Hoosiers remember blizzard of '78

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Cari Hudson

Nicole Misencik/Eyewitness News

30 years ago Friday, snow started falling for a blizzard that brought cities in Indiana to a standstill.

What started off as early morning flurries on a Wednesday, eventually developed into a full-blown blizzard that brought Indiana to a stand still for days and, in some cases, the weeks to come. 70 people lost their lives as cities became virtual ghost towns and people took shelter where ever they could.

"The term blizzard was just something you read about or you knew the word, but to experience it took it to a whole new level," said WTHR Meteorologist Bob Gregory.

In January 1978, stinging winds and blinding snow left a city paralyzed. The president even declared a state of emergency for all of Indiana.

By the time the blizzard ended, more than 20 inches of snow was on the ground with drifts reaching 25 feet.

"Everybody was just absolutely isolated where you were when all of this thing hit with absolute ferocity that no one really understood what that meant until it was over with," said Gregory. "In this case it was desolate. I mean you thought you were in the arctic somewhere."

Ed Terrell started his shift with the National Weather Service that morning and ended up stuck for 54 hours. He'd typed the word "blizzard" all day, but it wasn't until he was in the thick of it that the meaning hit home.

"It wasn't until I left my car to walk back into the building that I really understood what the word meant because the wind just hit me like a ton of bricks," said Terrell.

Back in '78, the National Weather Service was located in the airport, which became a shelter for stranded passengers.

"The halls were lined with people and they were just laying wherever they could and covering up as best as they could," said Terrell.

One passenger made it to a hotel, but lived on peanut butter sandwiches and candy bars for a day and a half.

By the time the blizzard was over, it was time to try to dig out, get around and get back to normal, but that wasn't easy.

30 years later, the snow may be gone but the memories are as crisp as the day the first flakes fell.

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