Friday marks the 40th anniversary of the Blizzard of 1978

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Let me set the scene here 40 years ago today.

With its 43-inch snowfall, January 1978 was the snowiest month ever recorded in Cleveland.

On the morning of Jan. 26, 20 inches of snow was on the ground when, in the wee hours of the morning, blustery south winds ushered in a rainstorm that was met head-on by a blast of arctic air.

Rain quickly changed to ice as it fell on roads, trees and power lines.

Beneath a thick layer of ice, trees, power lines and even telephone poles began to come crashing down in winds frequently gusting from 70 to 90 mph.

A wind gust downtown was recorded at 82 mph and a wind gust just offshore in Lake Erie was recorded at 111 mph.

Temperatures plummeted to single figures above zero amid wind chills as cold as 40 below.

The intense blizzard conditions only included 7.8 inches of additional snow, but the combination of snow, blowing snow and wind chills closed the Ohio turnpike from border to border for the first time in its history as snow drifts piled as high as 10 to 15 feet.

Windblown snow buried cars, houses, roads and railroads beneath gigantic snowdrifts.

Mail delivery stopped. Schools, businesses, government offices, industry and transportation – in fact, everything – closed statewide for a minimum of two days.

What are your memories of the Blizzard of '78? | Share with us on Facebook 

Sadly, as the intense storm traversed the state, snow, wind and ice took the lives of 51 Ohioans despite the efforts of 5000 National Guard troops called to more than 2700 rescue operations.

Copyright 2018 WOIO. All rights reserved.