January 9, 1978: Howling Snowstorm Socks Area
The ice-encased masthead on this front page captures the mood of the city on this frigid January day, as a heavy snowstorm swept through the area. Blowing snow all but obscured visibility for motorists, with winds were gusting from 38 to 42 miles per hour. Temperatures were forecasted to hover around 10 degrees for the next couple of days, but the high winds plunged wind chill to nearly 30 below zero. Schools closed early that day and snow drifts hindered the clearing of the roads, stranding more than a few cars.
As bad as it was, this storm was dwarfed by the blizzard that swept through later that month, Jan. 25-29, dumping nearly 3 feet of snow on the Elkhart area. Known to this day as the Great Blizzard of ‘78, the storm set state records still in place to this day, according to the National Weather Service. Winds in that storm gusted up to 50 miles per hour, creating drifts sometimes as tall as 20 feet, and the wind chill dropped as low as 50 below zero.
In a story The Truth ran in 2008 commemorating the 20-year anniversary of the Great Blizzard of ‘78, residents of Elkhart and Goshen recalled digging tunnels through the snow to reach neighbors, and those who were able to make it to a store for supplies found shelves picked clean. There were also those who made the most of it, though, with igloos and blizzard parties to pass the time until the thaw.