Stark County remembers Blizzard of '78

Gary Brown

Thirty years ago, Stark County was buried in snow long before the Blizzard of 1978.

By the time the storm struck on Jan. 26, 53 inches of snow already had fallen on the area -- only 30 inches short of the record seasonal snowfall at the time.

Three inches fell the night of Thursday, Jan. 19, and it continued snowing for the next two days. “Snow tosses whopper,” a headline in The Repository read on Saturday, Jan. 21. “6 inches Friday ... and still falling.”

So there was plenty of snow to melt into ice before the blizzard struck suddenly less than a week later. The warming and rainy weather in the interim provided Stark County with a false sense of security.

“Temperatures will remain steady through tonight, becoming slightly colder by morning,” predicted The Rep’s weather report on Wednesday, Jan. 25.

At 11:45 p.m. Wednesday the temperature was 45. By the time people in Stark County woke up the next morning, thermometers read 4 degrees.

Wind gusts that day reached as high as 75 mph. Snow during the storm totaled only 4 to 6 inches, but it made the most of its depth, blowing into and closing ice-covered roads.

Power outages left many county residents stranded at home or in emergency shelters. Schools and businesses closed. Akron-Canton Airport was closed until 2 p.m. Postmen were forced to ignore the old “rain, snow or sleet” saying; there was no mail delivery in Canton on Jan. 26.

Then, just as suddenly, the storm Gov. James A. Rhodes called “the worst blizzard in Ohio history” ended.

“Worst over; city picking up the pieces,” a Rep headline assured Jan. 27.

Wind diminished to 20 to 40 mph that night, and to a mere “15-20 mph breeze” by Jan. 28.

The Blizzard of 1978 came suddenly and passed relatively quickly. But memories stayed vivid for decades in the minds of those who endured it.