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A look at the Blizzard of 1978

"I know a plow couldn't get down here."

One of the most intense winter storms to ever affect the central and eastern United States is now officially 40 years old. The Great Blizzard of '78 buried millions in snow, including all of Michiana, where crippling totals of ten to as much as thirty inches blanketed the region.

So, what was the recipe for such a significant snowfall? 

The storm began as two distinct systems that eventually phased together, leading to the development of a very strong surface low. This low tracked north into Ohio and bombed out, setting all-time record low barometric pressure readings along its path. 

Bands of heavy snow developed across the Great Lakes during the overnight hours of the 25th. Winds were sustained between 35 and 45 MPH as well. This tandem prompted Blizzard Warnings for much of the Great Lakes area, including all of Indiana.

"They had to use a bulldozer to get down these roads because a plow couldn't do it," Niles residents Therese Bella and Mary Payne said.

For more than 24 hours, visibility was at or below an eighth of a mile. The snow increased in intensity and rates of one to two inches per hour were recorded on the 26th. Cities essentially shut down.

Schools and universities were out of commission for up to two weeks. Many had to walk or use a snowmobile to get groceries and other necessities in the days and weeks that followed the storm. This is something that Therese and Mary of Niles remember quite well.

"We were just about out of food, but we couldn't get out. There's no way. The drifts on the street were four to five feet," they said.

And some areas were even worse.

Snow drifts up to fifteen feet deep were reported across Michiana. States of Emergency were declared and that National Guard was called in to help with the clean up process. In fact, the governor of Indiana sent National Guard tanks onto Interstate 65 to help stranded drivers.

The storm is blamed for killing 70 people and causing extensive damage from the Midwest to New England. It is and will always be the storm that meteorologists use to measure other winter storms. If you have any photos you'd like to share with us from the blizzard, send them to us on Facebook and Twitter! 

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