1970-1979: ERA OF CRISES


Blizzard buried northern Indiana


Piling up
News-Sentinel photo by John Stearns

Piling up
A blizzard in 1978 hit Fort Wayne hard, as shown in this photo taken on January 27.
One of the worst blizzards ever to hit northern Indiana came in 1978. It started Jan. 25 -- a Wednesday -- and snowed for three days.

Thick white flakes backed by swirling winds left up to 36.5 inches of the white stuff on the ground. Anyone who had a snowplow that year could have made a fortune.

The unforgettable "Blizzard of '78" started on Wednesday and picked up momentum throughout the night.

By Thursday, awe-inspiring snowdrifts had effectively shut down the city.

That Wednesday's News-Sentinel featured a front-page story predicting 4 inches of snow. "Along with the heavy snow, winds are expected to pick up tonight and Thursday, creating blowing and drifting snow conditions," the article reported. That turned out to be quite an understatement.

About 6 inches of snow fell Wednesday night, on top of an existing snow cover of several inches. The snow continued to fall on Thursday until the total accumulation was about 15 inches. But it was the 50-mph winds that really did the damage. They whipped the snow into drifts as high as 20 feet in some places.

Quail and a lot of winter birds of northern Indiana were completely wiped out.

The blizzard caused a few power outages that were quickly repaired. Most people were trapped at home, unless they chose to venture out on foot or by snowmobile. Stories about "cabin fever" were numerous.

Some grocery stores managed to open on Friday -- for the people who could walk to them. And The News-Sentinel published on both Thursday and Friday, utilizing a skeleton crew, most of whom arrived on snowmobiles.

However, the papers couldn't be delivered until after the city had dug itself out.

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