In the early morning hours of January 26th 1978, thunder woke me up. Rain was hitting our trailer hard. We lived on Trenton Ave. where the Wal-Mart store is now, at the intersection of US 224 and I-75.
At the time I was 10 years old and afraid of thunderstorms so I did my usual run to mom’s room and I crawled into bed with her. I fell asleep soon after.
That didn’t last long.
Just before dawn the roar of the wind woke both of us up. The wind banged the various loose metal pieces and trim around our windows. My mom turned on the radio and WFIN was broadcasting about a blizzard hitting Findlay. It wasn’t even 5 am and Findlay City Schools closed for the day. In fact all the schools in the county closed.
We laid there in the morning gloom listening to the radio until the power went out. Not only was the radio off but so was our propane furnace. Mom got up and filled a bucket and some empty milk jugs with water. She told me to put on some extra clothes to guard against the cold.
The roar of the wind didn’t stop. I looked out the window and saw nothing but sheets of snow.
The Great Blizzard of 1978 had arrived in Findlay.
That first day was an adventure. Mom got out our camping gear and setup the Sterno stove so she could have some coffee. We had little food in the house as the storm caught us off guard. Later in the day, when we tried to open our front door to let the dog out to pee, it was frozen shut. The rain the night before froze on the metal frame. My poor dog couldn’t go outside even if she wanted to. It took about a half hour and a butter knife to get it open. The dog went to the open door, sniffed around, and refused to go out in the wind and snow.
I had to lift her down onto the stoop and as she went into the drift around the door I only saw her snout. She was gone for only a minute and slowly made her way up the stoop. I had to reach out and lift her back into the house.
Being 10, I started to complain about being cold. Even cuddling with Mom on the couch under every blanket we owned I was still cold. Mom told me to stop thinking about it. But I couldn’t. She got up and poured me a shot of whiskey and said that it would make me feel warm. It made me sleepy. We both got into my bed and pretty much slept the rest of the day away.
The next day the power came back on so life returned to some what normal. We needed some food and the radio said that Great Scot down the road would be open for a few hours. I got out my sled and we started out for the store. Before we left the trailer park we stopped off to see our neighbors, the elderly couple Pert and Lou and found out they had a wood stove and were fine. We asked if they needed any food and Pert said he needed toilet paper for sure.
My mom and I walked the mile or so to the store. Driving was banned so dozens of people were walking to the store like we were. Some used cross country skis. There were some snowmobiles and a few 4 wheel drive trucks. The only clear spot was the middle of Broad Avenue. The store had plenty of can goods but no bread or milk. I was just happy to be out of the house.
On the way back we looked down on I-75 and there were cars and trucks abandoned on the highway. The drivers had been rescued the day before.
It took a few days and front end loaders from the National Guard before they allowed people to drive again. We were out of school for a week and I remember burning out on sledding down the hill of the US 224 I-75 interchange. I also spent a lot of time digging our car out.
The next weekend we went to McComb to visit my grandparents and the drifts along the roads were huge. At one point it was like driving through a tunnel as banks of snow towered over our car and the road.
The one thing we learned during that Blizzard was not be unprepared again. For years we stocked up on can goods during the winter months and if a storm was coming we bought extra bread and milk just in case. We also made a Blizzard box with extra blankets, candle, more Sterno, and a battery operated radio.
Toledo TV station WTOL has posted video of their newscasts on January 26th and 27th 1978 so you can see what it was like back then. The ironic thing is since our power was out we never got to see the shows when they first aired.
Blizzard of ’78 – 30th Anniversary