It’s been 41 years since a powerful blizzard dropped up to 2 feet of snow in Southwest Michigan, establishing itself as one of the more memorable weather events in recent history.
The Great Blizzard of 1978 not only brought heavy snow totals – but also hurricane force winds. The storm brought traffic – both in the air and on land – to a complete standstill.
On this day 41 years ago, snowfall records were set during the infamous Blizzard of 1978 which dumped 18.4” inches on the area. It is a calendar day record for Gerald R. Ford International Airport that still stands. Drifts as high as 5 feet clogged Int. 96 between Grand Rapids and Lowell, stranding more than 60 motorists. Schools stayed closed for days. According to Press archives, by 8:15 a.m. on January 26, Grand Rapids police cruisers were ordered off the roads unless necessary. Ambulances got stuck trying to get patients. At Butterworth Hospital, 140 nurses called to say they couldn’t make it in.
The incredible Blizzard of January 26-27th, 1978 evolved out of a winter that was famous for cold and storms. The Winter of 1977-78 thus far had been one the coldest, since records began, in many areas from the Rockies eastward to the Appalachians. Mammoth blizzards occurred late in January and early February from the Midwest to the East Coast as strong Arctic plunges dove south into the country and met up with the warmer winds from the deep south.
Record 24 hour snowfall totals from the storm included, 16.1 inches at Grand Rapids, 15.4 inches at Houghton Lake and 12.2 at Dayton, OH. Snowfalls for the entire storm (25-27th) included a whopping 30.0 inches at Muskegon (some of which was Lake Michigan enhanced), 19.3 inches at Lansing and 19.2 at Grand Rapids. Snowfalls were less over Southeast Lower Michigan (mainly because of the rain that fell for a period) and included 9.9 inches at Flint and 8.2 inches at Detroit.
I lived in Bay City in 1978 and was working 1st shift The day before we were in Ann Arbor as our youngest child had to go there for medical treatments almost ever month. We left AA around 6:30 PM and back then John McMurry Was a meteorologist for the Detroit radio station WJR he was my got weather guy back at the time (along with weather radio anyone remember that?) anyway John was all hyped up about this storm. The snow was mostly light until we reached Flint where it really pickup in intensity and by the time we reached Saginaw there was heavy snow falling. I went the bed with the intention of going to work the next day. When the alarm went off at 5 AM I could here the wind blowing outside and with I looked out he window the snow and blowing snow was so bad I could not see across the road I said this is not good, I went outside just as a heavy thundersnow storm started with the kind of thunder and lightning we have not seen at anytime in the last 5 or 6 years. The snow in the driveway was up to my hip so I went back in the house to call in to say I was not coming into work well. The line was busy and it stayed busy until past 9 AM Well the good news was work was closed that day and it was closed the next day as well. Even on Monday there were a lot of people still snowed in.
Now while for many the 1978 storm is their biggest mine happened on the same dates 11 years before. In 1967 I was still in High School and in many locations this storm was bigger then the 1978 storm but both were very similar. One big difference was that leading up to the 1967 storm it was warm not cold like it was in 1978. Here are some facts on the 1967 storm.
On Jan. 26-27, 1967, one of the biggest and baldest blizzards struck Michigan. It went down as one of the all-time worst blizzards in Michigan’s history mainly because of the way the weather conditions changed drastically in a short amount of time. In days leading up to the blizzard, some areas featured temperatures in the 50s and 60s.
Here’s the snowfall totals measured in some of Michigan’s cities after the 1967 storm:
Kalamazoo … 30 inches
Bay City……….30 inches
Battle Creek … 28.6 inches
Lansing … 24 inches
Saginaw … 23.8 inches
Flint … 22.7 inches
Grand Rapids … 18 inches
Jackson … 16 inches
Muskegon … 11 inches
The 1967 blizzard caught many Michigan residents off guard. In several locations, the temperatures were in the 50s and 60s, and then a couple of days later on Jan. 26 and 27, the blizzard dumped lots of really heavy snow in a relatively short period.
In Lansing, the temperature was 66 degrees on Jan. 24, 1967. Two days later, 24 inches of snow had fell.
In Grand Rapids, the warm temperatures produced records at that time of 62 degrees on Jan. 24, 1967 and 57 degrees on Jan. 25, 1967. Then the snow — a foot and half — fell.
One spot where the warm air kept the blizzard at bay was in Detroit. The Motor City officials had more than 1 inch of rain and 3.5 inches of snow.
In a day when schools seldom closed for snow day we had no school for 7 days. I know there are a lot of people who think of the GHD storm as the big daddy will I can tell you that storm did not even compare to the storms of 1967 and 1978.