The Blizzard of ’78

What were you doing on January 26th, 1978? If you were living in Michigan at the time, you were probably doing a lot of snow shoveling. One of the biggest snow storms to ever hit this area happened on that date — it was the “Blizzard of ’78”! A low-pressure system moving from the Gulf Coast met with two other low-pressure systems, one from the Southwest and one from Canada, to create one of the worst snowstorms the Midwest has ever seen.

January 26, 1978, fell on a Thursday. I remember the storm starting the night before. Schools were closed on Thursday (which was a rarity back in 1978) in anticipation of all the snow. My father went into work that morning. He called at about 10 am and told me to get out and get the driveway cleared so that when he got home he could get his car off the road and into the driveway. I spent a few hours shoveling (we had no snow blower back then) to clear just enough room for the car. That was right about the time a snow plow went through and filled the driveway back up. It was time for round two of shoveling.

At the time I lived on First Street, NW, in Grand Rapids, right across from I-196. There was no traffic on the interstate for a few days. The only mode of transportation for most people was either a snowmobile (it was weird seeing snowmobiles going down city streets), or skis. Very few people owned 4-wheel drive vehicles. I remember radio and TV stations asking for volunteers with 4-wheel vehicles to help transport medical personnel to the area hospitals. Grand Rapids Public Schools remained closed until the following Monday.

WOOD TV 8’s Bill Steffen (who was working at WZZM TV-13 at the time) spent several days at the television station without ever leaving. On Bill’s Blog in 2017, Bill gave a few details of the storm…

“The Blizzard of 1978 ranks as the #1 snowstorm ever for Grand Rapids and much of Lower Michigan, Indiana and Ohio. The barometer reading of 28.28″ in Cleveland still ranks as the lowest non-hurricane barometer reading in U.S. history. Grand Rapids also set a record barometer reading 28.68″. Grand Rapids had 15″ of snow in about 15 hours (19.2 total). Muskegon picked up 52″ of snow in 4 days. Wind gusts of 42 mph blew the snow off roofs. The storm hit on a Wednesday Night, and many schools didn’t reopen until the following Monday. Some were closed for nearly two weeks. The heavy snow started shortly after 10 PM on 1/25. All air and rail service came to a halt. Seventy deaths were blamed on the storm. The National Guard were called out in Michigan and Ohio. Over 125.000 vehicles were abandoned in the storm. It took 3 to 5 days to move the abandoned cars and open the expressways. After this, we had the coldest February ever in G.R. and the 5th coldest March. Snow piles from the storm lingered into April.”

The snow storm is ranked in the “Top 10 Big, Bad Blizzards” by Time Magazine.


What are your memories of the “Blizzard of ’78”? Leave your comments below…


Photo: YouTube/Rights and Justice for All

My goal is to keep you informed and/or entertained on a regular basis. Maybe you'll learn something new, or just get that much needed laugh. My topics will include a wide range of subjects....from what's going on in the world, to places I've been, things I've seen, or even just a fun video that I've found online. Check back often to see what I've posted.


  1. Jim Sala
    January 26, 2017 - 8:56 pm

    I worked at Sambos on 44th st. We stayed open the whole time. Somehow I would get the car out of the parking lot and out to 44th st, and down to division. I would ditch my car at the end of my street and walk home, and then back again the next day. I did this the whole weekend. It was pointless to shovel until the snow stopped. We ended up with 4 ft of snow before it was all done.

    • Linda Abbasse
      January 29, 2019 - 7:50 pm

      My husband and I lived in NE Grand Rapids, our first home and married 3 1/2 years. I remember Kevin (my husband) on top of our roof shoveling the snow off. Then jumping off the roof into the snow. Then a few vacation days. Great memories❣️🚒

  2. Vick
    January 27, 2017 - 9:20 am

    I was a manager at Stop N Go convenience store on 52nd and Kalamazoo. My husband had a jeep cj5, so I was able to get to work. We were extremely busy with customers coming in for milk, bread, beer and anything else they could buy. Customers came by snowmobiles and cross country skis! It was a fun and long day. I don’t remember if anyone came in to relieve me of my shift or if we closed early because we ran out of items. My husband was one who took calls and helped medical people get to the hospital for their jobs! It was an exciting day!! Had a lot of fun and so did the customers!

