and abandoned in deep snow along Route 128 in Dedham, Mass., are seen in this Feb. 9, 1978 photo, as military and civilian plows begin to dig them out during the blizzard of 1978.