40 Years Ago Today, The Great Blizzard of 1978 Began [Video]
What are your memories of the blizzard of 1978? Grand Rapids was one of the harder hit towns, accumulating close to 20 inches of snow over the three day duration.
Muskegon, fueled by the lake effect had over 30 inches.
I was a student at Central Michigan at the time, and it was the first time in the school's history that it ever closed for snow.
We also ran out of beer. Well, at least quality beer. The 7-Eleven had some Buckhorn left.
It was a bomb cyclone event before the media knew of such a word. The storm started slowly with rain and freezing rain on Wednesday January 25, but turned quickly into blizzard conditions early on Thursday the 26th, which would remain intense for 24 hours.
According to the Weather Historian Web Site, record snow totals just for Thursday were monstrous:
Record 24 hour snowfall totals from the storm included, 16.1 inches at Grand Rapids, 15.4 inches at Houghton Lake and 12.2 at Dayton, OH. Snowfalls for the entire storm (25-27th) included a whopping 30.0 inches at Muskegon (some of which was Lake Michigan enhanced), 19.3 inches at Lansing and 19.2 at Grand Rapids. Snowfalls were less over Southeast Lower Michigan (mainly because of the rain that fell for a period) and included 9.9 inches at Flint and 8.2 inches at Detroit.
Meteorologist C.R. Snider summed up the storm's destructive qualities at the National Weather Service Ann Arbor:
"The most extensive and very nearly the most severe blizzard in Michigan history raged throughout Thursday January 26, 1978 and into part of Friday January 27. About 20 people died as a direct or indirect result of the storm, most due to heart attacks or traffic accidents. At least one person died of exposure in a stranded automobile. Many were hospitalized for exposure, mostly from homes that lost power and heat. About 100,000 cars were abandoned on Michigan highways, most of them in the southeast part of the state."
The Blizzard of ’78 kind of made my career. Before computers and mobile phones, people stuck at home had little to do but watch TV. I was there, on the air morning, noon and night. With 800 TV stations and lots of alternative activities, it would be hard to get ratings like that and the name recognition that follows. I was supposed to be at a weather convention in Savannah, Georgia that week. My car was stuck in place, so I walked into work. We lived off the stale danish and coffee from the vending machine.
This Nick Ryberg's video sets photos from the storm to Ted Nugent's 'Stranglehold'. What could be more Michigan?
As for me, it was just a big party as we had nothing really to do at CMU but sit in our dorm rooms and drink. Heavily.
Eventually we made it out and did some drift diving at a friend's apartment complex. Basically, 'drift diving' entailed out of his third floor window into the giant 22 foot snow drift sitting there, un aware of how deep we would go or what we would hit on the way down. Stupid, to be sure, but what else could we do?