The Blizzard of 1978: 30 years later

SANDUSKY It was the worst disaster in Ohio's history. That's how former Gov. James Rhodes referred to the Blizzard of
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010



It was the worst disaster in Ohio's history.

That's how former Gov. James Rhodes referred to the Blizzard of 1978.

Today marks the 30th anniversary of the legendary snowstorm that left most of the area without telephones, water, electricity and emergency communication.

In a matter of two hours, the temperature fell 30 degrees, hurricane-force winds tore through the area and visibility was near zero. Before it was all over, the wind chill would reach a low of minus 70, which could freeze exposed skin in less than a minute.

At least nine people in the area died as a result of the blizzard, most of whom froze in their own homes or on the road headed to a shelter.

David Orshoski of Huron remembers going to get water from his well when he found the body of a woman in the snow.

"My son and I went out to drop a bucket down and get water, and I saw something laying in the field ... There was the lady. She was practically covered in snow."

The woman, Veronica Wright, left her Huron home early in the morning Thursday to go to work, but her car skidded off the road and into a ditch. It appeared the 48-year-old nurse's aide tried to walk to find help but didn't make it.

Orshoski said his house became the neighborhood's safe haven for the next couple of days, taking in a few neighbors and a man who was driving by and got stuck in the snow.

"In our house we were all right because we had hot water, heat and the furnace that's in there comes on without electric," he said. "And we had a gas stove so she could cook."

Orshoski said he's never seen anything even remotely close to the Blizzard of '78 since then.

"And I don't want to neither," he said.

Connie Knapp had a whole different set of problems during the blizzard: 30 dairy cows. Normally the cows would have been milked by an electric milking machine.

"When you do have power it takes from start to finish an hour and a half with a milking parlor," she recalled. "When you do it by hand, it would take us easily all day, probably 12 hours. The worst part was trying to get from our house to the barn because you couldn't see anything."

Because of the conditions and lack of water supply, udders of nine of the cows dried up during the blizzard.

"If cows aren't kept on a schedule and milked on schedule it has lasting problems. It can ruin a cow pretty quick," she said.

Since then, Knapp has made some changes to ensure the same thing never happens again. She has gotten rid of her dairy cows, but still has cattle and sheep.

"The biggest thing, of course, is that we were out of power, and even after power got up around the area we were out for three days. We had an electrician come out on a snowmobile," she said. "One thing we did for sure was invest in a really good generator so that we could run it. I don't want to go through that again."