Not since January 1978 has Indiana had such a significant snow event. Known as the Blizzard of ’78, it remains the worst winter storm on record for the state.
The National Weather Service documented the blizzard, which began on Jan. 25, 1978, and lasted for three days. When it ended, nearly 40 inches of snow fell in parts of northern Indiana – the most ever recorded in Indiana for a single storm.
Roofs collapsed under the weight of the snow, and factories and schools were shut down for up to two weeks as the state was virtually paralyzed. On top of the snow, temperatures plummeted to 4 degrees and winds gusted over 55 mph producing wind chills of 60 degrees below zero.
Many people were caught off guard by the storm, but most who provided their memories of the great blizzard also remember the kindness of others and how neighbors came together to help each other during a difficult time.
The following are memories of that record storm, as provided by our readers:
“I have many memories of the blizzard of 78,” writes Susan Bellamy. “My biggest memory was how massive this storm was. We lived in the country and the snow plows tried to get to us, but got stuck. At the time my oldest son was 6 months old. He was almost out of formula, and the most important thing to me was to make sure he was fed. Our neighbor went out in this massive storm on his snowmobile, looking for formula. I was so happy when he returned hours later with my little boy’s milk.
“I remember that the snow was so deep, it was as tall as the top of our cars. I will always be so thankful for the kindness of our neighbor, and the love that he showed that day. God is so good, and He knows our needs. I pray that we never have a blizzard again.”
Joy Leaf Hauck writes, “My husband and I were to be married on Feb 25. We had a appointment in Fort Wayne that week to pick out and order the tuxes. Needless to say we didn’t make the appointment. My mom ordered 8 tuxes over the phone sight unseen. They turned out great!
“I remember my Dad was working at Da-lite Screen at the time. He went to work before the storm to check on the condition of the plant and got stuck there for several days. Someone showed up on a snowmobile and brought him home or he would have been there several more days!”
“I didn’t think that the snow was ever going to stop but when it finally did we assumed that the snowplows would come and free us from our homes,” says Kathy Creamer. “My parents and I and my kid brother were all stranded in our home together and when you are 18, that seemed like a cruel and unusual punishment.
“Every day we would watch out the window and look for some kind of plow to come by. We were stranded for over a week and finally my dad got bundled up and walked down to the Grace Village Retirement Village where he was working on the construction crew that was expanding the nursing home.
“When he arrived there he got out one of the big backhoes that had a scoop shovel on the front and started making his way home. He said that everyone along the route that he was clearing came out on their porches and started cheering for him. He worked that whole day clearing the roads that he could and clearing the road in front of our house. He was able to finally free our car and since it was a big old led sled, the snowdrifts were no match for it once it got going.
“He was able to make it into Warsaw to the store to get us milk and bread. I don’t remember when the snowplows finally started clearing the roads because it didn’t matter anymore. My dad was a hero that day. Jim Logan passed away Oct. 12, 2012, and it would be really nice if he could be remembered for the part he played during the blizzard of ’78.”
“I was in sixth grade and got stuck at school until my best friend’s dad had someone with a 4-wheel drive truck that came down to Mentone to get us,” recalls Deona Moore. “I didn’t want to stay there and eat school food!”
Cheryle Stouder writes, “One of my biggest memories from the blizzard of ’78 was when my dad bundled up my two sisters, brother and me. He pulled us on a sled and we walked to Sidney to Slater’s Fruit Market. We lived about one mile from Sidney and seven miles from Pierceton. I was 12 years old. We couldn’t believe there was no one in sight and we were walking on top of big drifts in the middle of SR 13. Great memories! Also, I remember the ones that suffered and I felt bad for them. I’m sure not so great memories for them.”
“In 1978 I was in forth grade and it was Shrine Circus week. Ironically school had been cancelled the year before when I was in third grade, so this year all Kosciusko County third AND forth graders were going to the circus together,” recalls Tina Gunter Ray.
“On Friday the morning of the circus, school was cancelled yet again in anticipation of the oncoming storm. It was announced that the trip was still on if parents would drive their children to school. So I, along with hundreds of other children, enjoyed
the day at the circus, only to exit the Coliseum in a blizzard!
“The buses were stopped on U.S. 30 for many long, cold, hungry hours. Eventually the Shiners delivered food to us on the buses from McDonald’s. We arrived back to Claypool Elementary near midnight, being led by snow plow. The roads were too bad for our parents to pick us up, so we were divided into various 4-wheel drive vehicles to get home. I was ‘delivered’ home in the back of an old postal truck! Many worried parents were relieved to have their children home! I can’t believe its been 35 years!”
Sherry Stevens writes, “We lived on Tippecanoe Lake all year on the island one road on one road off and we could not get the car out so we had to walk across the lake go up through the cemetery to the store it was so bad we could not even use the snowmobile with out getting stuck. Thank God we had or snowsuits and boots to keep us warm walking.”
Buzz Keck was a car salesman for C S Myers Ford in Milford in 1978. He recalls, “I had a terrible time getting back to Warsaw where I lived that night. I was driving a new ’78 Ford Bronco 4×4. The next day I called the Warsaw Police Department to see if they needed any one to run to the drug store or hospital. They were glad I called and they ran me all over the Warsaw area for people in need.
“About 8:30 that night I was going home south of Winona Lake and an AMC Pacer, driven by – I think he was a school teacher – hit me head on south of Winona Lake on Argonne Road. I asked him if he knew he was not allowed on the road due to the blizzard. He said he had left that morning just to see how bad it was and had been driving all day in it. The Bronco I was driving was the vehicle I was to drive to Florida the next day. I found a ride back to Milford the next day and they gave me Evert Edgars, our service manager’s demo a 1978 Ford LTD to drive to Florida.
“I went to Syracuse to find I could not see any of the vehicles on the lot; they were covered with snow. Only the antennas were visible. I will never forget the blizzard of ’78. When I was running for the Warsaw Police Department, the number one thing people would flag me down to bring them was beer, but that did not happen. Thanks for writing about the biggest snow storm in my life time.”
Peggy Wells was working for the local radio station during the Blizzard of ’78. “Since the roads were bad and I lived in town, Rueb Williams called and asked if I could come in for the day,” she writes. “At that time, my kids were 4 and 6. I said I couldn’t get them to the babysitter’s. He asked if I had anyone else? I called my mom who lived on SR 15, which was drifted shut. Rueb took me, the kids and plowed all the way to near Washington School. We dropped the kids and I worked at the radio tower all day and into the evening. Trucks were in convoys from Chicago trying to break through the drifts. It was fun and exciting!”
“This is about my Mom, Maxine Wiley,” says Barb Sledge, “and how she helped during the blizzard. She was up for over 24 hours, helping the doctors and nurses to get to the hospital, helping people all over the county. She was president of React at the time.”
“The morning that the blizzard began I had arrived at the usual time at Lakeland Christian Academy where I was a senior. Within an hour or so of classes starting we were told that we were being sent home. Lakeland at that time was located on Wooster Road and had a huge hill that you had to drive up to get to the school.
“All of us kids that had driven that day took turns trying to safely get down that hill because the snow was already so bad. When my turn came I slowly tried to drive down in my 1970 Ford Maverick and it was like I was in a 2,000 pound bob sled! I had no control and just slid down the hill, went across Wooster Road into a housing addition across the street, and finally slid sideways to a stop half way down their road. I had to rock the car to get out of the snow and finally made it back to Wooster Road, trying to avoid the other kids’ cars that had done the same thing that mine had done. I only lived less than a mile away on Wooster but that day it seemed like the longest mile ever.”