Most of us remember the big one. That major winter storm that you lived through as a kid that is forever embedded in you mind. The one that canceled school for days. Stopped all travel. Isolated whole communities.
My dear sweet Great Twin Aunts, Lois and Doris used to tell stories about the Great Thanksgiving Day Blizzard of 1950. They worked for Ohio Bell Telephone Company at the time. Since all communications had to keep functioning, the National Guard sent tanks and armored vehicles out to pick up all communications and hospital workers. They rode to work in an armored vehicle that day. Something they never forgot.
But, what do our biggest blizzards have in common?
The Blizzard of 1978
was called the Great Lakes Hurricane. It struck in January with 100 mph winds, and 1 to 2 feet of snow. It paralyzed Northern Ohio for a week, shutting down schools, communications and travel.
Exactly one year before, In January of 1977, another epic storm shook Ohio, the and the Great Lakes. This one packed winds of 40 to 60 mph. That blew new snow and snow already on the ground into drifts 5 to 10 feet high. Temperatures plummeted to 10 below zero with wind chills to -40 below.
Then there was the Great Thanksgiving Blizzard of 1950, that my Aunts talked about. Snowfall across the entire state averaged 10 to 30 inches. The most ever for a blizzard. Drifts were 25 feet deep in spots. What's more, it was the day of the Ohio State - Michigan Game in Columbus. Michigan beat the Buckeyes 9-3 while gaining 27 totals yards and NO first downs during the entire game!
So, what do these big storms have in common? Location, Location, Location! First you need cold air. I'm not talking about just chilly air. I mean bone-chilling, extreme cold from Canada to blast in from the north and west. Temperatures near zero, or even lower. The colder the better.
Next, you need moisture - lots of it! The most moisture comes from either the sultry Gulf of Mexico, the warm Atlantic Ocean, or both. Then you need something to bring it all together - a strong low pressure system.
Historic Winter Storms in Northern Ohio have all originated in locations to our south, near those warmer ocean waters. They then move north, either up the Appalachians or along the Ohio River. As that bitter cold arctic air gets pulled in from the north the result is we get pounded.
Of course, These storms have names. So, beware of the Nor'easter, The Panhandle Hook or The Louisiana Low. When you hear us say those names, pay attention. And get the shovels ready.
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