During the Thanksgiving Blizzard of 1950, forty-mile-per-hour winds socked the region, and a blanket of snow more than one foot deep covered the land. Areas farther east fared worse, with some Ohioans recording more than two feet. The culprit was an extratropical cyclone that paralyzed the area unlike any storm during the prior three decades. Temperatures hung near zero, freezing water lines and killing car batteries. Nationally, 353 souls perished due to the storm. Many sources compare the storm’s ferocity to that of the 1913 storm that crippled the region for five days. Estimates place fatalities for that storm at over 250. In Cleveland, the Ohio National Guard provided support in light of the countless police officers unable to make it in to work. Many of those enjoying family and festivities over the Thanksgiving holiday were forced to extend their stay.
Image taken from Cleveland Plain Dealer. See full article here: http://media.cleveland.com/remembers/other/snowstorm.pdf
No mere snow squall or winter gale, this storm was known to those who witnessed its icy wrath as “The Great Blizzard.” The front slammed the region, dropping the mercury to dangerous lows and pumping out snow to incredible heights. It began on January 23, as it moved west toward the Ohio Valley. On January 25, forecasts for the state began to paint a more severe picture of things to come and by nine p.m. a blizzard warning was issued for the entire state of Ohio. Scott and Sue Kollman of Kollman’s grocery store conveyed the frantic state of locals as the storm approached, saying, “Everyone was scared . . . there was a run on the store.” The next day, President Jimmy Carter declared a state of emergency for Ohio. This would mark the peak of the blizzard’s strength, with wind speeds topping eighty miles per hour in Cleveland. It would be another two days before the storm broke and an assessment of the damage could take place.
Of the storm’s aftermath, local Andrew Miller nostalgically remembered it as only a small boy could have: “I remember the snow being up to my knees, which at the time probably would’ve been two feet . . . No plows had been through yet, nobody had shoveled after, it was still storming and you just couldn’t tell the difference between the road and someone’s front yard. It was just an even plain.” His mother Sandy told how theirs was the only home in their neighborhood with a wood-burning fireplace, presenting a warm and inviting refuge for nearby neighbors without heat . . . providing they were capable of braving the storm. And for some, that bravery came from the insatiable need to eat, drink, and be inebriated. “Nobody could go to work, but Babka’s was packed,” according to the Kollmans. The following is taken from a bulletin by the National Weather Service:
Still images and film footage were combined, documenting many of the familiar sights around Twinsburg as they appeared during the now infamous blizzard. Public Square, shops and storefronts, Corbett’s Farm, and rural byways are shown coated in snow, reflecting the true ferocity of the storm in its immediate aftermath. Film footage of the 1978 blizzard was captured by Twinsburg resident James Kizak.
The following content are the actual press releases from the National Weather Service illustrating the evolution of the storm from January 24-26:
SPECIAL WEATHER STATEMENT NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE AKRON OHIO 100 PM EST FEB 1 1978 …THE BLIZZARD OF 78… TUESDAY JAN 24…TWO SEEMINGLY UNRELATED LOW PRESSURE AREAS SEPARATED BY VAST DISTANCES…ONE IN THE WESTERN GULF OF MEXICO THE OTHER IN NORTHERN NORTH DAKOTA…BEGAN TO BECOME ORGANIZED. THE NORTH DAKOTA LOW WAS EXPECTED TO PASS NORTH OF OHIO POSING NO GREAT WEATHER THREAT TO THE STATE OTHER THAN TO BRING IN COLDER AIR. THE GULF LOW WAS FORECASTED TO MOVE GRADUALLY NORTHEAST UP THE MISSISSIPPI VALLEY TO THE OHIO VALLEY AND THEN NORTHEAST OF OHIO. RAIN WAS EXPECTED TO SPREAD