Menu 

Great Blizzard of 1978 Haulted Indianapolis

Up to eight inches of snow could accumulate in central Indiana area by Wednesday night. The National Weather Service has issued a Winter Storm Warning that covers most of the Hoosier State. While most Indianapolis kids are praying for a snow day, the recent flash snow forecasts have many Indy residents recalling the Great Blizzard of 1978. One of the worst snows in Indianapolis history occurred January 27-29, collecting over 15 inches of frozen fluff.

Before the major 1978 storm system traveled to the Midwest, Indiana had already accumulated 5 inches from the previous snow. The only statewide blizzard warning in Indiana history was issued by the National Weather Service on a snowy Wednesday afternoon. The next 34 hours of freezing conditions brought the total snow accumulation in the Circle City to 20 inches. Mayor William Hudnut declared the first ever Snow Emergency in Indianapolis. The total amount of January snowfall went down in the record books, at 30.6 total inches.

Snowfall in Indy wasn’t the worst of it. Chicago received nearly 60 total inches, and even South Bend, Indiana was left with 36 inches of snow. Other states affected by the huge winter storm include Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Wisconsin.

This winter wonderland inspired the city to boost the department of transportation budget, allowing for the purchase of more efficient snow removal equipment. Today’s drivers are glad to see more than 60 snow trucks throughout Indianapolis, especially on I-465, I-70 and I-65. The Great Blizzard of 1978 halted nearly all transportation in and out of Indianapolis. Airline, bus, rail and of course roadways were closed or blocked by all the snow. Even the Indianapolis International Airport closed for a whopping three days. Several businesses closed, or operated at a minimum capacity.

Within days, Hoosiers came together to help out with search and rescue efforts, digging cars out of the ice and snow removal. Many of the city’s vehicles were not equipped to drive in heavy snow. Police officers, politicians, emergency care workers and hospital personnel were not able to navigate the blizzard, especially in the 55 mile-per-hour winds. Local businesses, auto dealerships and residents loaned out their four-wheel-drive vehicles to help relief efforts. Later the city would invest in only four-wheel-drive vehicles, and heavier forms of transportation. Today it’s standard for even news camera crews to drive in heavy duty four-wheel-drive vehicles.

When the weather outside is frightful, Hoosiers can reflect on a time when things weren’t so delightful. And while today’s snow storm isn’t nearly as severe as the Great Blizzard of 1978, be sure to bundle up, drive safely and stay warm Indianapolis.

Mike Woods