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Updated: 10:47 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 26, 2008 | Posted: 10:44 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 26, 2008

30 Years Later - Looking Back At The Blizzard of '78

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By Rich Wirdzek

DAYTON, Ohio —

January 26th and the 27th are two of the most remembered days in Southwest Ohio winter memory. This weekend marks the 30th Anniversary of the Blizzard of ’78.

12.2 inches of snow fell on January 26th, 1978 at Dayton International Airport, a record that still stands as the single greatest snowfall in a 24-hour period. Another 7/10ths of an inch fell just after midnight on the 27th before the storm came to a close. The grand total of 12.9 inches stood as the greatest two day snowfall amount in Dayton history until only a few years ago, when 16.4 inches of snow accumulated between December 22nd and 23rd.

In December of ’04, 11.5 inches of snow fell on the 22nd and 4.5 inches fell on the 23rd, allowing the Blizzard of ’78 to maintain its status as the greatest single day snowfall in Dayton history.

When putting the storm of 2004 up against the Blizzard of ’78, there’s hardly any comparison outside of accumulation. There is good reason why 30 years later, we remember the storm as a blizzard.

Blizzard conditions are realized when ¼th of a mile or less visibilities, wind speeds of 35 mph or greater, and temperatures at or below 20 degrees are all occurring for at least a 3 hour period. This is what set the storm of ’78 apart from the storm of 2004.

Wind gusts between 50 to 60 mph were not uncommon as the storm barreled through the Ohio Valley. This created massive snow drifts measured in many feet, coupled with blinding white-outs where visibilities were at 0 for hours due to the blowing snow.

Even after the snow stopped falling in the early hours of January 27th,1978, blizzard conditions continued to persist for hours, extending the crippling effects of the storm well into its second day of life.

As the main area of low pressure moved through the State of Ohio, Cleveland recorded a pressure of 28.28 inches. At the time, this was the lowest pressure ever recorded in the country outside of land falling Hurricanes. The storm was almost Hurricane strength as well. Port Columbus Airport outside of downtown Columbus recorded a peak wind gust of 69 mph, only 5 mph short of Hurricane force winds.

This storm also helped to make January of 1978 one of the snowiest months on record for Dayton, with 40.2 inches. Even more impressive was that the highest snow depth ever recorded at the airport had occurred only days before. January 20th and 21st yielded snow depths of about 24 inches.

This historical storm left its mark across Ohio for months – literally. In the Northwest part of the state, it wasn’t until May 5th when the last of the snow finally melted from the Blizzard of ’78.

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