Whitesburg KY
Partly sunny
Partly sunny

Remembering the blizzard of 1978

I owned a 13-acre mini-farm at 7475 Singer Road just north of Huber Heights in Dayton, Ohio. On Jan. 26, 1978 the day dawned with cloudy skies, and it started raining. The temperature was about 40 degrees, and by noon it was 50 degrees. The forecast said it was going to rain all day today and most of the day tomorrow. I didn’t have to work that day. I built a fire in the fireplace in the family room, and read most of the morning.

In the afternoon, the temperature started dropping. I went out to the barn and brought in more firewood. I turned on the weather, and they said the rain would turn to snow, but little accumulation was expected. Sometimes, the weatherman can be wrong.

All afternoon and into the night the wind picked up and the snow started to fly – sideways. By midnight, we were scared. Wind was blowing the snow down the chimney and around the window facings. The house was screaming at us, and it sounded like the devil and his angels were trying to get in. The windows were shaking and I thought they would soon break. On the TV, I learned that the wind was blowing 72 miles per hour. The temperature at midnight was 2 degrees below zero. There was nothing we could do about it, so we went to bed. I didn’t sleep much.

Early the next morning, the wind was still blowing, and the snow was drifting. I couldn’t see out the windows. I got a cup of coffee and went to the front door. It wouldn’t open. Going to the family room, I could look out and see the front door. It was covered with snow about four feet deep. One car in the front yard was completely covered, and my truck was about one-half covered.

I went to the back door and when I pulled, nothing happened. I jerked and pried on the door until it opened, and I was looking at a wall of snow all the way to the top of the door. We were trapped, snowed in.

We watched the news. Luckily, our electricity never went off. Over 30,000 people in the Dayton area were without electricity. They were finding people frozen to death in their homes. All the grocery stores had empty shelves because the delivery trucks couldn’t come and replenish them. All roads were closed. Interstate 70 and 75 were completely blocked with snowdrifts.

After breakfast, I decided to go out and get some more firewood. I had to take the storm door apart, then dig my snow shovel out. I shoveled the snow away from the door and went to my truck. Snow had drifted under the truck and the engine was packed with snow. I tried it, and it started. I dug snow away from the exhaust pipe and let it run and melt the snow off the engine. My wife’s car was hopeless. I could see a hump in the snow where it was buried.

I had three calves to feed and they were in a little shelter about 250 feet from the house. I carried feed and water to them and had to walk through waist-deep snowdrifts. One had got out and the snow packed on it and it froze to death. My pigs were OK. The chickens had all crowded together in the small nesting area, and 13 of them had either frozen or smothered to death. Luckily, I had put the horses in the barn the night before.

We had a family meeting. If the electricity went off, we had two fireplaces. My well was under the house so we didn’t have to worry about frozen water pipes. I had just killed a pig and a beef cow, and they were in the freezers. We could toast some bread and cook some meat on the shovel in the fireplace if we had to. We had plenty of canned goods.

For the next five days, we sat in the house, read, fed the animals, and listened to the news. About three miles from us, they were finding people frozen to death in their cars on Interstate 70. One trucker’s semi was buried and he stayed in his truck for six days and lived, with nothing but snow to eat. We heard a loud noise outside and a snowplow came by several times, clearing our road. After two more days of thawing out, we could go back to work.

The wind blew for several days. The snow would drift over my 50-foot driveway every day about three feet deep. I had to shovel it out to get back close to the house. Next morning, I had to shovel it out again in order to get out and go to work.

I called my sister-in-law in Houston, had her send us the want ads from the Sunday paper, and put the farm up for sale. I sold it that summer and we moved to Houston. We lived there for four years. It got so cold down there that one year it frosted in February.

I now live in Burnside. So far this winter we’ve had one-half inch of snow several times. The ice storm went north and east of us. Last winter, we had one snowfall that was four inches deep. I watch the weather several times every day. Nothing bad yet, but winter isn’t over yet. As soon as God gets finished watering His trees and plants, He’ll turn it off.

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