INTO THE STATE FROM THIS LOW…CHANGING TO SNOW AS THE COLDER AIR MOVED IN BEHIND. WEDNESDAY JAN 25…ALL THINGS SEEMED TO BE OCCURRING AS FORECASTED AS THE GULF LOW MOVED INTO NORTHERN LOUISIANA DURING THE MORNING. THEN THE FIRST SIGNS OF SOMETHING MORE OMINOUS BEGAN TO APPEAR. THE NORTH DAKOTA LOW STARTED TRACKING MORE SOUTHEAST AND PRESSURES NORTH OF THE GULF LOW BEGAN TO FALL RAPIDLY. IT BECAME APPARENT THAT THE TWO LOWS WERE ON A VIRTUAL COLLISION COURSE AND THAT COLLISION WOULD TAKE PLACE IN OR VERY NEAR THE STATE OF OHIO. PRESSURES CONTINUED TO FALL RAPIDLY AHEAD OF THE GULF LOW AS WARM MOIST AIR WAS BROUGHT NORTH. BY AFTERNOON HEAVY SNOW WARNINGS WERE ISSUED FOR NORTHWESTERN COUNTIES OF OHIO AND A WINTER STORM WARNING FOR THE REMAINDER OF THE STATE. BY EARLY EVENING THE PRESSURES HAD DROPPED TO RECORD LOWS THROUGHOUT THE BUCKEYE STATE AND THE COLD LOW FROM THE NORTH WAS TRACKING DIRECTLY TOWARD OHIO. IT NOW BECAME VERY OBVIOUS THAT A VERY DANGEROUS WEATHER SITUATION FACED OHIOANS AND BLIZZARD WARNINGS WERE ISSUED FOR THE ENTIRE STATE AT 9 PM. TEMPERATURES ROSE INTO THE 40S AND RAIN CONTINUED AS THE DAY NEARED ITS END. THE WIND INCREASED GREATLY TOWARD MIDNIGHT AND THE PRESSURE CONTINUED ITS DOWNWARD SLIDE. THURSDAY JAN 26…BY EARLY THURSDAY HERE AT THE AKRON CANTON WEATHER SERVICE OFFICE THE WIND HAD RISEN TO SUSTAINED SPEEDS BETWEEN 25 AND 30 MPH GUSTING TO OVER 40 MPH. THE PRESSURE WAS STILL DROPPING AND IT WAS EVIDENT THAT A STORM OF UNPRECEDENTED MAGNITUDE WAS IMMINENT. AT 347 AM THE BAROMETER REGISTERED 28.33 INCHES…A FULL HALF OF AN INCH LOWER THAN THE PREVIOUS RECORD LOW OF 28.83 INCHES SET ON FEB 25 1961. WIND WAS NOW BLOWING AT 30 TO 40 MPH AND GUSTING TO OVER 50 MPH. BY 430 AM THE COLD AIR MOVED INTO THE LOCAL AREA. TEMPERATURES DROPPED RAPIDLY AND THE RAIN CHANGED TO SNOW. THE WIND WAS NOW GUSTING TO OVER 60 MPH AND AT 512 AM A PEAK GUST OF 76 MPH WAS RECORDED. BETWEEN 5 AND 6 AM THE TEMPERATURE FELL 21 DEGREES FROM 34 TO 13 AND EVERYTHING THAT WAS WET FROM THE RAIN BECAME ICE. THE TEMPERATURE LEVELED OFF AROUND THE 10 DEGREE MARK BUT THE WIND REMAINED HIGH… SUSTAINED AT 25 TO 35 MPH AND GUSTING TO 40 AND 50 MPH DURING THE ENTIRE DAY. REPORTS OF DAMAGE BEGAN TO POUR IN OF POWER LINES DOWN… TELEVISION ANTENNAS BROKEN OFF…TREE LIMBS AND WHOLE TREES DOWN… AND BROKEN WINDOWS. ROADS HAD BECOME VAST SKATING RINKS AND DRIVING WAS ALL BUT IMPOSSIBLE. THE SNOW WAS BLOWING AND DRIFTING REDUCING THE VISIBILITY TO NEAR ZERO. WIND CHILL FACTORS DURING THE DAY FELL FAR BELOW THE MINUS 60 DEGREE MARK MAKING VENTURING OUTSIDE EXTREMELY HAZARDOUS. BLIZZARD WARNINGS WERE CONTINUED THROUGHOUT THE DAY AS OHIO REELED UNDER WINTERS WORST STORM IN MANY YEARS. WINDS REMAINED HIGH…SNOW BLEW AND DRIFTED…AND ALL TRAVEL AND OUTDOOR ACTIVITY CAME TO A VIRTUAL HALT. THIS SITUATION CONTINUED INTO FRIDAY WITH THE BLIZZARD WARNINGS BEING REPLACED BY TRAVELERS ADVISORIES AT 440 AM FRIDAY MORNING. THESE ADVISORIES REMAINED IN EFFECT THROUGHOUT FRIDAY AS THE WINDS DIMINISHED BUT WERE STILL STRONG ENOUGH TO CAUSE CONSIDERABLE BLOWING AND DRIFTING…AND RESTRICTING VISIBILITY ON THOSE ROADS THAT WERE OPEN. WIND CHILL FACTORS OF MINUS 40 TO 60 DEGREES CONTINUED AS WINDS BLEW FROM 25 TO 40 MPH AND TEMPERATURES HOVERED IN THE TEENS. FOR SHEER MAGNITUDE…THIS MUST RANK AS THE WORST STORM TO HIT THE GREAT LAKES REGION IN MANY YEARS. ON THE WEATHER SIDE…RECORD LOW PRESSURE READINGS…HIGH WINDS…DRAMATIC TEMPERATURE DROPS AND CONSIDERABLE BLOWING AND DRIFTING SNOW WERE ALL BUT UNPRECEDENTED. ON THE HUMAN SIDE…THE SUFFERING…DISCOMFORT AND DANGER CAUSED BY DISRUPTED POWER…WIND DAMAGE…STRANDED AUTOMOBILES AND OTHER STORM RELATED EVENTS WERE PROBABLY MORE WIDESPREAD THAN IN ANY OTHER STORM IN MOST PEOPLES MEMORIES. MANY WEATHER RECORDS WERE BROKEN BUT THAT IS WHAT RECORDS ARE FOR AND THOSE ARE JUST COLD STATISTICS. UNFORTUNATELY THERE ARE NO RECORDS OR COLD STATISTICS TO MEASURE THE HUMAN FACTOR IN A STORM OF THIS VAST SCALE.