  3. DM Brostek
    January 27, 2017 - 3:34 pm

    Made it to work – RenCEn Detroit – Onlly person to make it – had a 2 hr bus ride in and 5 hrs back. thenhad to wak a mile cause that bus could not get to the side route. Day is embedded in my mind. Did snow blow the drive way after dinner.

  4. John Karns
    January 28, 2017 - 12:12 am

    My parents had a house, with a circular driveway in an area known as Cascadia Point. I hooked up the snow blower attachment to the Gravely tractor in the garage, then donned my full length, thick wool WWII army surplus overcoat. Then went out again and fired up the Gravely, and cleared snow for a good two hours.

  5. Sue
    January 28, 2017 - 9:27 am

    My brother and I fell asleep at a friends house after a day of snowmobiling! At two a.m., when mine wouldn’t start, we left it in the friends “yard” to come back for it the next day!
    Next day all we could find before digging was one bent ski sticking out of the freshly plowed pile☹️ Never did ride that machine again!
    Days later, road horse to friends house. On coming home we miscalculated we the driveway was, and in two steps my horse was in snow up to heR head!!
    Will never forget that crazy fun storm!
    Mother in-law spent 3 days working labor and delivery at Blodgett hospital! Her replacements didn’t make it in, but in labor moms came in ny the dozen!!
    Great times!

  6. Barbara Chellis
    January 28, 2017 - 11:59 am

    40 ft. evergreen in front of our house landed on our car and totaled it. My husband was battling cancer which took his life one month later. Not a pleasant time in Bexley, Ohio.

  7. January 28, 2017 - 7:41 pm

    We were living with my mother, building our new house across the street. I was 6 months pregnant with our second child. My husband was working on the house and I decided to walk over and see how it was going. I got as far as the middle of the road. Snow was up to my waist and I couldn’t move any further!
    I started shouting to my husband to come help! Fortunately he heard me and began shoveling me out!

  8. Ted
    January 28, 2017 - 10:03 pm

    Dude, The Blizzard of 78 happened on February 6-7.

    • Scott Winters
      January 29, 2017 - 12:34 am

      All the information I have from the National Weather Service, Time Magazine and Meteorologist Bill Steffen from WOOD TV-8 says it was in January of 1978.

  9. Judy Richter
    January 29, 2017 - 3:32 pm

    My husband worked with a group of snowmobiles that were working with the police out in Moline and Wayland rescuing people that were stranded and needed to get with the hospital. What memories that storm was.

  10. Gloria Gregory
    January 29, 2017 - 5:13 pm

    I was living on Far Hill Dr. in Forest Hills school district in Mi. I was 53 , only single mother on the block. I went house to house to ask neighbors to contribute $5 so I could pay a distant neighbor with snow plough to clear our snow. It worked. Never underestimate a woman! When I am reminded of that time now, I realize that was an accomplishment. Then, it was just something that I thought I had to do.

  11. Suzanne Ryan
    January 31, 2017 - 11:51 am

    I was living on Foreman Rd. outside of Lowell, MI. A narrow dirt road. Had a small ranch house that was completely snowed in. Went to open garage side door and nothing but snow to roof. My husband shoveled from the inside out just to get our dog outside. Friends from Lowell made it up by snowmobile to take him into Lowell for a few supplies. It was days and days before we could get out.

  12. terri
    February 1, 2017 - 9:14 pm

    I lived out in the country in Hudsonville, My dad was a county plow driver – we didn’t see him for days; except if he might happen to pop in to say “hi” The high school was open for the county workers to get some sleep. Our electricity always went off so we had a fire going to stay warm and cook some food. Our neighbors would come by with snowmobiles to get grocery lists. We loved climbing to the top of our shed (yes, the snow was that high) and sliding off the roof. It was actually a really fun time. I still love a good old snow storm. Good memories

  13. Lynn Kniff Olree
    January 31, 2019 - 7:43 am

    I was an inpatient Pine Rest Hospital being treated for prescription drug addiction. I remember I had the weekend off and got dropped off at the end of Elmridge Drive in Grand Rapids where I lived with my parents. The snow was up to my chest and I had to walk about 1/8th of a mile and let me tell you I was about a quarter into it and I was ready to check back into Pine Rest. I thought I was gonna die. But once I made it I spent the whole day pulling friends behind my horse with a saucer around in vicious circles trying to dump them off. My dad took the horse and sleigh later that day to Meijer on Leonard Street (remember by Walker Street?) bc nobody was driving cars that day on the roads. Got his picture in the paper, too!


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